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Über dieses Buch

This book offers an up-to-date approach to the question of representing history through film, exploring how films represent crucial events in twentieth-century European history. This includes the Second World War, Armenian Genocide, anti-Semitic attacks in Poland, European terrorism of the 1970s, and the end of communism.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Introduction: Is the Past a Foreign Country?

Abstract
Cinema is part of history, namely a discourse on the past. But what is the past? ‘The past is a foreign country’, is an answer which immediately appears in my head. These words, opening L. P. Hartley’s novel, The Go-Between (Hartley 1953: 9), were repeated or paraphrased by so many historians (see, for example, Lowenthal 1985, 2007; Judt 1992; Hobsbawm 1997; Fuchs and Cosgrove 2006) that they became a cliché. And yet, they require scrutiny, because they are ambiguous and therefore their meanings divide contemporary historians. Explaining their meanings will also allow me to locate my book within a number of debates concerning the status of history and its relation to cinema.
Ewa Mazierska

1. The Burden of the Past and the Lightness of the Present: Dealing with Historic Trauma through Film

Abstract
In the Introduction I announced that this book will be concerned with both history and memory. In the films discussed in this chapter: Éloge de l’amour (In Praise of Love, 2001) by Jean-Luc Godard, Ararat (2003) by Atom Egoyan and Weiser (2000) by Wojciech Marczewski, memory, understood as a process of recollecting, reliving and representing past occurrences, dominates over history, conceived as a result of the memory’s work, as something possessing a definite shape: crystallised. The process of recalling the past and coming to terms with it also dominates in them over living in the present, enjoying the here and now. However, the present hugely affects what is remembered and how. The relationship between history, memory and the present, as depicted in these three films, will be the focus of my investigation. The main common denominator are their characters who, more than with their own experiences, are preoccupied with a past which they inherited, so to speak. Marianne Hirsch refers to such a past using the word ‘postmemory’:
In my reading, postmemory is distinguished from memory by generational distance and from history by deep personal connection. Postmemory is a powerful and very particular form of memory precisely because its connection to its object or source is mediated not through recollection but through an imaginative investment and creation… Postmemory characterises the experience of those who grow up dominated by narratives that preceded their birth, whose relationship of the second generation to traumatic experiences that preceded their births, whose own belated stories are evacuated by the stories of the previous generation shaped by traumatic events that can be neither understood nor recreated. (Hirsch 1997: 22)
Ewa Mazierska

2. ‘Our Hitler’: New Representations of Hitler in European Films

Abstract
Adolf Hitler is one of the most famous of historical figures, if not the best-known historical figure of all time. Practically every child in Europe knows his name and is able to associate it with the Second World War and the Holocaust. For many Europeans, even after half a century, he remains the ‘face of Germany’, despite the fact that postwar Germany can count numerous economic and cultural achievements. Paradoxically, Hitler is also regarded as one of the most mysterious historical personas. The details of his real life, the workings of his mind, as well as the significance of his personal views and actions for the course of the history of the twentieth century are the subject of controversies filling hundreds of books and articles.
Ewa Mazierska

3. A Clear Dividing Line?: Cinematic Representations of German, Italian and Irish Terrorism

Abstract
In his book, The Age of Terrorism, Walter Laqueur maintains that ‘The difficulty with terrorism is that there is no terrorism per se, except perhaps on an abstract level, but different terrorisms’ (Laqueur 1987: 9). Stefan Wolff adds: ‘No act of violence in itself carries the quality of terrorism, only its interpretation does’ (Wolff 2000: 129). These and other authors (for example Whittaker 2004) point to different ideologies, leading to terrorist attacks, different strategies used by terrorists, as well as contrasting moral assessments of those who engage in them.1 The situation is further complicated by the fact that in the past many terrorists, especially those fighting against the colonial order, such as Jewish extremist groups operating in the British mandate of Palestine, did not mind this label, even wore it with pride (Gupta 2008: 6; Žižek 2009: 99–101), while today ‘terrorism’ and ‘terrorist’ are derogatory terms. I myself have been brought up in a tradition which presents the illegal fight of Polish insurrectionists during the period of Poland’s partitions (1795–1918), often involving bombings and assassinations, as patriotic acts in their noblest form. The word ‘terrorism’ in Poland, as I am sure elsewhere, was reserved for the violent actions of ‘others’.
Ewa Mazierska

4. From Socialist Realism to Postmodernism: Polish Martial Law of 1981 in Polish and Foreign Films

Abstract
In his discussion of the book by Charity Scribner, Requiem for Communism (2005), political scientist Jan Kubik criticises the project of remembering ‘communism’ as a homogeneous experience of collective labour, regarding it as a myth created by Western left-leaning artists and intellectuals, largely as a means to articulate and defend their own intellectual position. Instead, he proposes to avoid such generalisations by looking at communism and its memory as country and period specific. As he puts it, ‘What constitutes a satisfactory analysis of the memory of communism for, say, the former East Germany in 1995 may be completely off the mark for Poland in 2004 or 2007’ (Kubik 2007: 133). Equally, he points out that ‘inside Eastern Europe the process of coming to terms with the memory of communism has been impossible without dealing with the memory of anti-communism and its various forms. What continues to be politically explosive is not how communism is to be remembered but how resistance and open struggle against communism are to be remembered’ (ibid.: 132).
Ewa Mazierska

5. Goodbye Lenin or Not: Cinematic Representations of the End of Communism

Abstract
In Specters of Marx Jacques Derrida maintains: ‘Communism was essentially distinguished from other labour movements by its international character. No organised political movement in the history of humanity had yet presented itself as geo-political, thereby inaugurating the space that is now ours and that today is reaching its limits, the limits of the earth and the limits of the political’ (Derrida 1994: 38). Derrida thus points to two reasons why it is essential to discuss the end of communism in this book: it was an important event and it had a global dimension. This view is echoed in numerous works about contemporary history or the end of communism specifically. A sign of it is the frequent use of the term ‘break’ and ‘revolution’ in this context. Piotr Sztompka claims: ‘The year 1989 was a major cultural and civilizational break, a beginning of the reconstruction of the deepest cultural tissue as well as civilizational surface of society’ (Sztompka 1996: 120). Michael Kennedy begins his book Cultural Formations of Postcommunism with the words: ‘The world was radically transformed in 1989, much as it was in 1789 or 1848. Political and economic systems and everyday lives were radically changed’ (Kennedy 2002: 1). Another term which appears in the discourses on the transition to postcommunism is that of ‘return’ or even ‘rebirth’ (for example Soltan 2000). The new system embraced by the people of Russia and Eastern Europe was also returning, in a sense, to what was before communism, which often required refreshing the old traditions or creating new ones which were meant to legitimise this metaphorical return. In my native Poland, it led to introducing several new state holidays to commemorate important anniversaries, including the winning of battles with its neighbours. Finally, the end of communism meant almost everywhere a need to close various gaps between the old socialist East and capitalist West: gaps in technology, productivity, capital, environment, motivation, legislation and democracy, to name just a few (Ševic´ and Wright 1997: 20–1). The emphasis on break, returning to the old, noble times of independence and prosperity and catching up with those ahead of it, constitute common features of postcolonial discourse. Indeed, postcolonial theory proved to be a useful tool to research the new/old cultures emerging from what was regarded as communist rubble (see, for example, Cooke 2005; Barrington 2006; Kelertas 2006) and I will apply it in the course of my analysis. Conversely, the end of communism drew attention to the exclusion of former Soviet satellites from postcolonial studies, resulting from, among other reasons, an unwillingness of left-leaning Western academics to confront the realities of living under the Soviet regime in places such as Estonia or Latvia (Chioni Moore 2001).
Ewa Mazierska

6. Twists of Fate: Secret Agents, Communist Collaborators and Secret Files in German, Polish and Czech Films

Abstract
The communist secret services, which combined political police and intelligence, were the most hated and dreaded element of the apparatus of power in the Soviet bloc. These negative emotions were directed towards their employees, agents and secret collaborators, and to files containing shameful secrets and fabricated evidence, able to destroy reputations of the most respected citizens. One of the consequences of the collapse of communism was thus the opportunity to dismantle these services and access their archives. The first opportunity was used almost immediately: the communist secret police was replaced in the early 1990s by new institutions practically across the entire communist bloc, although whether they were new in spirit, as well as in letter, remains a subject of debate (see, for example, Williams and Deletant 2001; Stan 2009b). The fate of the secret files proved more contentious. In each country the arguments of those in favour of disclosing them to the public at large clashed with those who proposed to limit the right to access them to special categories of people, such as historians or well-respected dissidents, or even discard them entirely. Adherents of the idea of placing the files in the public domain argued that this would quench the curiosity about how the secret services operated, who was corrupted by them and who resisted their pressure, and what was the relation between the secret police and other centres of official and unofficial power, such as the Churches. Another reason to open them was the conviction that the harm inflicted by the secret police should not go unpunished and forgotten: their functionaries and collaborators should be punished and/ or forbidden from holding any positions of power in the new democratic countries, which would not happen without screening the secret files.
Ewa Mazierska

Backmatter

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