Rozmowy kontrolowane (Calls Controlled) (1991)




Director:     Sylwester Checinski.

Starring:    Stanislaw Tym (Ryszard Ochˇdzki), Irena Kwiatkowska (Aunt Lusia), Alina Janowska (Halina Nalezyty), Krzysztof Kowalewski (SB Col. Zygmunt Molibden), Jerzy Bonczak (Morwa), Marian Opania (SB General Mozambik), Jerzy Turek (Coach Waclaw Jarzabek), Bozena Dykiel (Kokoszka), Zofia Merle (Wafel), Malgorzata Ostrowska-Krˇlikowska (Beata Molibdenowa), Artur Barcis (Lieutenant), Maciej Damiecki ('Solidarity' Member), Antonina Girycz (Jarzabkowa), Ryszard Kotys (Soldier), Gustaw Lutkiewicz (Man in the Village).

black comedy about the outbreak of Martial Law in Poland in 1981-1983



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

A man gets out of a car by a hotel.  A prostitute tries to proposition him, but he's too busy to be bothered.  The hotel manager welcomes the man and shows on the monitor the couple he is interested in.  The couple have been having sex on and off.  The manager says the man can speak to the fellow in the room over the intercom, but the guy decides to go to the room itself.  The manager gives him the key to the room.  He starts up to the room and runs into the prostitute again.  And again he waves her off. 

Our man opens the door to the hotel room and goes inside to sit on a chair right by the bed.  The couple can't see him because they are both under the covers.  The man of interest is Ryszard Ochˇdzki.  He reaches out with his hand to find the woman's hand, but he touches the large hands of the observer.  Ryszard sticks his head up above the covers and sees that it's SB (security service) Col. Zygmunt Molibden.  He introduces the Colonel to the woman, Beata.  The Colonel says he knows his own wife.  Ryszard misunderstands the statement and says that Beata is not his wife.  Beata calls Ryszard an idiot and tells him that she's the wife of the Colonel.  Needless to say, Ryszard is shocked and stunned a bit.

It's winter in Poland and the ground is covered with snow.  The two men go outside to talk.  The Colonel tells Ryszard that he has some business for Ryszard to do.  He then asks if the relationship with his wife is love or just an affair?  Ryszard asks the Colonel which answer would he prefer?

They go to the top of a mountain in a gondola.  The Colonel says he wants Ryszard to buy a piece of land for him in Suwalki.  Ryszard has to buy the place because he is a registered resident and a farmer.  Plus he is a member of "Solidarity".  Here's the catch.  The Colonel wants Ryszard to buy the place with his own money.  That is:  "Unless you marry Beata."  He says Ryszard certainly has the money because he made enough working for the Colonel.  He adds that he overlooked many things that Ryszard did, including an affair with the juvenile and two old soccer matches.  He has to penetrate Solidarity groups in the Suwalki district. To help him to reach his goals, Ryszard receives a fake photo with Solidarity leader Lech Walesa.

Suddenly the Colonel pulls out a pistol and attaches something like a silencer to the end of the barrel.  Ryszard thinks he's going to be killed, so he says he will do anything the Colonel wants him to do.  He gets down on his knees crying to beg for his life, but the Colonel fires off a flare into the air.  This is to signal the helicopter to come pick them up off the top of the mountain.  And now Ryszard says he's not going to Suwalki. 

Ryszard goes to see the school gymnastics teacher named Jarzabek.  He tells the man that he wants to join "Solidarity",  Jarzabek is really delighted that the chairman himself wants to join the movement. 

Beata tells the Chairman that he has a fiancÚ in Suwalki. He replies that she has a husband.  He stops when he sees his aunt sitting on a park bench with her cocker spaniel dog.  They avoid her. 

The Colonel tells Ryszard that a Ms. Kokoszka will register him as a resident in Suwalki.  He also gives Ryszard the address of the place in Suwalki.  Furthermore, the Colonel says that all this is deeply conspiratorial.  The Colonel asks the name of a person that Ryszard can register as a contact.  The only person Ryszard can think of is his Aunt Lusia.  The Colonel warns Ryszard that the landlord in Suwalki has a young wife, so be careful.

Ryszard visits with his aunt and gives her the registration form which she must to take to the office.  She doesn't understand and asks why should she live in his apartment, while he lives in Suwalki?  There is a woman living with her, so auntie asks her to register to live in Ryszard's apartment.

A group of men are playing cards and drinking cherry cordials, while they discuss some current affairs.  The guard among them says that Lech Walesa, the leader of "Solidarity", is going to make Poland a second Japan.  The guard is supposed to be on duty, but the men build a snow man and put the guards coat and hat on the snow man so no one would suspect that the guard is not on duty. 

The Chairman comes barreling down the road. He slides off the road and mows down the snow man guard.  Inside the coat of the snow man was a bottle of cherry cordial that broke and left the area the color of blood.  The Chairman puts his car in reverse and gets the hell away from the area.  When he gets to his home, he sees what he thinks is blood on the front of his car.  And two of his headlights on one side are damaged.  He grabs his bag from the back seat of his car and takes off running, all the while crying as he strides forward.

He runs to see Ms. Kokoszka.  He tells her that someone stole his car.  She asks him if he reported the theft and he says yes.  He also tells her that he is off to Scotland tomorrow.  She registers Ryszard as a resident of Suwalki.  Ms. Kokoszka tells Ryszard that the landlord of the place in Suwalki is a security agent and he has a gun.  Recently, he became very jealous towards his wife and shot at his neighbor.  She lets it be known that the man is crazy.  The woman is very helpful to Ryszard.  She says Solidarity members must help one another so she wants him to borrow her car.

Ryszard goes to a hotel in Suwalki, but the manager says he can't let him have a room because he's registered as living in Suwalki. 

Auntie watches television as the prime minister is lamenting over some incident that didn't have to happen the way it happened.  Her friend tells her that the army attacked its own reservists. 

Driving down the snowy road, Ryszard is stopped at a check point.    The guard is very suspicious of Ryszard's papers and his answers.  His comrade opens the trunk of what is really Ms. Kokosszka's car and finds a lot of literature about Solidarity.  The suspicious guard decides they will take the man into the station, but when they look Ryszard has disappeared. 

A woman on a farm runs outside to her father yelling that the General on the television says there is war now.  A tank is chasing after Ryszard.  The little boy on the farm runs to his grandfather and says that the tanks are coming.  Ryszard throws a bottle of liquor at the tank and somehow it catches fire.  Now another tank arrives and fires at Ryszard as he approaches the farm.  The men on the farm grab Ryszard.  One of the men puts on Ryszardls red coat and takes off riding a horse away from the farm.  The tank follows the horse and rider.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, they have Ryszard covered up and in bed.  The farmers are wondering who is this man.  Someone says he must be some V.I.P.  Ms. Kokoszka is there and she tells the people that the man even has a photo taken with Walesa. 

The Colonel and Beata are looking for a holiday recipe for pike fish.  Beata says she thinks she left it in a book over at Ryszard's place.  So the Colonel starts calling around for Ryszard.  He tells those he talks to say that Ryszard is a member of Solidarity.

Ryszard awakens alone in bed.  He looks out the window and see the pretty granddaughter bending over picking up some firewood. 

The word goes out to find Ryszard and to detain him.  In fact, issue a warrant for Ryszard

The granddaughter comes back into the house and Ryszard jumps in bed to pretend he is sleeping.  When she comes into the room he opens his eyes.  The young woman apologizes for waking their guest.  She tells Ryszard that the local priest will erect a chapel right where he hit the tanks.    Ryszard whispers a suggestion to the naive woman and she jumps in his bed ready for him to have sex with her.  Ms. Kokoszka comes to tell auntie thatthe guy connected to Walesa is the man registered at her place. 

The whole farm family starts walking down a snowy road with Ryszard dressed as a woman wearing a big scarf over his head.  The police from the checkpoint come driving up the road.  They stop and get out of their cars and now ask everyone in the family to show him their papers.  Ms. Kokoszka says they live here in the local village.  So the  police just drive away from the family. 

Ryszard goes into the town still dressed as a woman.  A guard stops him and asks for his papers.  But just then a ruckus breaks out and the policeman has to run.  He goes to an apartment and rings the bell.  He has a password sentence that he gives and is taken right into the  apartment.  They put Ryszard in their son's room to avoid some local guests at the apartment.  Ryszard and the boy introduce themselves to each other and the boy says he knows Ryszard.  He says Ryszard is a hero and he saw him on television. 

The mother comes in and tells Ryszard that their guests have left.  She now will serve everyone tea. She introduces herself as Jola.  The boy rushes over to get Ryszard to come see himself on television.  The report says Ryszard is a wanted man.  He was born May 11, 1934 in Warsaw.  The man is an activist of the former "Solidarity".  He is suspected of destroying military equipment and other crimes. 

His hosts are just so impressed by Ryszard's supposed bravery.  Meanwhile he goes into the the bathroom, turns on the water  and cries that they are going to catch him and shoot him.

The Colonel pays a visit to the General.  With him he has brought a bouquet of flowers for the General's wife.  She says she is going out tonight alone.  The wife doesn't like the Colonel.  She says the man keeps denouncing the General, because the Colonel wants the General's position.  The General says that he will crush the Colonel before that man can take his position. 

The General starts talking to the Colonel.  He says that they should talk privately more often.    The higher ranking officer almost invites himself to a traditional Christmas party at the Colonel's home.   Then he warns the Colonel not to be too naive about this Ochodzki fellow.  After all, the man was involved in a big contraband scheme.  And somebody covered for Ryszard.  He adds:  "luckily, the martial law exposed the scum.  Do you know this 'Solidarity' hero?"  He replies that his wife knows the man better. 

The Colonel is worried that if he doesn't get to Ryszard before the General does, the General will have the whole story of the contraband and that would mean trouble for the Colonel.  He talks to a policeman friend of his and stresses the first thing they have to find is Ryszard.  The Colonel wants to eliminate Ryszard

The General speaks to his staff and insists that their first priority is to find this Ryszard fellow.  Agents are put out onto the streets to walk amongst the regular people trying to find Ryszard.

The General attends the Colonel's traditional Christmas get together.  Ryszard has Christmas with his hosts. 

Ryszard is undercover with the coach and the basketball team.  Jarzabek wants Ryszard to hide at Jarzabek's aunt's place.  From there he can go to Sweden.  The bus is stopped at a police check, but Jarzabek complains that the girls' papers have already been checked eight time.  So they let the bus go on its way. 

Jarzabek goes to his aunt's place, but Ryszard has already left the place.  Auntie tells Jarzabek that he send a man to pick up Ryszard.  Jarzabek is really upset and says auntie betrayed the hero to the secret agents.

The man who picked up Ryszard from auntie stops his car and tells the passenger that they have to walk the rest of the way.  Ryszard is a bit suspicious of the man and he has a right to be.  The man tries to garrote Ryszsard, but our hero is able to get his hand between his throat and the wire.  He ends up getting out of the garrote and putting the garrote around the agent's foot.  The power of a bent over birch tree is suddenly released and the agent winds up hanging up in the air by his foot.  Ryszard runs for his life.  He has to hide from a small group of soldiers, but they are talking so much that it would be hard for them to notice Ryszard. 

Now Ryszard stays with his own auntie.  An electric light bulb bursts and scares the dickens out of him.  Auntie says her nephew is a bundle of nerves because it's him alone against communism. 

The Colonel talks with his co-conspirator the policeman about how to catch Ryszard.  They know he is now at his aunt's place.  But how do they get him to come out?

The Colonel gets past auntie the guard.  She asked the Colonel for the password and then she tells him what it is and has him now tell her what it is.  The Colonel now has to get past auntie's friend as the innermost guard.  But auntie gives the password out loud, so now the Colonel gets to come into the room where Ryszard is waiting.  The obvious tension in Ryszard's body language and speech cause auntie to ask him if he knows this man?  Yes, he's a security agent.  The Colonel says that he has come to rescue Rhyszard.  If the other agents catch Ryszard, he will be hanged or put behind bars. 

The Colonel says that they have most of their agents in Solidarity.  And the only way for Ryszard to get to the west is to go through Solidarity. 

The pretty granddaughter from the farm come to see Jarzabek.  She asks him for his help, but he asks who is she talking about?  The Chairman.   Jarzabek and the woman start walking down a street.  They are walking to his car, but when they reach it, they see someone has slashed all the car tires.  Jarzabek says they will go by bus.  But first he makes a call to his contacts in the theater business.    A guard is nearby and periodically he grabs the phone to say:  "It's a controlled conversation."

Jarzabek gets in touch with Ryszard.  He wants Ryszard to imitate a Swedish woman.  A theater woman tries to show Rhyszard how to walk like a woman.  Another theater woman puts make up on Ryszard's face.  They are trying to make him look like a photo of the Swedish woman who will be his contact person, who will be at the airport.  The woman will approach Ryszard who will be in the ladies' room.  She will be the one who will go out hand her passport to the officer.   Then she will excuse herself saying that she left her purse in the restroom.  Then Ryszard will leave the restroom and take the ticket from the officer.

There are loud knocks at the door.  That scares the people inside, but they soon see that it's the young woman from the farm.  She tells them that the cab is here.  Ryszard gets into the cab.  He is going alone to the airport.  But Jarzabek is suspicious  of the cab driver, so he decides to go with Ryszard. 

At the airport the police grab Ryszard when he comes out of the restroom.  He is brought to the station where the General tries to expose Ryszard's penis.  But this Ryszard is not "the" Ryszard,  This is the Swedish woman. 

The real Ryszard is running down a city street.  Jarzabek catches up with him.  Ryszard takes a swing at him, but misses, and falls to the sidewalk.  Apparently, Jarzabek had knocked out the taxi driver.  He's worried that when the man gains consciousness, the police will be onto the two men.  The two get into a big argument and start hitting each other.  Jarzabek gets angry and he says that now Ryszard is out of Solidarity.  "You are dispossessed!"  A man comes along and tells the two men to disperse.  The two men walk away in different directions.

The General is attending a dinner party.  A high official tells the General that he is looking for a cultural attachÚ for Ulan Bator, Mongolia.  The General's wife seems alarmed at the, for her, bad news.  Meanwhile, Ryszard is running from the police and heads into the cultural institute where the dinner party is being held.   He hides in a restroom stall.

All of a sudden the cultural institute building collapses.  Ryszard pulls himself out of the rubble.  About the building, he says:  "It'll be reconstructed."



Really, Ryszard was just a hustler using his government office to run illegal operations that made him somewhat wealthy.  His life was pretty sweet, and peppered with many love affairs, because of his good position.  But then the Solidarity union was established and Poles started pushing for more freedom from the communist-dominated Polish government.  Martial law is declared in Poland to stop Solidarity.  And now Ryszard's life changes drastically as he is given the job of penetrating Solidarity in the Zuwalki area.  This kind of undercover work is not suited for Ryszard.  He often breaks down and cries under the pressure and danger of the job. And then Ryszard's life becomes really difficult.  Through no effort on Ryszard's part, he is falsely seen as a Polish hero fighting the communist government.  This makes Ryszard the communist government's public enemy number one.   And now he has to use the help of Solidarity to try and save himself from being killed or captured and executed. 

The shenanigans that go on in trying to hide Ryszard are pretty funny, especially the activities of Ryszard's aunt and her friend.  Poor Ryszard even has to dress up as a Swedish woman in order to try to make it to neutral Sweden in a last bid to escape the communist government. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


1980 (August)  --  a Polish non-governmental trade union begins at the Lenin Shipyards (now Gdańsk Shipyards), founded by Lech Wałęsa and others.

early 1980s  --  Solidarity became the first independent labor union in a Soviet-bloc country. Solidarity was a broad, non-violent, anti-communist social movement that, at its height, claimed some 9.4 million members. It is considered to have contributed greatly to the fall of communism. Solidarity's early survival represented a break in the hard-line stance of the communist Polish United Workers' Party (PZPR), and was an unprecedented event; not only for the whole of the Eastern bloc.

1981 (October 18)  -- the Party Central Committee put Kania in the minority.  He lost his post as First Secretary, and was replaced by Prime Minister (and Minister of Defense) Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, who adopted a strong-arm policy.

1981 (December 13)  -- Jaruzelski began a crack-down on Solidarity, declaring martial law.  Some 5,000 Solidarity supporters were arrested in the middle of the night.

1981 (December 16)  --  One of the largest demonstrations took place at the Wujek Coal Mine, where government forces opened fire on demonstrators, killing 9 and seriously injuring 22.

1981 (by December 28)  -- strikes had ceased, and Solidarity appeared crippled.

1981 --  Poland's communist government attempted to destroy the union by instituting martial law, followed by several years of political repression.  In the end, it didn't work and the communist government was forced into negotiation. The Roundtable Talks between the government and the Solidarity-led opposition resulted in semi-free elections in 1989.

1982 (October 8)  --  Solidarity was banned.

1983 (July)  --   martial law was formally lifted, though many heightened controls on civil liberties and political life, as well as food rationing, remained in place through the mid-to-late 1980s.

By the end of August 1989  --  a Solidarity-led coalition government was formed.

1990 (December)  --  Wałęsa elected president. The communist governmental system was then dismantled.  Poland was transformed into a modern democratic state.




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