Meg ker a nep (Red Psalm; The People Still Ask) (1972)
Director: Miklós Jancsó.
Starring: Andrea Ajtony, András Ambrus, Lajos Balázsovits (Fiatal tiszt), István Bujtor (Petkó Szautner András), András Bálint (Majláth gróf), Gyöngyi Bürös (Ráczné, szocialista), Tamás Cseh (Énekes), Erzsi Cserhalmi (Galambos lány, szocialista), György Cserhalmi (Szocialista), Mari Csomós (Cselédlány), László Csurka (Kasznár), Andrea Drahota (Nagy Mária, szocialista), Lajos Farkas (Táncos), Lajos Fazekas (Lovas tiszt).
1890s peasant uprising on estate in Hungary; the wealthy are helped by local authorities and then the army (English subtitles)
On an estate the landlord wants to talk to the woman peasant leader. A man reads from a paper: the author says that he has followed the events which have agitated Hungary and found, like everywhere, that capital monopolizes all the national production. The agricultural population is divided into large landowners, capitalist under-farmers and the masses of landless proletarians. We have to go through this capitalistic revolution once. This brings indescribable suffering for the majority of the people. This suffering creates a large group of people who want a new, better social order. The author is Friedrich Engels.
Soldiers taunt the peasants and say they want to debate this issue with them. The peasants just start singing an anti-capitalism song. The bailiff says that "our" patience is running out. The peasant movement is a crime against the nation. Nevertheless, authorized by the Under-farmers' Society, he repeats their offer to pay what was always customary in Hungary: 32 bushels of wheat, 32 florins of cash, 32 livres of salts, permission to keep one cow, one acre of corn, hemp field, two pigs with their yearly offspring. Now that he has told the peasants the offer, they cannot blame him for not explaining the situation to them.
The soldiers start burning sacks of wheat. Two pretty peasant women talk to three of the deputies about throwing down their weapons and leaving. The woman leader takes one of the rifles and throws it onto the field. The three deputies decide to leave and walk away from the bailiff. Three peasant men jump the bailiff and put a large bag over his head. They take him away. Now the peasant men start to dance around the fire accompanied by live music from two musicians.
The soldiers shoot a volley of fire into the air. A peasant leader shouts: "Is there an independent man among you? Is there one who does not serve someone else? Who is a master of his own destiny?" Another leads says: "The masses are born in misery and oppression and die in the same privation."
The soldiers with fixed bayonets surround the socialist singers. The women show their breasts to the soldiers as their leaders repeat socialist slogans. They then walk away. Three of the women completely disrobe as they walk. The soldiers leave their rifles in stacks and rush to surround the five women. Then they run to reassemble elsewhere. The socialists burn some of the rifle stacks.
A cadet is given a pistol. He walks around the socialists and tells them that he was sent her to kill them. The socialists, with two naked breasted women, still sing and dance. One of the half-naked women is shot in the right palm of her hand.
A shot goes off and the cadet plays dead for a moment. Then he gets up and leaves.
The three half-naked women are put in a huge tub filled with water and the men and women dance around the tub.
Now the landlord arrives. He says he has come to heal the wounds. He starts talking about the laws of supply and demand that even the landlord has to obey. He goes on and on. He is answered by an middle-age man who reads the following: "The leaders of the present social system will never voluntarily improve the miserable situation of the working class. One has to organize everywhere, so that the power of the organized workers can be placed against the present autocratic system." Of course, the landlord disagrees with those statements. He lays face down on the ground. The peasant woman leader puts her hand on his hand and declares that the landlord is dead. His body is covered with a white sheet.
A young woman from the landlord's family calls the peasants assassins and brigands and tells them to get out of here! "You killed him! Get out of here!" The socialist singers start leaving, but the landlord's people surround the group of singers. Two priests come over to the singers and start speaking in Latin to them. A socialist leaders says: "Only the ignorant fears and the uneducated frets." Then he gives a rather anti-clerical rant about how the clergy serves the ruling class to keep the workers and peasants in their place. With the help of bull whips, the socialists chase away the horsemen and the clergy.
The horsemen and clergy rally back and the bull whips are put into action again. A priest denouncing the socialists is pushed into a church and the door is closed. The church is set on fire. The socialists walk hand in hand around the burning church. The women say a prayer to God.
One man asks the workers to organize a peaceful political party and don't rebel, nor create a scandal. An old man cuts his wrist ad dies. A leader takes off his shirt to place over the dead man.
The soldiers come near again. The children have a high old time running through the formations of the military.
Commander Aladar Petko-Szautner sends the workers a message. He says he will not fight against them, but they must remember that Hungarian society will only be gallant with gallant Hungarian workers. "They have ten minutes to retreat!"
Janos Fekete Nagy, a deputy, comes over to the workers. He says he came voluntarily. What was he earlier? He says he was: "The oppressor of the people, a servant of the lords." He is told to repent and confess. He says before he blindly followed the orders of the people's oppressors. And now he feels deep repentance and sincere regret.
The soldiers join in with the workers for a celebration together. But the soldiers are soon called away from the workers by their officers. The soldiers return with their weapons and form a circle around the workers. They fire their weapons into the crowd of workers and they go down,.
The land lady celebrates their "victory" with the military officers. A troubadour sings: "Janos Szanto is dead. Janos Baksa is dead. " The stream runs red with blood.
The survivors of the massacre have to take an oath renouncing socialism. Other socialists are taken as prisoners. The troubadour knifes the bailiff and the man falls to the ground. The soldiers shoot the troubadour.
A spokesperson says: "Comrades!! We are empty-handed against the hangmen of the power. We cannot take revenge for the blood curdling acts. Don't let us be halted by the terror and its mercenaries!" The workers are again surround by the land lady and the soldiers on horseback.
The worker leaders are killed. A worker woman pulls a soldier off his horse and grabs his pistol. She shoots a soldier still on horseback. Then she shoots the land lady off her horse. And she keeps on shooting more soldiers. She sings: "We are workers, we have no freedom, because instead of luck, we were hit by misfortune. Never mind! Never mind! Long live the worker, long live the rights, long live the workers' society!"
This is a very stylized presentation of the old class arguments used by socialists and communists, and others against the extremes of capitalism. People are used as symbols of great social and economic forces. The different groups of people stand for social classes, for the wealthy, the workers, the poor, etc. It's all presented in an artsy-fartsy way. But the whole socialist debate against the capitalists and the capitalists defenses represent the whole nature of the class conflict involved with capitalism. All this happens on one farm. But all the points made in the film are basically correct. For most of human history governments have been controlled by small groups of people that use and abuse the less fortunate. Capitalism made this well-known system on a massive scale with considerable misery to the less fortunate. Workers had to organize and fight the power with their power of great numbers of people. So, if you want a simplified version the fight against capitalism, you can find it right here in this film.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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