Interrogation AKA Przesluchanie (1982)
R2 - United Kingdom - Second Run DVD
Review written by and copyright: Jari Kovalainen (9th July 2007).
The Film

World War II ended on September 2, 1945. This darkest of chapters in Polish history took 6 million of their lives - half of them perished during the Holocaust. The suffering still wasn´t over, since the country soon had a new “official name”: “People's Republic of Poland”, when the Communist party took over the country. Of course, in reality the country was ruled by the Soviet Union via its ruthless leader Joseph Stalin. Another totalitarian rule was in effect. This period lasted until Stalin´s death in 1953 (the Communist rule still lasted all the way through 1989) and during that time many political parties and civil rights were crushed and people were sent to prisons for petty reasons (or no reason at all). Many were tortured and some even sentenced to death. “Big brother” was watching everything, often in the form of secret police.

“Interrogation” tells the grim story (apparently based on a true story) of Antonina “Tonia” Dziwisz (Krystyna Janda), a free-spirited singer that is imprisoned basically without a reason in early 1950s Poland. One night after her show two “fans” offer her drinks and eventually drag the drunken Tonia to a car and all the way to the secret police. When she wakes up, she is stripped, re-dressed and sent to the cell with other imprisoned women. Soon the confused, humiliated and almost hysterical Tonia will meet her main interrogator Major Zawada “Kapielowy” (Janusz Gajos), who´s asking questions, but is explaining very little. He´s asking about the men she has met - even slept with, generally about her personal life. Most of all, she has to sign a “confession” after the interrogation-sessions. Tonia starts to learn from her fellow inmates that it´s useless and futile to resist, since eventually they´ll break everyone with their endless interrogation and psychological pressure. If those methods won´t work, the “shower torture” will. Tonia is now a political prisoner and - to the Communist regime - she is guilty. When days turn into weeks and weeks into months, Tonia first loses her own identity and probably is on the verge of losing her mind, but then she starts to fight back in her own way. When she doesn´t sign the confessions and doesn´t co-operate, she´s saying “no” to the totalitarianism and to her interrogators. At the same time she´s playing a dangerous game, one that could end her life. To Tonia, keeping her self-respect is more important.

The suffering of the Polish people has always influenced the local filmmakers and many of them probably feel almost compelled to tell these stories to the next generation. Director/co-writer Ryszard Bugajski tells one in “Interrogation” in a harrowing way and it´s essentially Tonia´s story (even when there were hundreds of similar cases). Tonia loses her freedom, civil rights and, when the years pass, almost everything else - including her husband. Despite all this, she tries to keep her dignity and sanity. Krystyna Janda won the “Best Actress”-award in the “Cannes Film Festival” in 1990 for her role and she´s giving everything to her performance. The general narrative style of the film is slightly “theatrical” and some scenes feel a bit too “staged” (including the lighting), but when you get used to the overall tone of the film you hardly lose the grip during it. There are many powerful moments - often downbeat, but there´s also some hope. Tonia´s relationship with the younger interrogator Lieutenant Morawski (Adam Ferency) is a complex one, but is adding some softer tones for the film. It ends up tragically, but at the same time is planting a new seed, bringing hopefully better times for the next generation. Someone needs Tonia and her love, so she can´t lose her emotions completely. “Interrogation” is rated “18” (probably because of the few more explicit scenes), but don´t let the high rating scare you. The film comes definitely recommended, since like many good films based on history, it teaches you and is raising awareness. It may not be an easy trip and probably not for everyone, but the trip well worth taking.

Video

The film is presented in 4:3 and based on “Second Run” is approved by the director (the film might´ve been shown in 1:66:1 or 1:85:1 in the big screen). The transfer is slightly dark and there´s some softness, but this is most likely partly due the original look of the film. Colours and black levels are good and the print is relatively clean (there are some film artifacts, though). No real complaints. “Dual layer” disc is coded for both “R2” and “R4”, and runs 111:58 minutes (PAL). There are 12 chapters.

Audio

One audio track, Polish Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is included, along with optional English subtitles. The track is clear and there´s basically no hiss at all. With “Pro Logic”, the music and some directional cues add some nice and natural sounding surround-activity and it´s the recommended option.

Extras

Main extra is an “Interrogation Introduced by Ryszard Bugajski” -documentary (30:35 minutes), created for the DVD. Bugajski speaks English (no subtitles), but some segments from the film are in Polish (with optional English subtitles). The first section of this excellent documentary is basically a long interview with director/co-writer Bugajski. The story about the production is almost as interesting as the film itself. In the 1960-1970s Poland, the film community was also strictly monitored and every film had to be “approved” by the special censorship board. During that time, it was basically impossible to make a film involving the “secret police”. In 1980 the big strikes in the country started and the control loosened a bit due to the general turmoil. Bugajski saw his opportunity. The script was written, surprisingly approved in 1981 and the film went into production the following September. There was a shortage of 35 mm film stock, but friends of Bugajski from abroad collected some money and provided some Kodak film for him. The principal photography was completed only barely before the “martial law”, which was declared unto Poland at the end of 1981. Now Bugajski had to save the film material, so he hid it. When the arrest wasn´t as imminent as he first thought, he secretly started to edit the film. When the film was eventually completed, it was the moment of truth; the “Minister of Culture” had to approve the film and that approval is needed for distribution. At this time, the film was bluntly rejected and it was called e.g. “anti-socialist propaganda”, amongst many other things (the board admitted that it was a powerful film, though). The negatives were locked up. Bugajski wanted the film to be shown in some form and since he had transferred the film to the U-matic tape, the illegal VHS-copies from that started circulating. The film was a hit among the underground movement and eventually found its way to many homes. Bugajski paid the price for his actions, since he was fired from the studio where he worked and didn´t get any proper work. He drew his own conclusions and moved to Canada in 1985. At the same time when there was finally a free election in Poland in 1989, the film was also officially released in Poland. The latter part of the documentary shows footage from the film premiere in 1989, with includes brief interview-segments from the actors Janusz Gajos (“Major”), Adam Ferency (“Lieutenant”) and Krystyna Janda (“Tonia”). The film is also presented that night by its executive producer Andrzej Wajda. Bugajski now lives in Poland.

12-page booklet features essays on the film by Andy Townsend (from “Second Run DVD”) and Michael Szporer (from his foreword to the novel “Interrogation” by Ryszard Bugajski). There are also a few storyboard samples.

Overall

“Second Run” continues to bring quality European cinema to DVD and “Interrogation” is a prime example of that. Powerful film includes great and informative documentary and solid transfer.

For more info, please visit the homepage of Second Run.

The Film: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


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