Friday, March 2, 2007

The Witness, Hungary, 1969

A comedy cult film-classic about a period in Hungary when the most oppressive communist regime was in power. The film parodies the nomenklatura, people enjoyed special privileges (e.g. education, good jobs) under communist regimes. Ascension to rank in the bureaucracy is not so much based on competency as immediate usefulness. As the main character is promoted to various jobs, he refers to himself as “just an idiot,” which reflects an alienation to the regime’s logic.
The plot of the film revolves around the main character as he unknowingly stumbles into trouble with the various jobs he is offered. At end of the film, the main character enters trial for the supposed crimes he has committed against the regime.
During this period of Hungary’s history, trials and executions were theatrical, and confessions were fabricated by torture. Moreover, the court already a verdict before the trial, and the person was made to recite the story for rhetorical purposes. These trials were comedic only after the oppression died down and people sardonically reflected on the absurdity of the whole period. The comedy of the film is an afterthought to not only to the regime’s horrific oppression but more so its utter incompetence.
The cult value of the film lies in the fact that people were able to identify with the absurd situations and rhetoric, the absurd politicization of every aspect of life. The satire and parodic situations in this film were actually closer to reality. For example, the rhetorical celebration of the first orange inadvertently created an ironic awareness of the deficiencies of communism in comparison to imperialism. To combat this perception, communist regimes emphasized enormous industrial activity.


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