Subtle Degrees of Coercion,
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This review is from: The Party And The Guests  [DVD] (DVD)A subtle critique and you need to be to be in the right frame of mind to imbibe a different critical sensual perception of the world. Seemingly very little happens throughout the film; as it works on small shifts to create a greter force.
Within the film very little happens...seemingly...and this is the point, as the changes wrought, are not the tanks rolling into the market square to announce a new beginning. The film operates on the idea of small steps of coercion, gently enforcing new found boundaries, including tough cajoling, finally revealed at the end as the ungrateful guests need to be taught their manners. Boundaries are enforced by operating a mirage, capturing people within a dominant spell and then forcing the oppressed to enforce the boundaries upon themselves and others. Internal compliance is needed as much as external duress as people police themselves.
Offering people bonhomie, food, platitudes, whilst forever shaping them to external expectations, becomes the gliding critique, delineating how the people themselves create the conformity they desire. The film has a very Kafkaesque feel to it. The throng gazes onto a self proclaimed leader, forever encroaching upon their everyday space with overarching expectations. The bourgeois participants are ensnared into a world where they readily accept what is being offered. They adapt to its expectations and denounce those closest to them, those who fail to conform to the herd values. The wife informing on her husband becomes prescient.
A critique of totalising communism, of course, but another hidden critique finally emerges when the film becomes reflected upon, within the West, not the former East. Bathing, drinking wine, the demarcation of gender, the everyday encrochment of officialdom is much more applicable to a "democracy" than an overt survellance state.
Spins a thread back to "The Trial" and "The Castle" with its allegorical surrealism, chiming with the presentation of natural life within a modern world vista.
When it appeared in 1960's Czechoslavakia it must have been an hilarious pastiche of life under duress. Within modernity it applies to those who have adapted to the strictures of liberal democracy without a second thought. This is how it is, was and ever shall be and they may reflect upon how applicable it was to Communism in the 1960's and 1970's but the film neatly applies to the present.
One thing that is missing is a speech from the leader about straying into the woods, because it may be full of terrorists or paedophiles. Building himself up to become a wounded party, after ensnaring his guests, shows psychological insight into the application of power. Arming one of the former friends with a rifle, to shoot his former friend and any of the others, in effect enforcing the new moral order is prescient.
One to watch again and again to get the "joke" as this is not a piece of apple pie dressed up in red white and blue but a Harold Pinter play.