Socialist Realist Cinema

   In Polish history, "Stalinism" is a term that refers to the postwar period beginning in 1949 and ending in October 1956. The Polish version of socialist realism was outlined in a speech delivered in December 1947 by the Communist leader Bolesław Bierut. In November 1949, the so-called congress of filmmakers met at Wisła to enforce the doctrine of socialist realism. The doctrine demanded the adherence to the Communist party line, the necessary portrayal of the class struggle (the struggle between old and new), the emphasis on class-based images, the rewriting of history from the Marxist perspective, and the elimination of "reactionary bourgeois" ideology. As in the Soviet model, reality in Polish arts was portrayed "as it should be," with clear divisions between the forces of progress, personified by a positive hero, a model to be emulated, and the dark forces of the past, embodied by a cunning opponent of the new, a model to be wary of. Polish cinema, like other arts, was treated as an instrument in the political struggle. Only thirty-four feature films were made in Poland between 1949 and 1955, among them thirty-one that followed the socialist realist formula. They all shared thematic and stylistic affinities, conveyed the same didactic messages, and created similar protagonists. The socialist realist authors subdued their distinctive personalities because the true author was the state.
   The dominant theme of socialist realist films, that of the class struggle, was developed, for instance, in Two Brigades (Dwie brygady, 1950), made by the students of the Łódź Film School and supervised by Eugeniusz Cękalski, and Bright Fields (Jasne łany, 1947), also by Cękalski. Both films were replete with socialist realist cliches and stereotypes and contained explicit propagandist messages. These and several other socialist realist films were badly received by both the public and the critics. For example, Maria Kaniewska's Not Far from Warsaw (Niedaleko Warszawy, 1954) was voted by some critics the worst Polish film ever made.
   In the mid-1950s, some Polish filmmakers managed to retreat from the socialist realist dogma and make realistic films in the spirit of Italian neorealism. The impact of neorealism is discernible in, for instance, Aleksander Ford's Five Boys from Barska Street (1954) and the most accomplished work of that period, Jerzy Kawalerowicz's diptych A Night of Remembrance and Under the Phrygian Star, both films made in 1954. One of the attempts to produce a politically correct yet popular film was An Adventure at Marienstadt (1954), directed by Leonard Buczkowski.
   The socialist realist period ended in October 1956, but its thematic preoccupations, as well as its way of presenting the world, reappeared later in a number of Polish films, some of them artistically accomplished works and not just blatant propaganda. For several scholars, Andrzej Munk'sMan on the Track (1957) became the first film to overcome the shortcomings of socialist realism.
   Historical Dictionary of Polish Cinema by Marek Haltof

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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