It is always fascinating to see how people behave under circumstances, that differ from the usual capitalist system. So I am curious to know how life was in the former Leninist Czechoslovakia. The TV series Das Haus mit den tausend Gesichtern tells the daily life in a Czech primary school, and as such excellently serves my purpose. A funny detail is that my version has been broadcasted in the former German Democratic Republic, and thus is dubbed in German. Teacher: Where is the English Channel? Pupil 1: I don't know, my TV does not pick it up. Pupil 2: I didn't take it. The series of 13 episodes follows the team of school teachers during a school year. In addition the experiences of ten pupils are followed, especially those in their first and final stage. This includes the lives of their parents and families. Apart from the school year the story does not have a logical beginning, and it concludes with an open ending. It includes a blossoming romance between the teacher Michal and the pioneer leader Jana, more or less as an obligatory concession to the viewer. The series lacks suspense or sensation, and is mainly a social analysis, just like so many of the Leninist film products. It is reality TV, not everybody's taste. It includes lots of emotional moments: sickness, mental crises, an unpleasant divorce, an accident, several adulteries, and of course calf-loves between the older pupils. And the cross-eyed teacher can't control her pupils. The message of the narrative is expressed by a psychologist in the twelfth episode: people feel unappreciated and isolated, and they do not recognize their loneliness as the universal human fate. They should acknowledge their deficient communication and reach out to the others. He who places his head in the sand, will get kicked in the end. This theme seems to be the ideological backbone of the Leninist states in their latest phase, just prior to their collapse. The series depicts a society with an atmosphere of sadness about the human nature, that is basically good but imperfect. Indeed the theme is also apparent in other series like "Einzug ins Paradies" and "Hochhausgeschichten". You can hardly call this propaganda, and in fact the hammer and sickle emerge just once, in the last episode. Don't miss it! Nevertheless, the image is not completely innocent, for the only truly stable characters are the headmaster and the judge, who represent the Establishment and are undoubtedly party members. This is a far echo of the slogan "the party is always right". In fact the teachers give advise about the secondary school to the parents, who have to sign and subscribe to their testimonial. Joke: Did your father help you with your paper. Answer: No, he did it all. But is is not a coincidence that Jana breaks off her engagement with a police officer to marry a teacher. There are three kinds of people: those who can count and those who can't. For some reason the films of the crumbling Leninism and their suggestion of benevolence (which is such a contrast with the really existing Iron Curtain) manage to move me. The events and the dialogs are credible, the shots and the scenery are attractive, and the moral is instructive. So Das Haus mit den tausend Gesichtern deserves a recommendation - if you understand German. You need to germinate.
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