Tonia's story is a harrowing one. Real or imaginary doesn't matter: the story has sufficient power to make the viewer cringe several times during the performance. Tonia is a bubble-headed actress when we first meet her; little more than a self-obsessed good-time girl. She falls into a nightmarish prison landscape worthy of Kafka by way of a simple night out to spite her husband for an imagined slight and things get worse from there. Initially her defiance of the system seems to stem from her inability to understand her predicament; later it becomes apparent that she is made of sterner stuff than almost all around her -- including her sadistic interrrogators. It is this core of steel which makes her such an interesting character; and the film's exploration of her simple defiance is well-handled: punchy camera shots, harsh lighting; gradual physical deterioration of Tonia's appearance. The subtitles are well done -- not intrusive or gratingly translated. The denouement is heart-wrenching without being sentimental. The astonishing thing is how this film slipped through the censor's net in 1982 -- even if they were preoccupied with Solidarnosc and martial law. The bonus material gives some insight into this. Worth a couple of hours of anyone's time.
Interrogation (Przesluchanie) is an amazing drama about the Stalinist terror imposed in Poland in the 1950s. Tonia (Krystyna Janda) is a cabaret singer who becomes the target of the secret police. I like how the film doesn't waste any time; Tonia is quickly abducted and imprisoned within minutes from the start of the movie. Tonia isn't sure why she is imprisoned and we are left in just as much suspense as a clear answer to this question doesn't come quickly.
Tonia is asked personal question but they are particularly interested in her past lovers. She is a bit stubborn and a free spirit, which doesn't help her as their goal is to break her. The interrogators try to wear her out but she still remains strong despite their many efforts to break her spirit. I got the sense that the prison was a place where time stands still. The inmates there have no idea what time it is or how much time has passed. This sense of timelessness only increases their awareness of their pains.
Several scenes of the movie are brutal and we are not spared a good and close look at it. The prison guards treat the inmates like animals. Unquestionably, Przesluchanie could be considered a very emotional film as it shows a lot of screaming and raw violence. One cannot escape the comparison of the treatment Tonia received to the harsh treatment that made the Nazis infamous as it is mentioned several times. Although not stated, we quickly see that her prison interrogators are probably no better.
In my opinion, Interrogation holds a very special and important place in Polish cinema. The story is terrifying yet realistic. The acting is flawless and the story is captivating. It exposes oppression from over half a century ago but the same thing could (and perhaps does) happen today.
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 lasted for 5 years.In the film there is no easy way of gauging 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.This had the effect of changing the system. 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.Tonia'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.
This film changed Polish thoughts and perceptions and the very law itself after it's release. It caused such a deep reaction for the people that the real secret police had to fundamentally change their ways.
Based on 'true' events for the soviet era - the story centres around the abduction and torture, to obtain a confession, of the wife of an army major the police were trying to 'disappear'.
This is a haunting and dark comment on the power of the establishment and relates very well to what the U.S. government is doing with extraordinary rendition, that it is must for people who want to understand how we aren't far from this type of conduct - in secret - now.
Strongly recommend this for the cinematic techniques and the fantastic acting. Polish film at its very best.
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.
Interrogation Interrogation  [DVD]  is an often brilliant film about the communist terror in Poland. An eye-opener for all innocent westerners who still harbour any illusions about communism mercifully flung to the dungheap of history. Krystyna Janda plays the innocent victim tortured and terrorised by the Polish secret police with extraordinary power. Highly recommended.