In 1970 in Poland, there was a crisis brewing as the cost of living had risen to such a sky-high degree that the citizens could not afford to live anymore. The planned economy had been a disaster, and an indictment of the Communist Party, a Moscow proxy, running the nation, and at the coast there were increasing signs of unrest as people took to the streets to protest. These were the workers, the ordinary folks who insisted it was the Party they took issue with, not the workers themselves: the Party were the ones living comfortably while everyone else was beginning to starve as food prices were utterly unaffordable for most families. But as the protests grew, so did the Party members' need to put down what could be a revolution...
Well, as we know there was no revolution in Poland in 1970, but director Tomasz Wolski and producer Anna Gawlita's novel account of a point where history could have been drastically different brought it home that civilisation is only a handful of missed meals away from anarchy. What was novel about a documentary that used a lot of existing footage from the era, and some audio recordings of the Party members refusing to back down in telephone calls to one another? It was that this film was partly animated: the sound clips of the officials and military were put to images of realistic puppets talking on phones and endlessly smoking as the panic begins to rise outside the walls of their government buildings, and it was a curiously successful approach.
Bear in mind the puppets may have been stop motion, but this was no Wallace and Gromit jaunt through 1970s Poland after the satirical fashion of The Death of Stalin, the tone was deadly serious throughout as these men calmly (at first) plan the demise of hundreds, possibly thousands of protestors who show no signs of backing down. Where the Party has the upper hand is that they can deploy the military, and as the ordinary workers yell "Gestapo! Gestapo!" at their aggressors, these soldiers do their job with no questions, and gun down and arrest countless so-called "anarchists" - you want to eat and exist in relative comfort every day, this is apparently an outrageous suggestion to this dictatorship, and they will do their best to make life very difficult for you if you point it out to them.
But the Communists were sitting pretty, they had whatever they wanted because they were protected by Moscow, which makes it oddly fitting that their Government headquarters should become a target for arson attacks to bring home the anger of the people they are supposed to be looking after. Every grim suspicion you ever had about politics is confirmed by this bunch: jobs for the boys, only out to line their own pockets, every display of sympathy or solidarity a hollow gesture, and an I'm all right, Jack sensibility to the nightmare they were creating among the population. At just over an hour long, 1970 said what it needed to say and got out of there, leaving a sense of deep injustice. Being aware that the men we hear had power over life and death for the protestors gives a slight satisfaction when they grow rattled that they are losing control of the situation, but of course they have the firepower to overwhelm them, with forty-one people massacred and many more injured by The Soviet Union's bullets. If it was purposefully mundane in the way it presented its horrors, that may actually render it more chilling, on reflection. Stark electronic music by Marcin Lenarczyk and Bartlomiej Tycinski,
[Showing as part of the KINOTEKA POLISH FILM FESTIVAL 2022 - 9TH MARCH TO 3RD APRIL. All of the festival proceeds go to SOS Children's Villages Ukraine emergency appeal.]