The Interrogation

  • 1990
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama, Political

Relentlessly depressing and over-emphatic, THE INTERROGATION is a grueling marathon of political oppression, sadistic inquisitions, and survival in prison. Filmed in 1982, this Polish import was banned in its homeland until recently. Intended as a paean to the human spirit, the 158-minute long movie becomes an endurance test for both protagonist and audience....read more

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Relentlessly depressing and over-emphatic, THE INTERROGATION is a grueling marathon of political oppression, sadistic inquisitions, and survival in prison. Filmed in 1982, this Polish import was banned in its homeland until recently. Intended as a paean to the human spirit, the 158-minute

long movie becomes an endurance test for both protagonist and audience. A popular cabaret performer, Antonia (Krystyna Janda) is a flighty, high-strung woman who takes her pleasure where she finds it (sometimes with military officers). Ironically, it is her hedonism--seen here as a metaphor for

her strongly individualized will--that causes her arrest yet proves to be her salvation. Tricked into accompanying two government agents on a drunken spree, she's dumped off at headquarters, arrested, and subjected to Kafka-esque questioning. No matter what the head investigator or his gung-ho

associates do to her, however, they cannot turn Antonia into one of the sheeplike convicts that inhabit the over-crowded last stop for political prisoners. Tortured into a near-stupor, she almost confesses in writing that she was politically involved with a major with whom she had sex. Innocent

pranks that the reckless but apolitical Antonia instigated while entertaining the troops are now interpreted as acts of treason by a regime that equates sexual indiscriminateness with betrayal of country. While the other women prisoners submit to the system by turning informer or by succumbing to

brainwashing that convinces them of their own guilt, Antonia maintains her defiance even after being starved, tortured, and tossed into solitary. The only time she truly despairs is after the visit of her husband, who has accepted the official party interpretation of her indiscretions and

denounces her. Failing to commit suicide, Antonia recovers her strong sense of self-worth and eventually attracts the admiration and then the passion of the interrogator who risks his career by making love with her. Sparing him the disgrace of revealing their affair when she becomes pregnant,

Antonia bears her child in prison. When the authorities take the baby to an orphanage, the interrogator is unable to bear the pain and kills himself. Many years later, Antonia is finally released from prison. Reunited uneasily with her husband and child, she picks up the pieces of her shattered

life.

Filmed in a style that shoves every horror into the viewer's face, THE INTERROGATION is a worthwhile, very political film that has more than a little visceral power. Directorial restraint might have resulted in an even more disturbing condemnation of officially sanctioned evil. So insistent is

director Ryszard Bugajski's style that, at times, the film's brutality seems to be assaulting viewers in 3-D. But even given the charged emotions at the core of the film, a long shot here or there would have provided a welcome relief from the film's nonstop intensity. Only so much torture can be

watched close-up. Ultimately, this expose of governmental intolerance and bureaucratic viciousness is only sporadically gripping and never really enlightening.

Nevertheless, Janda is brilliant as the framed entertainer whose pleasure-loving instincts belie a matchless inner strength. Despite some shrillness in the opening scenes--in which she overdoes the wild abandon with which Antonia lives--Janda creates a moving portrait of a woman's painful journey

to self-realization. The Best Actress citation that she won at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival was richly deserved. Unfortunately, the other cast members are all too willing to accommodate the director's penchant for heavily underscoring every emotion. THE INTERROGATION's noble intentions do not

justify its all-too-apparent excesses. A more detached style and coolly ironic tone might have lent this film some much needed balance and made the filmmaker's message clearer and more memorable. (Adult situations, profanity, nudity, sexual situations.)

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  • Released: 1990
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Relentlessly depressing and over-emphatic, THE INTERROGATION is a grueling marathon of political oppression, sadistic inquisitions, and survival in prison. Filmed in 1982, this Polish import was banned in its homeland until recently. Intended as a paean to… (more)

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