Stalinism-Representation

   One of the first attempts to examine the Stalinist period was Janusz Morgenstern's film Back to Life Again (1965). Another film referring to those years, Jerzy Skolimowski's Hands Up, was produced in 1967 and banned until 1985. Due to strict political censorship, the question of the legacy of Polish Stalinism remained virtually untouched until the mid-1970s. At the beginning of the 1970s, a number of documentary films tried to unveil the Stalinist past. Wojciech Wiszniewski's stylized documentary films about the Stalinist work competition—The Story of a Man Who Produced 552 Percent of the Norm (1973), Wanda Gościmińska, the Textile Worker (1975), and Carpenter (1976)— were banned from distribution and not released until 1981. Krzysztof Kieslowski's Bricklayer (1973), released in 1981, also dealt with the exemplary worker of the Stalinist era.
   One of Andrzej Wajda's best-known works, Man of Marble (1977), became a breakthrough narrative film that denounced Stalinism and retold the 1950s. The life story of an honest, exemplary worker, Mateusz Birkut (Jerzy Radziwiłowicz), uncovered on the screen by a young filmmaker, Agnieszka (Krystyna Janda), revealed the oppressive nature of Stalinism and inspired a number of Polish films made during the brief Solidarity period. For example, in 1981 these included Shivers by Wojciech Marczewski, The Haunted (released in 1983) by Andrzej Barański, There Was Jazz (released in 1984) by Feliks Falk, The Big Run (released in 1987) by Jerzy Domaradzki, and television film Shilly-Shally (released in 1984) by Filip Bajon. In 1982, after the introduction of martial law, two prominent films were finished and promptly shelved by the authorities: The Mother of Kings (released in 1987) by Janusz Zaorski and Interrogation (released in 1989) by Ryszard Bugajski. The same happened to a medium-length film, Sunday Pranks, directed by Robert Gliński, finished in 1983 and released in 1988.
   The majority of these films denounced the Polish version of the Stalinist system and followed the poetics of Man of Marble. Because of the 1980s censorship practices in Poland, nobody openly criticized the Soviet involvement in Polish politics. For example, Shivers, a coming-of-age story set in the 1950s, dealt with institutionalized indoctrination and manipulation. The film told the story of a young teenage boy who is sent to a scouts' camp after Stalin's death and falls under the spell of the Communist ideology despite the fact that his father is a political prisoner. Interrogation described the imprisonment and torture of an innocent young woman, wrongly charged by the Stalinist secret police. Given the similarities between the Stalinist period and the situation after the introduction of equally oppressive martial law and before the transitional year of 1989, it was inevitable that films about Stalinism would be almost impossible to make. In Suspended (1987), Waldemar Krzystek told the story of a former Home Army (AK) member who is sentenced to death but escapes from prison, moves to a provincial town, and hides for several years in the cellar of the house belonging to his wife, whom he had secretly married during the war. To stress the link between his film and Man of Marble, Krzystek cast Janda and Radziwiłowicz in the main roles.
   After 1989 history became the domain of documentary rather than narrative cinema. A great number of documentary films made in Poland examined the Stalinist mentality, hypocrisy, and indoctrination. However, the Stalinist past was portrayed in several narrative films, such as Wajda's The Ring with a Crowned Eagle (1992), Grzegorz Królikiewicz's The Case of Pekosiński (1993), Krzysztof Zanussi's In Full Gallop (1996), Kazimierz Kutz's Colonel Kwiatkowski (1996), Barbara Sass's Temptation (1996), Filip Bajon's Street Boys (1996), and Leszek Wosiewicz's Family Events (1997). As if to illustrate the burden of history, the protagonist of The Case of Pekosiński was a hunchback. The Stalinist past also returned in intimate and psychological dramas set in the harsh political climate of the 1950s (Temptation), semiautobiographical narratives (In Full Gallop, Street Boys, Family Events), and comedies (Colonel Kwiatkowski). Wajda's The Ring with a Crowned Eagle discussed issues the director first addressed in Ashes and Diamonds (1958) and introduced a young officer from the Warsaw Uprising, Marcin, who attempted to take care of his surviving soldiers and secure their future in Soviet-occupied postwar Poland.
   The cinematic images of Stalinism have been created in Poland predominantly by younger filmmakers such as Gliński who, unlike Wajda and Kutz, do not know Stalinism firsthand, having been being born in the late 1940s and the 1950s. These filmmakers relied heavily on socialist realist cinema aesthetics and the kitsch iconography of that period. In their films, flashbacks into the Stalinist past were usually constructed of stylized images employing a similar color palette (usually gray or blue, with elements of red for banners and posters). To heighten their verisimilitude, they often incorporated actual news-reels and other documentary materials into their narratives and set the action in places of confinement such as prisons, internment sites, hiding places, and schools and scouts' camps.
   Historical Dictionary of Polish Cinema by Marek Haltof

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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