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92 Children of the Revolution The Rebirth of the Subject in Revisionist Discourse The Eastern European Auteur This chapter focuses on Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Camera Buff (Amator, Poland, 1979). So far, I have discussed the work of directors whom history has not included among the major cinematic innovators of the Eastern Bloc. After Somewhere in Europe, Radványi participated in uninteresting projects (Women without Names, 1950) or in politically problematic ones (The Doctor from Stalingrad, 1958). In spite of his long and successful career with DEFA, Maetzig never became a director whose personal style would be remembered,1 while Moskalyk, who made a bold step towards auteur cinema with Dita Saxová, continued his career in the less prestigious medium of television in the conservative, post-1968 Czechoslovak climate of “normalization.”2 In contrast, Kieślowski’s work was nominated and won some of the industry’s most desired international awards3 and became the object of book-length studies. He is nowadays remembered as “one of the most acclaimed Polish film-makers” (Iordanova 2003, 109), representing a generation that gained artistic prominence in the 1970s, when, one can speculate, intellectual , aesthetic, industrial, and to a certain extent political conditions were more conducive to art cinema than in the 1950 or early 1960s. In order to better understand Kieślowski’s work and canonization, some clarification of the political functions of authorship in the Poland and Eastern Europe of the 1970s is necessary. First of all, critics and the public regarded authorship differently in the 1970s than in previous decades: 1950s—socialist realism , 1960s—New Waves. The 1970s were inclined to link cinematic style with political activism (a usually oblique contestation of Communist Party policies), and to put more emphasis on art as a medium of expressing individual moral consciousness. The 1970s auteur was expected to reflect independently (or as in4 Children of the Revolution | 93 dependently as possible) on contemporary issues and articulate social and political judgments. His or her work became almost synonymous with oppositional activity (Iordanova 2003, 108). This statement is best confirmed by Polish cinema. Through films such as Andrzej Wajda’s Man of Marble (1976) and Krzystof Zanussi’s Camouflage (1977)—both of which had a strong influence on Camera Buff—the Polish cinema of the 1970s stabilized the common representation and valuation of the Eastern European filmmaker as an artist resisting the bureaucratized communist power of the post-1968 Brezhnev Doctrine era. Spurred also by Poland’s signature (and those of other Eastern European countries) on the 1975 Helsinki Accords, with their provisions for freedom of thought and expression, the cinema became a locus of the public sphere where various public issues were debated both onscreen and in various more or less overt forms of post-screening dialogue.4 And it is not a coincidence that this socially and politically engaged cinema occurred in Poland. According to a report by the American Commission for Human Rights, Hungary and Poland were the Eastern European countries that implemented most thoroughly the provisions of the Helsinki Final Act, with Romania “a poor third” (Czechoslovakia, the country of the vanished New Wave, came in last).5 Hungary of the late 1970s and early 1980s also produced films that questioned the way in which socialism treated its subjects; one of them, Márta Mészáros’s Diary for My Children, will be analyzed in the next chapter. Film history remembers Kieślowski and Márta Mészáros as inquisitive, truth-seeking, political directors, with a solid upbringing in documentary filmmaking and an unwavering moral backbone. Regarding Kieślowski, historians single out his interest in realistic reconstructions of present-day situations. He is presented as a director who scrutinizes characters and situations closely, from a leftist revisionist position, in order to start a debate on a certain issue of social and political relevance: Kieślowski’s starting point was the same as that of all cineastes in the socialist countries: the conspicuous gap between the drab social reality and the optimistic , bright image which pervaded the heavily censored official media. The first reaction to the fact that, in Poland, social reality was “unrepresented,” as Kieślowski put it, was, of course, the move towards a more adequate representation of real life in all its drabness and ambiguity—in short, an authentic documentary approach. (Žižek 2001, 80) This envisioning of the auteur differed from that of socialist realism and the New Waves of the 1960s. Socialist realism was a...


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