False Imprisonment – Rediscovering ‘Interrogation’ / Przesluchanie (Poland 1982 – 118 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - April 01, 2015
False Imprisonment – Rediscovering ‘Interrogation’ / Przesluchanie (Poland 1982 – 118 mins)

Banned in its native country and having to wait 7 years before finally being released, the immensely powerful and sometimes disturbing Polish drama ‘Interrogation’ is a film that’s hard to forget, telling the story of a determined person who refuses to give in to the system, even when all hope is gone.

Cabaret singer Tonia (Krystyna Janda) is arrested by the secret police and thrown into a military prison after performing for local soldiers one night. Refusing to sign a confession which would incriminate a former lover, who is now a political prisoner, Tonia is subjected to a brutal regime of humiliation and torture, including near drowning in a cage. When her husband turns against her and has a divorce granted by the courts, she attempts suicide unsuccessfully. After a brief relationship with a prison officer, and having a child with him, she is told that she has to give up her baby for adoption. Not giving in, Tonia carries on believing that she will one day be released and, after spending five long years in prison, a new regime is suddenly brought in. Is there finally hope on the horizon for the mentally exhausted Tonia?

Unreleased until the Eastern Bloc was disbanded in 1989, Writer-director Ryszard Bugajski had to smuggle the film out of the country in order for it to be seen. I remember stumbling across this controversial movie late one night many years ago on television. It was a tough watch and very grim at times, but it has stayed with me to this day, which says a lot about the power of the movie.

Krystyna Janda gives an astonishing performance as Tonia, and would go on to win the Best Actress award 8 years later, at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival. Janda’s subsequent work included ‘A Short Film about Killing’ (’87) and ‘The Decalogue II’ (’88), but it’s for this incredible performance that she is rightly remembered.

The scene I never forgot is the one in her crowded cell where a despairing Tonia bites into her wrist, puncturing a vein, which proceeds to spurt violently before dripping onto a cellmate, who immediately calls for help. But, as well as all the physical abuse, it’s the degree of psychological torment that is just as (or even more so) damaging to Tonia’s confused yet determined state. Nonetheless, throughout her long ordeal, her spirit is never crushed and she is willing to die rather than admit to her interrogator’s lies.

An unforgettable piece of cinema, ‘Interrogation’ is an outstanding movie about an innocent person refusing to give in, no matter how harshly they are treated. Although it’s certainly not for all tastes, it’s almost required viewing for those into hard-hitting cinema. Extremely well made and superbly acted, it’s maybe not a film that you are likely to return to too often, but it is an important one.

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