• 4 out of 5 stars
(1user review)
0 Love It
Save it
Bugajski's horrifying film was originally banned under martial law. When cabaret artiste Tonia (Janda) is imprisoned without explanation, she assumes there has been a bureaucratic slip-up. Gradually, however, it becomes clear she is there for a reason: betrayal. Days become months. The monotonous deprivation of the prison cell is varied only by the persuasion, intimidation and torture of interrogation, but Tonia will not break. If, in a sense, this is a period film twice over - made in '82, set in '51 - its impact is as current as it ever was, and its allegorical implications have proved prophetic: the trajectory is very much freedom through fortitude and perseverance. Drained of colour, largely without music, resolutely intimate, it makes for a harrowing couple of hours, but the shifting power-plays between Tonia and her inquisitors are subtly conveyed, while the nuances distinguishing subjective and objective guilt inevitably suggest Kafka and Orwell.

By: TCh

Release details

Duration: 116 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Ryszard Bugajski
Screenwriter: Ryszard Bugajski
Cast: Krystyna Janda
Adama Ferencego
Agnieszka Holland
Janusz Gajos
Anna Romantowska

Average User Rating

3.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:0
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
1 person listening

This film shows 50s Stalinist Poland and the workings of the secret police.The use of Stalinist terror and torture to extract "confessions".Tonia (Krystyna Janda), a singer in a sleazy cabaret,is imprisoned without explanation.Days turn into weeks,turn into months,varied only by the persuasion,intimidation and torture of intimidation. This is based on a true story and in fact the imprisonment lasts for 5 years.In the film there is no easy way of guaging this.The film is a direct assault on a political system that terrorises its citizens.There was a parallel contemporary theme that the censors disliked and there is an implicit criticism of the contemporary regime.The film had been completed and then martial law was imposed before it had been edited.Bugajski made a video copy of the print and smuggled it out of the country.It only became available on underground VHS and was viewed by 2 million people in b/w. Jandos;s portrayal of an unbroken spirit,apolitical,vulnerable,feminine is the obverse to the macho,authoritarian tendencies of the communist ideological system.Tonia becomes pregnant by one of her interrogators,Moravski,who himself is haunted by his concentration camp experiences,is also capable of genuine feelings and a commited communist,commits suicide with the death of Stalin.Tonios;s only real crime is her resistance, her refusal to be broken as a human being, since she had no beans to spill, but they have to keep her in prison since peoples'justice does not make mistakes. The lighting is dark,the colours suitably subdued and the interior prison spaces are clautrophobic.This turns into bright sunlight and a sense of openness on her emergence from prison.There is a more subdued,beaten-down individual who suffers pain when her daughter doesn't recognize her,there is even more uncertainty when her daughter leads her up to her (to Tonia)unknown father;,who we never see as the film ends. As lethal as samisdhat literature.