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This is an excellent example of a mid-european comedy, the genre that Croatian filmmakers are hopelessly trying to achieve, but Checz and Polish directors manage to do so. It's a film about Communist-censor that is haunted by the movie characters who speak to him from the silver screen (reference to Woody Allen's Purple rose of Cairo, which also appears as 'a film in a film')
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is something of a forgotten diamond, even in Poland, not many
people have seen it. The director, Wojciech Marczewski, has been more
active educating young directors (most of Scandinavian 90's new wave
guys learned from him in Danish Film School) than film-making lately,
and it's a real shame.
Most movies you see are easy to classify. "Escape..." not only is a film you can't really put your finger on, it works on all the levels it tries to achieve. For starters, I think it perfectly describes life in Poland around 80's. With the communist regime still ruling, ordinary people desperately searching for freedom or just trying to float by. Main character's (played brilliantly by 1 of best Polish actors, Janusz Gajos) doubts over his job as a censor echo the tough choices most people had to make at the time.
Then, we get the fantasy part - actors take over a movie doing what they wish on the screen, much to the delight of the audiences rebellious mood, while ordinary people start singing opera completely out of the blue. The questions of artist's responsibility and the role of art in every day life is presented with great power here, and the threat of the film being burned by authorities adds to the drama and the weight of the questions.
The comedy element (the scene around the beginning when secretary tells the boss the actors have rebelled, and he goes mental is one of my favorite scenes ever. In fact, I'll go an watch it again in a minute) is strong as well, helped by a superb cast of supporting actors, and sharp dialog. Marczewski found a great comedy idea in crossing the rebel movie with Allen's "Purple Rose of Cairo" and used it well.
It would be enough for most movies, and their directors, but Marczewski wasn't done. He added a bit of pondering about a philosophical problem of sin with some links to Dostoyevski and Shakespeare's works on the subject. In fact, the guy haunting the main character is recognized as "Raskolnikov" (the main character of Dostoyevski's "Crime and Punishment") in the final credits.
All these elements are tied together and balanced with magical directing and rather surprisingly the movie is not overwhelming or too long. Even if you fail to notice all the aspects of this great work, you'll still have a wonderful time and leave inspired if not completely shaken up.
There are not even ten Polish movies I would rate 10 out of 10. However, this is 1 of them.
Polish film 'Ucieczka z Kina 'Wolnosc' is better known to a handful of erudite cinema viewers as 'Escape from liberty cinema'. It remains a veiled assault against the ills of censorship. Made in 1990, a time when most communist regimes collapsed in Eastern Europe, by Polish director Wojciech Marczewski, this film describes the damages which censorship can do in order to destroy a film as well as people associated with it and how these damages can be countered ? There is no biased stance in the film as even the hidden human side of a much hated censor official is depicted. However, it turns out to be ineffective as it comes at a wrong time when a lot of damage had already been done. 'Escape from liberty cinema' is a brave effort by acclaimed Polish director Wojciech Marczewski which needs to be applauded at all costs as during its actual shooting, there was always a hidden possibility to receiving plausible threats from Communist party as well as censors. In many ways, it reflects the dilemma in which many national cinemas of East Europe had put themselves after the collapse of communist regimes. Part comedy, part tragedy and part drama this film is a work of a genius as no easy answers are given in the film. The viewer is required to delve deeper into a character to find out more about the overall meaning of the film. Lastly cinema is a universal language is highlighted as it pays homage to American cinema especially to Woody Allen. It is nice to learn that even during communist times, some award winning American films were accessible to Polish people. Lastly, actors walking out of screens have become regular attractions in cinema. It was for the first time in the history of cinema that an actor walked on to the screen to solve artistic problems.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The movie is multi-layered drama, of a man whose job is to censor films, during a communist regime, on the brink of a revolution that is taking place in Poland. It turns out that during the projections of the movie, the characters in it are no longer playing according to the script and they seem to come alive, interacting with the audience. The censor has a moral dilemma - if he bans the film - he will be responsible for murdering living beings - at least that is what the characters from the screen tell him would happen. They also want to live, so they say. They explain that they rebelled against the script, because people in the real world wouldn't anymore... The higher powers of the regime are getting anxious as the whole thing starts to become a political problem.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie was released in 1990 at the end of the Communist regime in
Poland. The plot: Rabkiewicz is a government censor. A movie called
Daybreak is being projected at the Liberty Cinema (Daybreak looks like
the second part of Douglas Sirk's Magificent Obsession). Characters in
Daybreak are beginning to talk to the theater audience. At first they
shed their screen personae and complain about their private and
professional lives (there are some laughs in the first fifteen
minutes). Later, not surprisingly, they talk to Rabkiewicz making
rather obvious and declamatory points about the evils of censorship,
oppressive regimes etc. which provokes a rather predictable reaction of
the authorities. Since this is not the stuff that could maintain your
interest for the rest of the film, secondary characters are introduced
that don't add much to the tale.
Obviously, screen-characters-come-to-life spells "Purple Rose of Cairo", thus Woody Allen's movie is brought into play, but it is just an add-on; it fails to connect with the plot in any significant way.
This film could have been an opportunity for an in-depth study of censorship and of one of its paradoxes; under the Communist regime Poland was a powerhouse of world cinema. This evaluation can hardly be extended to the present Polish film industry where censorship is supposedly absent. The evolution-in-reverse can be seen in the career of Poland's most famous director, Andrzej Wajda. Under Communism and attendant censorship he managed to film masterpieces like Kanal (1957), Ashes and Diamonds (1958), Landscape after Battle (1970), Man of Marble (1977) and Man of Iron (1981), the last two not particularly complimentary about the regime. Under freedom and democracy Wajda ended up pandering to broad tasteless comedy and/or crude nationalism as in The Revenge (2002) and Pan Tadeusz (1999). Another case in point is Wojciech Marczewski, the director of this movie, whose works Zmory (1979) and Dreszcze (1981) are far superior. Perhaps, the restrictions generated by the profit motive are a powerful censorship too.
"Ucieczka z kina 'Wolnosc'" is a very blatant critic to the 'parent'
system that decides to control everything, from freedom of speech, to
art, through a story that plays with breaking the fourth wall... inside
"Escape from the 'Liberty' Cinema" (in its translated English title) goes around a censor that is a little bit tired of everything. Suddenly he finds himself in a little bit of a hole when the characters of a movie that had been approved by the censors and allowed to be shown on cinemas take a life of their own and rebel, just chatting around instead of continuing with the plot. Our censor goes to the cinema, and suddenly, the characters seem to take a special interest in him.
Cue not very subtle critic of censorship, control, the lack of freedom in some societies (in this case the 80s Poland) and the need for art and creativity to be free, critical and a thorn in the side of any system.
It all does for an interesting movie, with good acting, gloomy atmosphere and not very original but good ideas. However the pace is a little bit slow, and the movie, even if it lasts less than one hour and a half, feels a little bit longer than that. Close to the end, things get more rhythm and the psychological part gains weight, which gives more gravitas to the film.
If you like your film with some tongue-in-cheek, wink-wink moments, and a critique of the status quo, you will enjoy this one.
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