1. Emotional and Family Life
A review of feature films accompanying the exhibition Gender Check. Femininity and Masculinity in the Art of Eastern Europe
Zachęta, 20 March – 13 June 2010
Adventure in Marienstadt [Przygoda na Mariensztacie], dir. Leonard Buczkowski, Poland, 1954, 93’
introduction by Ewa Toniak, PhD
A mix of popular romantic comedy with the requirements of socialist realism. A (not very heated) love affair serves here above all to promote the idea of women’s (and men’s) — bricklaying — work and the beauty of Warsaw (openly) and the Party (indirectly). As well as youth, commitment and soc-version emancipation, as in the (pseudo)folk song: ‘The machines are riding / Girls on them / And each as a boy… . Because a girl — is people!’.
Daisies [Sedmikrasky], dir. Věra Chytilová, Czechoslovakia, 1966, 74’
introduction by Paulina Kwiatkowska
A hilariously told, anarchic story about two pretty girls that, craving for demoralisation, play – on their own terms – with older and younger men. Described as a ‘philosophical documentary in the form of a farce’, the film is one of the most interesting achievements of the Czech New Wave.
Innocence Unprotected [Nevinost bez zastite], dir. Dušan Makavejev, Yugoslavia, 1968, compilation film, 75’
Dušan Makavejev is probably the former Yugoslavia’s most interesting filmmaker. After Innocence Unprotected, received as a provocation, he had to emigrate. The film is based on a 1941 movie of the same title, the first Serbian sound film, by Dragojlub Aleksic, a famous acrobat and strongman. The film was banned by the Nazi censors and classified as pro-Nazi propaganda later on. Makavejev montaged a popular story about a male hero with WWII-era documentary footage (some of it manually coloured by him) — Nazi and Serbian collaborationist propaganda films, German military newsreels, but also the Alexandrov Circus, Aleksic’s performances and interviews with the members of the original cast and crew. The compilation becomes an accusation of both communism and fascism, but also a reflection on the process of the creation of a collective-imagination hero and on the Yugoslav culture in its official and popular versions.
The film won the FIPRESCI Award and the Silver Bear Extraordinary Prize of the Jury at the 18th Berlin International Film Festival in 1968.
How to Be Loved [Jak być kochaną], dir. Wojciech Jerzy Has, Poland, 1963, 97’
A psychological drama told from the viewpoint of a woman who during the war sacrificed everything to save the man she loved. A polemical version of history — heroic, but also taking place in the private sphere — in which the woman are strong active and the men weak and passive. The past is shown through the retrospections of the main character, Felicja, now a well-known actress, popular thanks to her role in a radio soap opera, through which she fulfils (and promotes) the ideal of harmonious family life.
The film won the Golden Gate Award for Best Actress (Barbara Krafftówna), Best Picture (Wojciech Has) and Best Screenplay (Kazimierz Brandys) at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 1963.
Ecce Homo Homolka, dir. Jaroslav Papoušek, Czechoslovakia, 1969, 79’
The film was the full-length debut of the screenwriter of Forman’s and Passer’s New Wave movies. In the opening sequence, a Prague taxi driver and his family on a weekend outing in the woods run away frightened upon hearing calls for help. Then it only gets worse — the plot moves entirely to a family apartment, in which three generations of men and women torment each other. All that because the TV set has gone wrong. The tragicomic story, a witty portrait of a certain form of family life, is the first part a trilogy about the Homolka family.
Adoption [Örökbefogadás], dir. Márta Mészáros, Hungary, 1975, 89’
An unhurried, detail-focused, nuanced story about Kata, a lonely widow in her 40s living in the countryside. She still dreams of having a child, but her married lover doesn’t like the idea. The situation changes when Anna, runaway from a nearby assisted living facility, finds her way to Kata’s house.
The film won the Golden Bear at the 1975 Berlin International Film Festival.
Inner Life [Życie wewnętrzne], dir. Marek Koterski, Poland, 1986, 86’
Of all the neurotic protagonists of Marek Koterski’s movies, this one is surely one of the most interesting. The plot is set in the claustrophobic space of an apartment block, its narrow ‘communication passages’ – the corridors and the elevator – and the main character’s mind. An image of the disintegration of both public and private bonds and of emotionality reduced to two basic instincts: aggression (dominant) and sex (realised only in the sphere of fantasies and fear of the ‘night stalker’).
The film won an award for Best Director at the 1987 Polish Film Festival in Gdynia.
A Woman Alone [Kobieta samotna], dir. Agnieszka Holland, Poland, 1981 (premiere 1987), 92’
The main character, a Wrocław mail carrier (Maria Chwalibóg), is a member of neither the Party nor Solidarity and receives no support from either her family or friends. She raises her 8-year-old son alone. One day she meets a young disability pensioner (Bogusław Linda), limping after a coalmine accident. Both would like to see a radical change in their lives. Holland paints an insightful — and painful — picture of the life of people outside the focal point of historic events, refusing to fit into the simple us-versus-them divisions, doomed to live a gloomy existence. The film’s message was so pessimistic that, despite being censored, it was shelved for six years.
A Woman Alone won the Special Prize of the Jury for Agnieszka Holland and Best Actor awards for the lead role performers at the 1988 Polish Film Festival in Gdynia.
Little Vera [Malenkaya Vera], dir. Vasili Pichul, USSR, 1988, 128’
One of the more interesting, best known — and most popular — films of the chernukha, a pessimistic, neo-naturalistic trend describing the Soviet society of the perestroika era. Teenage Vera lives in a port town on the Black Sea. A relationship with Sergey, a boy met on the beach, gives her some relief from the family conflicts at home. Her parents, however, don’t approve of the boy, who irritates them with his refusal to be like ‘everyone else’.
The film won numerous awards, including the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1988 Venice Film Festival, the European Film Award for Best Screenwriter in 1989, and the Special Jury Prize at the 1988 Montreal World Film Festival.
Another Way [Egymasra nezve], dir. Karoly Makk, Hungary, 1982, 102’
introduction: Bartosz Żurawiecki
The film is set during the ‘normalisation’ period following the 1956 uprising in Hungary and depicts the three protagonists in confrontation with history — and their own feelings. Eva falls in love with the married woman Livia, who, though not without misgivings, eventually responds to her love. A lyrical study of their romance is confronted with the brutality of public life and language. A forbidden love is inextricably linked here to political proscriptions and the transgression of social conventions — to actual borders. The movie features superb performances by two Polish actors, Grażyna Szapołowska (Livia) and Jadwiga Jankowska-Cieślak (Eva, Best Actress at 1982 Cannes Film Festival).
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days [4 luni, 3 săptămâni şi 2 zile], dir. Cristian Mungiu, Romania–Belgium, 2007, 113’
The plot is set in Romania in the late 1980s and tells the story of Gabita who decides to have a late abortion, in which she is being helped by her friend, Otilia. An illegal abortion becomes here a symbol of living in a society where everyone who has any power uses it against others, where social bonds are a matter of commercial exchange and emotions a matter of contract.
The film won numerous awards, including the Golden Palm in Cannes and the European Film Award in 2007 for Best Film and Best Director.
Grbavica [Esmas Geheimnis — Grbavica], dir. Jasmila Žbanić, Austria–Croatia–Germany–Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2006, 90’
introduction: Bożena Umińska-Keff
One of the first films breaking away with Yugoslav-style self-Balkanisation à la Kusturica. A lone mother is raising her 12-year-old daughter, Sara, in the Sarajevo neighbourhood of Grbavica. The girl believes her father was a Bosnian hero whereas in truth she was born as a result of a rape committed by a Serbian soldier.
The film won the Golden Bear at the 2006 Berlin International Film Festival
edited by Iwona Kurz, PhD
Thursdays at 16:00 screenings of films by Marina Gržinić and Aina Šmid, multimedia room, entrance through the exhibition
Three Sisters [Tri sestre], video, 1992, 28’
Bilocation [Bilokacija], video, 1990, 12’06’’
Luna 10, video and video installation (The Butterfly Effect of Geography, 1994), 10’35’’
2. A review of documentary films accompanying the exhibition Gender Check. Femininity and Masculinity in the Art of Eastern Europe
Zachęta, 20 March – 13 June 2010
Screenings on 31 May, 1 and 2 June – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday
A week with documentary films as part of the film programme accompanying the exhibition. We will present documentaries about the featured artists, e.g. portraits of the Bereś family: Jerzy Bereś — a Sculptor and Maria Pinińska-Bereś — a Sculptress, films about artists from Eastern Europe and the former DDR, showing the interesting social and cultural environment in which they lived and worked. Some of the films, of a more biographical nature, focus on the artist and his or her work while others, showing the socio-political background, speak more broadly about the situation of artists in general and their reaction to the changes taking place in the different countries.
Detailed information about the programme will be available at http://www.gendercheck.blogspot.com.
Admission to all film screenings accompanying the exhibition is free. Multimedia room, 18:00, entrance from Burschego Street.