Przesluchanie (Interrogation) (1989)





Director:     Ryszard Bugajski. 

Starring:        Krystyna Janda (Antonina 'Tonia' Dziwisz),  Adam Ferency (Lieutenant Morawski),  Janusz Gajos (Major Zawada "Kapielowy"),  Agnieszka Holland (Communist Witkowska),  Anna Romantowska (Miroslawa "Mira" Szejnert),  Bozena Dykiel (Honorata),  Olgierd Lukaszewicz (Konstanty Dziwisz, Tonia's husband),  Tomasz Dedek (UB officer "Czesiek" arresting Tonia),  Jan Jurewicz (Guard),  Jaroslaw Kopaczewski (UB officer arresting Tonia),  Zofia Balucka (Cell-mate),  Arkadiusz Bazak (Officer at Name-Day Party),  Krzysztof Gosztyla (Alledged victim),  Antonina Girycz (Cell Top Dog).

Polish film about Stalinist terror in the early 1950s; Tonia, a sleazy cabaret singer, is imprisoned without explanation


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

Polish men and women of performing troupe for the Polish military are headed to another military base.  They all look so happy and gay. They celebrate with wine and dancing.

34th anniversary of Great October. One of the women, Tonia, in a sexy dress wows the largely male audience with her singing and bouncing up and down. As she dances she sees one of the women hobnobbing with her husband and she doesn't like it. She starts crying as she leaves the stage.

A man asks what' the matter with Tonia, but she just says nothing. Her fellow comes to get her, but she says she's not going home. She tells her man: "Go back to feeling Junia up." Her guy asks her what the heck is she babbling about?" She just insists that her man was after her best friend Junia. She tells her guy that he can go home alone.

One of the performers asks if Tonia would do them the honor of going out with them after the end of the performances. She says yes.

The Trumanillo Circus now performs.

Tonia goes out with the two guys and she gets absolutely smashed. She says her husband is one of the best guys ever, but they had an argument.

The two fellows don't take Tonia home. They go someplace else. It looks like it maybe a police station. but it's the secret service. A man in a uniform asks her her name and surname. She is so drunk she can't respond. So the fellow takes her purse and empties its contents on his desk.

A female handler comes in and the fellow tells the female to get the woman undressed. She's naked and gets onto the desk.  It looks as if a man is giving her a gynecological exam.

Now Tonia is thrown into a jail cell that already contains a lot of women in it.

A bell sounds and all the women get up. Tonia is still on the cell floor. A woman from behind lifts her to her feet. Tonia asks if anyone has seen her purse, but another woman tells her: "They take all handbags." The woman who helped her up tells her: "Get up or you'll be in for it from the head of the cell."

Tonia still doesn't know that she is now in a very different world. She keeps asking the women what's going on? She says she has to give a performance tonight and has to get out of here.

Later she screams her head off and the head of the cell tells her to be quiet. The other women have to shut her up.

A guard comes and gets Tonia who thinks that she is going home. She says her name is Antonina Dzwiwisz. For this she gets slapped across the face. The guard tells her that no one tells their surname in here.

She is taken to an interrogator. He asks her if she is the daughter of Jadwiga and Stanislaw? Yes. The interrogator tells her now to tell him all about herself. She says he doesn't want to hear about how many boys she kissed. But the interrogator says he does want to know.

When did she lose her virginity? A long time ago. She says that the fellow was an insurgent. Is he still alive? No.

The interrogator gets angry and throws a fit because Tonia says that she doesn't have to answer these questions which are so personally private. He tells her that she absolutely does have to answer every question asked of her.

Now he tells her to give him every surname of everyone she has ever slept with. She says she doesn't know surnames: "During the uprising and after the war nobody used their surname." Does she remember the name of the insurgent she slept with? She says she only knows that his codename was "Boar".

She was taken to Pruszkow where she lived in the attic of a house there. She had sex with the boy who lived there. Then she was In Lodz with a fellow named Tarassini, but his real surname was Gorka.

And then there was her husband, Konstanty Dziwisz. Did you cheat on him? No.

Do you know Witold Lemanski? He says Lemanski says he knows her. Did you buy currency from him? No. The interrogator tells Tonia that they found 20 gold coins in her house. He mentions that they ate doughnuts together. Then he asks who initiated the sex, him or her? But Tonia wants to know who told the interrogator about the doughnuts? No answer.

And you know Major Olcha? Yes. He organized performances for their performance troupe at army bases. And she had sex with the major? No. But the interrogator has a written and signed statement from a corporal that he found the major and Tonia in "compromising circumstances on the 15th of July, 1950." Tonia says she only had sex with him once.

The interrogator has Tonia sign a statement. He adds: "If I catch you lying again, I'll shoot you in the face . . ."

Tonia is put in a cell with another woman named Mira Szejnert. She has been here one and a half years. Tonia starts going stir crazy, partly because there are constant screams of men being tortured..

It's not long before five other women are put in the cell. Tonia takes a liking to one of the women who is very friendly. Her name is Honorata and she is in prison because when the communist party official came to take her land from her, she chased him off with an axe. She adds: "I had to chop him up into pieces."

A guard takes Tonia back to be interrogated. This is a different interrogator. He wants to know to which political organizations did Tonia belong? She says she doesn't belong to any organizations. Girl Scouts? No. But the fellow mention that first man Tonia had sex with belonged to the National Army. The interrogator says this shows that she is attracted to right-wing organization that are fighting communism.

Later the first interrogator takes over the questioning. He rattles off question after question at her and she gets very upset. She starts asking why can't she write a letter? Why have there been no parcels? Why can't she contract her husband? The interrogator just tells her to sign a pre-written confession. She signs. She falls asleep and falls off her chair.

She is thrown back into her cell. A guard comes and takes Mira out of the cell. Tonia tells her: "Hold it together."

Tonia tells one of the women that she is innocent. She hasn't done anything. And, she says, she is in here by mistaken identity. The other woman says that the authorities don't make mistakes. She also tells Tonia that everyone has to sign their confession, guilty or innocent, or they will be "vaporized". Tonia just doesn't get it.  She asks why do the authorities need false confessions from people?

A female guard comes into the cell and Tonia knocks her unconscious with a garbage can lid. She is going to put on her uniform and try to escape. When she is ready, she takes the keys and locks the cell door behind her.

She gets out and runs over to her old apartment. She bangs on the door calling out her husband's name.

Tonia is back in her cell. She really loses it and shouts and screams her head off. The women try to console her, but they have no success. At night she cries. She and Mira clasp each other's right hand in solidarity. Tonia tells a funny story about her and a friend in a drunken stsate got into a tank, loaded a round and fired it.  It destroyed a communal army lavatory.

Tonia is before the first interrogator again. He tells her that Major Olcha has been accused of betraying his country, spying for Western countries and sabotage. The second interrogator says they know that Tonia is part of the same plot that Major Olcha was a part of.  Furthermore, she took part in destroying government buildings.

And now he says they know that she destroyed an army communal lavatory. "You weakened the defensive power of our fatherland." She was working in favor of Western imperialism. Then he says if she admits that she was working for Olcha, she can saver her neck.

The first interrogator tells her to sign another false confession, but his time she says that she won't sign. She says that even the interrogator know it's not true. So the interrogator grabs her hair and starts pulling on it harder and harder until she says "yes" the confession is true.

The interrogator has her sign an additional confession, but the pen won't work. So he gets another and some ink. He knocks the ink over on the desk. He tells her to use another pen and dip it in the ink on the table and sign. But again the pen won't work. He gets so exasperated at her that he slaps her around and then sends her to the baths.

She is put in a small, sunken cell and the cell is locked. Then the shower is turned on her. The entire shower room fills up with water. It gets higher and higher until Tonia is going to have trouble grabbing some air to breathe.

Two guards rush down to the showers. They unlock the shower door and a torrent of water comes racing out.

Tonia is thrown back into her cell. The communist woman tells Tonia that they have taken the peasant woman Honora away. Tonia gets so exasperated at her situation that she lets a lot of her hostility out on the communist. The communist says she's used to it, because the communists are always the ones to get blamed. Tonia spits twice in her face, but the communist takes it well.

At night Mira starts crying and Tonia comforts her. Then Tonia kisses Mira on the lips. And then they both kiss each other.

Tonia is with the second interrogator. He starts telling her that if she will cooperate, she will be treated much more leniently. But Tonia is a real smart ass today and she heaps scorn and sarcasm on him. She even says she feels sorry for him because he actually believes all this bull.

The first interrogator comes in. He has Mira come in and he shows Tonia how Mira signed a confession implicating Tonia in espionage. Tonia realizes that they forced Mira to do this. Tonia says she's not signing today's false confession. The interrogator gets so irate that he tells her to take her clothes off. Tonia just throws her clothes off, one, two, three. (Brief nudity.) Now the fellow gets even madder at her. He takes a pistol from his desk and says he's going to shoot her in the back of the head if she doesn't agree to sign the confession by the count of five. He starts counting: one, two, three, four . . . Five never comes. The fellow just leaves the room. When Tonia looks around, the guy has left.

The second interrogator comes in and tells her to get dressed. She calls the interrogators pieces of shit, bastards and fucking scum. She says that even the interrogators believe what they are saying. She says: "Sadist!" "Gestapo. Nazi."

He tells her she is not going back to her cell until she signs the confession. The first interrogator comes in and he kicks her into unconsciousness. She is taken to the baths and a pressurized water hose is used to wake her up and torture her.

The second interrogator brings her back up to the room. He takes her clothes off and then puts an overcoat over her.

Tonia dreams that she is with her husband back in the apartment, but then she regains consciousness. She tells the second interrogator that she is going to tell the first interrogator that the second interrogator let her sleep. The second interrogator tells her, then his boss will just replace him with someone who won't let her sleep. He tells her he wants her to admit freely that she is guilty. She asks: Guilty of what?

He says that she is still naive. She says she wants to go back to her cell. The interrogator can't permit that if she doesn't sign.

They take her down to the baths again. They bring in a man, take him in the other room and shoot him in the head. Then they bring Tonia into the room to see the dead man. The fellow who did the shooting now puts Tonia up against a wall and puts the pistol to her forehead. He says he's going to shoot her. After a bit, Tonia tells the fellow to go ahead. Go ahead, she says, because she can't take this anymore. She grabs the second interrogator and tells him to order the guard to shoot her. He pushes Tonia off him and she falls onto the dead body. Her landing on the fellow causes him to sit up. Now she realizes it was all a ruse. And she starts laughing and laughing and laughing.

Tonia is put back into her cell. She asks where is Mira and is told that they let Mira go. Tonia says: "Good." A very young lady has taken Mira's place in the cell. And she is going crazy just like Tonia did in her first days in the prison.

Tonia learns from the second interrogator that he is taking over her case. He lets her see her husband, but not touch him. Tonia doesn't say anything to her husband, but he says he will never forgive her for ruining their marriage with these confessions of so many affairs. He says: "Tonia, I hate you." He leaves. Tonia never says a word.

He did leave her with a parcel. It contains clothes and fruits. She just leaves the stuff on the cell floor and lays down on her bunk.

Tonia slits her wrist. The blood starts dripping onto the face of the communist sleeping on the floor next to her bunk. She gets up and realizes that Tonia has slit her wrist. The women start raising a ruckus over the situation. The guards come running in and carry Tonia out of the cell. Tonia survives. When she gets up she finds Mira all in bandages. Tonia tells her hat she thought they let Mira go. Mira says yes. Tonia then asks Mira what's wrong with her? Mira seems to be is some kind of shock or worse perhaps.

A guard comes and gets Tonia. She sees her second interrogator. He gives her a branch from a conifer tree and then kisses Tonia's hand. She is shocked at this and doesn't say anything. The interrogator starts to leave the room. They kind of dance around each other and then they embrace. They kiss passionately.

Tonia comes to see her second interrogator to tell him that she is pregnant. She tells him not to worry because she will say she was raped while she was unconscious.

News comes that Stalin is dead. The women in the cell are ecstatic.  Tonia gets a letter from someone. Through the peep hole the second interrogator watches her face as she reads the letter. He is a bit upset when she drops the letter into the toilet.

It looks as though Tonia is ready to give birth. She screams out in pain and a nurse slaps her across the face and tells her to stop it.

Tonia gives birth and is transferred to a room with women who have recently given birth. The guards take the babies from the women, including Tonia. This upsets the women greatly.

Tonia is taken to the second interrogator again. They hug each other. He then tells Tonia: "You'll be out in three months. The child is in an orphanage." He telephones the guard to take Tonia out. After Tonia leaves, the second interrogator shoots himself in the head. She comes back and looks at his body on the floor.

Tonia is released from prison. She enjoys the sun on her face. She goes to the nursery. A woman tells her that her father has been coming to see her. Tonia somehow things it's the second interrogator, but the father is described as  tall and lean with lots of hair. (Which describes her husband or ex-husband?)  Tonia wonders who it could be.

Tonia tells the woman at the orphanage that she can't recognize her child. The woman goes over to Malgosia and bring her closer so Tonia can see her. Malgosia is uncomfortable meeting this stranger. The woman tells Malgosia not to cry because this really is her mother and because her crying will make her mother sad.

Malgosia goes home with her mother. She runs ahead of her mother, knocks on the door and says hello to daddy.  Tonia wonders what will daddy's reaction be to her? 


Spoiler Warning.  Good film.  It gives one a good impression of just how terrible things could get under the reign of Joseph Stalin.  Tonia, a singer, is grabbed one night and taken to the secret service offices.  There she is interviewed.  Nobody tells her anything.  The next morning when she awakens she finds that she's in a prison hell hole.  She can't seem to believe it and thinks some mistake has been made.  What she doesn't realize is that Stalin likes to have purges eliminating men and women of whom he is suspicious.  To make the charges look legitimate the secret service grabs people who in any way might have known those who are to be executed or receive some other heavy punishment.  They force the innocent people to sign false confessions saying they were part of the plot perpetrated by Stalin's enemies.  The innocents are also forced to write statements that incriminate Stalin's enemies.  It takes awhile before the naive Tonia realizes that this is all some paranoid game of that madman Stalin.  As she says, not even the interrogators believe the bull they are saying. 

Tonia is a very strong person.  She fights the surreal system of lie after lie.  Because of this, she receives extra punishment for being a real pain to the interrogators.  She is so strong, so bold, so eager not to cooperate with the communists that the second interrogator actually starts to admire her.  But the constant harassment and torture take their toll on even Tonia and she starts saying she just can't take any more of this.  The question is: how can she get out of this mad house prison? 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 




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