, 07 Jul 2013
Made in 1981-82 and set in the Stalinist Poland of the early 1950s, 'Interrogation' tells the story of a cabaret singer called Tonia who, following a drunken night out, is arrested by the State Security Police and put into jail where she is held for years without charge and without ever being told why she is there. While in prison she is mentally and physically tortured and is repeatedly interrogated about her role in 'anti-socialist' political crimes she knows nothing about. Asked again and again to sign written confessions to crimes she has not committed and brutalised by her interrogators, Tonia's defiance of her persecutors grows stronger as they become ever more desperate for her to submit to their bullying. After becoming sexually involved with one of her interrogators she falls pregnant by him and after the child is placed in an orphanage and the interrogator commits suicide, Tania is finally released from custody bloody but unbowed. The film was highly controversial in communist Poland and after making the film the director, Ryszard Bugajski, was forced into exile. Indeed, the story of the making of Interrogation is as interesting as the film itself and one of the best features of the 1990 DVD release is a 30 minute interview with Ryszard Bugajski in which he explains the difficulties he experienced in making his film and how and why it took nearly ten years to bring it to the big screen. Growing up in communist Poland in the 1970s and 1980s Bugajski had become aware very early on in his life of the effect that socialist oppression was having on the lives of ordinary people. Arbitrary arrest, false imprisonment, torture and politically-motivated execution were common place in Poland at that time and Bugajski believed that it was his duty as a filmmaker to expose how the Polish state had used - and was still using - physical and mental violence against its own people for political ends. Although initially approved for production during the breakdown of state control which followed the first Solidarity uprising of 1981, the film's planned release was banned following the imposition of martial law later that same year. At that point 'Interrogation' was described by the Polish State Film Board as a 'loathsome', 'vile', 'manipulative' and 'disgusting' piece of film-making which 'expressed hatred towards the values of a socialist country'. Bugajski was sacked from his job as a film director and told he would 'never make films again'. After being told by the Security Police that 'if he was lucky' they would 'let him drive a cab' he decided to emigrate to Canada. He did not return to Poland until after the fall of communism in 1989 and his film was finally premiered in Warsaw on 1 December of that year. Krystyna Janda, who played Tonia, went on to win the Best Actress Award at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival where 'Interrogation' was also nominated for, but sadly didn't win, the Palme D'Or.
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