Cinema of Distrust


Cinema of Distrust
(Aka Cinema of Moral Concern, Cinema of Moral Anxiety)
   The term kino moralnego niepokoju (literally: "cinema of moral anxiety") was coined by the filmmaker Janusz Kijowski, and Andrzej Wajda first used it in a public speech delivered at the 1979 Festival of Polish Films. It refers to realistic films that examine contemporary issues and were made primarily between 1976 and 1981 by established masters such as Krzysztof Zanussi and Wajda and young filmmakers such as Krzysztof Kieślowski, Feliks Falk, Piotr Andrejew, Agnieszka Holland, Janusz Kijowski, and Janusz Zaorski. Principal films include Camouflage (1977) by Zanussi, Top Dog (1978) and Chance (1980) by Falk, Index (1977, released in 1981) and Kung-fu (1980) by Kijowski, Provincial Actors (1979) by Holland, Camera Buff (1979) by Kieślowski, and Rough Treatment (aka Without Anesthesia, 1978) and The Orchestra Conductor (1980) by Wajda.
   This series of contemporary realistic films centered on the conflict between the state and the individual and examined the massive gap between the "progressive" postulates and their implementation. Due to state censorship, the system was not attacked directly. The films targeted its institutions and functionaries and focused on corruption and social maladies. The mechanisms of manipulation and indoctrination were examined on a metaphorical level. The summer camp in Camouflage, the school in Chance, the world of show business in Top Dog, and the media in Rough Treatment served as a microcosm of Polish society. These films also portrayed the emergence of the arrogant Communist elites and hypocrisy, conformity, and other social and political effects of the Communist system. They provided thinly veiled allusions to the political and social present. Zanussi's Camouflage and Wajda's Man of Marble—two internationally known films that were made in 1976 and released at the beginning of 1977—had the biggest impact on the Cinema of Distrust filmmakers. Wajda's search for a sincere picture of the Stalinist era also served as a portrait of the totalitarian mentality and manipulation in the 1970s, while Zanussi's film served as a clear metaphor for Polish society and an allegory for the corruptive nature of the Communist system.
   The Cinema of Distrust filmmakers depicted stories of the generation who experienced the March Events of 1968 as students. For example, Kijowski's Index introduces a student who is expelled from a university for defending a fellow student who participated in the March Events and was ousted from the university. The protagonist is portrayed as struggling to maintain his moral views during the period of Communist conformity. The representatives of the Cinema of Distrust frequently emphasized the utilitarian role of their films. In many cases, however, this functional attitude resulted in films that lack psychological or sociological depth. The clear divisions between the positive and the negative characters, inherited from socialist realism, frequently produced types rather than real-life characters. As in the world of socialist realist films, there was no love and no time for love in the reality presented in the Cinema of Distrust. In this world of predominantly male characters, slowly entering middle age and usually portrayed without sympathy, the female supporting characters were unwilling to understand the psychological torment of the protagonist.
   In the second part of the 1970s and during the Solidarity period (1980-1981), several narrative and documentary films attempted to uncover the unrepresented reality and to examine social issues. For example, in his two films released in 1980, Contract and Constans, Zanussi deals with the issues of corruption, moral compromise, and moral choices. Two fine actors imprinted their mark on the Cinema of Distrust—Jerzy Stuhr and Zbigniew Zapasiewicz. A number of films produced during that period, dealing with everyday hardships, social pathologies, and the world of cynicism and incompetence, were shelved by the authorities, not to be released until the Solidarity period.
   Historical Dictionary of Polish Cinema by Marek Haltof

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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