Monday, May 20, 2013


Blog post on Cristian Mungiu's Tales from The Golden Age (2009)

“The Legend of the Official Visit”

The protagonists in this legend are the mayor, his right-hand man Georghita,and the government inspector Sandu.  Other characters include Florica the carouseloperator, Florica’s daughter, and Gogu, the second government official who arrives with Sandu.  The motif of the phone ringing explores how the protagonists of this legned interact with the government authorities.  With the inspection and the possibility of the motorcade coming, the townspeople have to  prepare their town with signs of prosperity and signs of good faith to the government.  They do not appear to resent the government, but are instead excited (though very stressed) about their village’s opportunity to participate in this event.

The majority of the legend looks to have been shot with a medium or wide lens, in order to capture a large amount of scenery in addition to the people, along with a few close-ups to show the characters’ faces, especially during pivotal moments in the tale.  These up-close shots are a way to portray the emotional dynamics more dramatically than a simple shot from one angle only.  Once Sandu  is satisfied with the village preparation, there is a scene of him eating and watching  the musicians perform. His face looks idiotically happy, and gives a very different  character to the scene than that of the scenes during the preparation.  Certain scenes are shot with a handheld camera, which gives the tale a slightly more hectic feel and accentuates the villagers’ stress.

The short film makes light of this entire situation and the potential  criminality through the interactions between Georghita, the townspeople and the  inspectors.  It becomes apparent that the expected level of sacrifice and devotion  to the government is absurd; they blindly follow because that’s what’s expected  of them. Of the protagonists, Sandu and Gogu exhibit the greatest flair.  Gogu is generally sleazy, while Sandu abuses his power.  The director also casts Ceausescu as criminal by making the dire situation of the “Official Visit” seem entirely ludicrous, thus showing the whole system as corrupt and that it is not the individuals who should bear the blame.  At the beginning of this story, the director creates a hectic atmosphere by transitioning between scenes in which the characters are receiving new and often contradictory orders.  The film cuts between the key moments while the village continues to get ready. The director’s choice to only show us the beginning and (near) end of the officials’ carousel ride retains the childlike joy of the carnival, the beauty of the scene, and the irony of the situation, undercutting the  unfortunate situations that the characters find themselves in and making them comedic rather than potentially tragic. The siuzhet does not include the motorcade passing through town, but instead closes with the final phrase, “legend has it they were still  spinning when the motorcade arrived.”

The climax of this legend is the call informing Comrade Sandu that the dignitaries will not be coming to this town. Comrade Sandu relays the message then demands that everyone get on the carousel.  Everyone, including the ride’s operator, does so because citizens had to obey the party’s orders, even the most ridiculous ones. The humor of this legend, together with the stupidity of communist Romania, is magnified by the screams of drunken party members who are trapped on a children’s play machine by their own order.  The fact that the characters are spinning in a circle as the camera pans the scene brilliantly emphasizes the chaos of the moment for the viewer.  Night also falls at that point, making the lights of the carousel stand out in the shots while hiding the village from view, further distancing the action there from the earlier part of the film.  The inspecting mission is stripped down to its essential ridiculousness and stupidity when it is viewed by a bystander (the shepherd) who has no idea what has been happening.  The final “twist” occurs when the viewer hears after the tale that, in the end, the delegation did pass through that area and found everyone still
spinning on the carousel.

The Romanian context is certainly important because it establishes the  power dynamics that drive the plot, namely Sandu’s arrogance and the villagers’ propensity to acquiesce.  The presence of the communist system is also contextually and historically specific, as it provides justification for the party’s abuse of power. It also magnifies defects inherent in human nature, such as greed and overweening self-interest.  Though the government is really at fault here, it is important for its citizens to not lose their heads and to question the things that are demanded of them.  There is, however, a universal message within this index between privilege and foolishness: those in unmerited positions of power may fall so accustomed to their privilege that they quicken their own demise and look very foolish in the process.

“The Legend of the Greedy Policeman”

This legend follows said policeman and his family and neighbors. Most of the screen time is devoted to the interactions between the policeman’s son, Danut, and the neighbors’ son, Mircea. The policeman uses his connections to have a pig brought to him illegally – during the regime, this would be considered hoarding and a serious crime. The characters in the film, while breaking the law, are not presented as criminals or immoral. Instead, the director uses the criminality of the act to comic effect, framing the regime’s laws as ridiculous and nonsensical.

The legend uses many close-up shots of Danut and Mircea’s faces when they are talking, giving a sense of friendship and closeness to their interactions. The siuzhet also cuts between the scenes at home and school abruptly, without any transition. This is used memorably in the last scenes of the legend.  When a sudden gas explosion takes place, the siuzhet switches from an indoor to outdoor view, which immediately cuts to a shot of Danut at school the next day, with only minor injuries. The siuzhet here serves to give the moment a comic rather than tragic or horrifying effect, as such an explosion may trigger.

There are two main revelatory scenes in the legend. The first is when Uncle Fane delivers the pig, and it is revealed that the pig is still alive. This immediately creates tension as the family must figure out how to slaughter the pig without attracting attention, while they were anticipating a quiet delivery of an already-dead pig. The second ensues when the pig explodes. Before that point, the family seem to have executed their plan well, and the danger seems to have passed. But with the pig explosion, their cover was immediately blown, leaving them to deal with the consequences of their actions.

A small amount of knowledge of the situation in Romania is needed to fully enjoy the film, particularly the significance of hoarding the pig. Such a thing would not register as a crime for most audiences nowadays, and so the tension of the legend might be lost. However, the character interactions should engage modern viewers. The childrens’ horse play at school is also engaging, as are the frantic and exasperated attempts by the family to slaughter the pig, even if the consequences for their failure are unclear to the viewers.

“The Legend of the Chicken Driver”

This legend follows Grigore, who transports chickens between towns. Dealing with the black market in this legend is presented as routine and morally neutral; Grigore openly and casually discusses trades with his friend over household chores. Grigore is told never to stop overnight while driving, yet one day his truck’s tires are stolen and he is forced to stay in an inn. The next day he discovers  that the chickens in his truck have laid countless eggs. The innkeeper convinces him to collect the eggs for her to trade, which he does, due to his infatuation with her. This is presented as a neutral or even virtuous action, as it can be seen as a selfless desire to help a struggling innkeeper. However, he attempts the same crime a second time later, and this time is caught and jailed. In the final scene, his wife comes to visit him, as if by karma for his attraction to the female innkeeper. His actions are still somewhat justified by the film, though, as his wife is presented as bland and stern.

The siuzhet of the film tracks Grigore most of the time, casting the events from his perspective. When he is caught by the police, it is presented suddenly, as a rapid series of shots. First sirens are heard, then a shot of police cars and flashing lights, then a shot of Grigore’s face. This makes it seem very matter-of-fact, and that Grigore getting caught by the police was an expected outcome, which for the audience it was. The turning point in the legend is when Grigore stays overnight at the inn. Before then, he had been following his routine diligently, but the stay at the inn breaks his routine, opening him up to  temptation. When he discovers that the chickens have laid eggs after this, he quickly makes the decision to gather them for Camilia.

The legend is understandable without knowledge of the Romanian time period. While the legend relies on some things such as food shortages and the black market which modern views may be unfamiliar with, they are made clear pretty well in the beginning of the film, so that the film presents a self-contained account of the times. Grigore’s relationship with Camilia is also universal and understandable. His quickness to help her, and their other character interactions, are based more on human nature than the specific Romanian context.

“The Legend of the Air-Sellers”

Of the different vignettes in Tales from the Golden Age, the one that seems to most clearly exemplify the state’s grip on the Romanian people is “The  Legend of the Air Sellers.” The protagonists in this vignette are Crina and Bughi, and they break government laws by impersonating legitimate inspectors from the Ministry of Chemistry. Bughi in particular can speak with a very authoritative voice which is complemented by his sharp suit and convincing ID card. Crina’s family qualifies as Romanian “middle class” and therefore quite poor – her parents must choose between making car payments and paying for Crina to take a trip with her friends.  The similar living spaces of her neighbors show the pervasiveness of this white-collar poverty.

When fate brings Bughi to her door, Crina decides to join him in his extortive scheme to steal bottles from folks who could otherwise get small deposits for returning them. Though Crina essentially steals from other Romanians, she is certainly not portrayed as an evil character. Rather, her scheme is motivated by poverty and necessity. The criminal actions the two engage in, while definitely wrong, as they are defrauding innocent people, also feel light and childish—a scheme one would imagine as a kid (but not try given its absurdity). After all, Crina—who is amazed by the simple sight of a video player and laments that she “eats yogurt all her life”—only wants to use the bottle money to finance a school trip that her parents initially refuse to pay for.

In this tale, there does not seem to be a major discrepancy between the fabula and
the siuzhet. Though more of the focus is on Crina and her attitudes and experiences, the events of the legend unfold in a chronological manner, without the use of flashbacks or flash-forwards on the part of the director and screenplay writer. The director alternates between close-up interior shots of Crina’s apartment and wider exterior shots of her exploits with Bughi to highlight the dual nature of the protagonist’s life.  We observe numerous scenes of Crina watching the film Bonnie and Clyde, and this motif of movie clips playing in the  background sets the stage for Crina’s telling reaction shots. In one scene, as Bonnie and Clyde plays in a dark bedroom, the camera then pans to a close-up of Crina’s face, illuminated by the flicker of the television. Her expression transitions from contemplation to that of smugness, as she realizes that collecting multiple bottles of air samples from each apartment would be more efficient than single bottles of tap water.

The short film reaches its climax when Crina takes the huge risk of asking an apartment administrator to collect bottles from every household in the  block. As she loads the car, she sees a police car parking next to the building, and the camera then refocuses on her terrified face.  The ensuing stairway and rooftop chase seem to be filmed without a tripod, and the camera shaking adds to the tension of the situation.  Then, Crina makes her escape by leaping to an adjacent building. For a few seconds, both Bughi and the audience must consider that Crina fell to her death, until she suddenly reemerges behind a clotheslined blanket on the other roof. Though stealing from those just as poor as either Bughi or Crina is condemnable  in itself, there is likely an irresistible urge to cheer for the duo in their efforts. The climax suddenly changes the course of the plot from an underdog story to that of a tragedy.

Although the legend is deeply embedded in Romanian society under Ceauşescu, a previous knowledge of the era is certainly not necessary for understanding or enjoying it. The desire and motivation to execute what amounts to be a relatively small scale scam seems very characteristic of the rebellious stage that humans go through at that age. Young people, based from personal experience, are more likely to fall victim to an illusion of invincibility. It is also shocking, though, to hear that the low hourly wage of an engineer, or that every apartment shown has problems with the cleanliness of its air and water. Yet such squalor was a reality for an entire country through the decades of the Ceauşescu regime. Furthermore, extracting the core of the story from its context, this legend shows the moral development of an individual: Crina realizes that stealing from others is not a solution to her poverty.

Post edited by Kyle Casey, Melissa Fisch, Eitan Tye

Monday, April 22, 2013

Blog Post on The Way I Spent the End of the World

In contrast to such films as Reverse, Little Rose, and Walking Too Fast, which highlight urban landscapes, Cătălin Mitulescu’s The Way I Spent the End of the World (2006) bares the modest, frustrating living conditions of Romanians living just outside the big city. The buildings in the Romanian town are cobbled together from brick and sheet metal rather than concrete, and when it rains, the unpaved roads turn into a muddy bog. Conditions inside the houses are also less than luxurious, with the brother and sister protagonists Lali and Eva sharing a bedroom that consists of little more than two beds that are pushed together and a desk.  There is also a small kitchen with just enough space for a dining area. And while there seems to be enough food to go around—as evidenced by the neighborhood party thrown following the birth of a child—there is definitely a shortage of certain desirable goods. In a scene at the beginning of the film, Eva has to spread a very small piece of cheese over three slices of bread, and she tempts Lali with a jar of fruit jam as if it were a delicacy.

Throughout the film, the trams are depicted as crowded, the buses are outdated, and personal vehicles are all in various states of disrepair. Scenes of transportation often involve the younger generation and their desire to improve their situation or to somehow remove themselves from the deficiencies of the regime. For example, Lali and his little friends pretend to operate motor vehicles, while at the same time they plan to murder Ceaușescu. The boys seem to associate the two, as if they could use these vehicles to end the oppression of the regime. As evoked in the film, however, modes of transport signify a much more complex motif than simple fantasizing and dreaming. Transport connects individuals with new realities that may exceed their expectations. On one hand, a boat serves as a pragmatic means of crossing the Danube to escape Romania while on the other hand the image of a big ship on the open sea itself symbolizes freedom.

 The Way I Spent the End of the World captures the pervasive everyday disgust that ordinary Romanians felt for Ceauşescu and his cult of personality. While Andreï’s parents are mentioned and blacklisted as dissidents, such people do not play a primary role in the film.  Even the son of a secret policeman does not respect the regime. In one of the very first scenes of the film, Alexander brings Eva, then his girlfriend, into an empty classroom and shows off to her by taking a few fake but defiant swings at a plaster bust of Ceaușescu before accidentally shattering it. Eva shows no remorse for her involvement in the shattered Ceaușescu bust; her refusal to apologize is grounds for school officials to transfer her to a trade school. Eva and Lali’s father brilliantly responds to Ceaușescu’s cult of personality by satirizing a newscast by Ceaușescu himself, to Eva and Lali’s delight. Even the slow-witted, kind-hearted Bulba messes with dissent when he finds Lali hiding in some reeds by a fishing pond;  Bulba promises to “take care of Ceaușescu for hurting my little friend [Lali].”

The close-up and medium shots of Eva throughout The Way I Spent the End of the World project her inner fortitude as well as the key decisions she makes that drive the plot.  She seems to process these decisions thoroughly and silently before acting on them, but it is difficult to tell whether she is feeling regretful, indifferent, or quietly triumphant.  Hers is the face that Lali and we must constantly try to decipher.  Eva’s stubbornness vis-à-vis her elders and peers motivates her actions during the first half of the film, landing her in the trade school and leading her to reject Alexander and other would-be boyfriends for the company of Andrei, who plans to flee Romania.  She proves her mettle to Andrei when she refuses to move from a train’s path until right before it is about to hit her.  Yet Eva is not completely sure to what extent she should exercise her propensity for risk-taking.  After preparing with Andrei for their great escape and traveling with him in a freight car to the Danube, she abandons him and swims back to the Romanian shore, unable to leave her family and,  in particular, her little brother. In other instances, Eva seems compliant, dancing with Alex at her mother’s request, earning an honorable mention in trade school, and working at menial jobs without complaint.

Lali’s role in the film is dynamic.  At certain points, he is the source of tension and concern for his family, succumbing easily to illness or clumsily attempting suicide when his sister seems to have gone away. At other times he resolves tension between other people, trying to mediate the relationship between Eva and their mother when Eva returns home from her failed Danube crossing and eating with Eva when she sits alone in their bedroom. The antics of Lali and his friends often interject humor and hope into The Way I Spent the End of the World.  They are constantly playing and dreaming up fantasies of traveling, being warriors, and even killing Ceaușescu. Lali may represent the “I” in the film’s title because he embodies the most profound desires of many of the nation’s citizens, keenly aware of the regime’s hardships but still attempting to enjoy
a normal, often pleasurable, existence. “The end of the world” is a relative concept; for some people it could mean the end of an oppressive regime, but for others it could be a big sister’s journey to a distant career. Alternatively, though the title The Way I Spent the End of the World implies a singular perspective of the last year of Nicolae Ceaușescu’s dictatorship in Romania in 1989, in many ways the “I” in the title goes beyond the main characters Eva and Lali, taking on a much broader, more inclusive, collective representation of a major shift for the Romanian people.

The Way I Spent the End of the World conveys the “bittersweet nostalgia” that Roumania Deltcheva evokes in her article, “Reliving the past in East European cinemas.” The film attempts to show that though there were many hard times during the regime, the good memories cannot be forgotten. Even in the literal winter of the Romanian Revolution, the environment still seems colorful and vibrant, an atmosphere that Deltcheva identifies as the “golden hue.” This film is permeated with peach, bright beige, and other warm colors, consistent with feelings of serenity or even subdued happiness. After the riot against Ceaușescu and his death, the film became infused with even brighter lighting and more vibrant colors, suggesting the hope for a brighter future. The film also focuses more on individual experience and complex characterization than the atrocities of the Ceaușescu’s regime. Eva and Lali grow up under Ceaușescu; for them, the regime is all they know. Lali enjoys a relatively carefree childhood which contrasts with Eva’s harsh reality of enforced compliance and obligation. The film’s indulgence in the imagination of Lali and his buddies also indicates that an oppressive regime isn’t strong enough to suppress the creative, wandering mind of a child.  We see the boys driving their neighborhood to foreign lands in broken-down buses and blowing such large bubbles with their imported gum that these blow away into the golden brown sky.  This film does cherish childhood, but it certainly does not long for the bad old days of Ceaușescu’s regime nor does it romanticize that era in any way. Hatred towards Ceaușescu and painful consequences of his oppressive reign are present throughout the film.  This is the balance that Mitulescu manages to achieve: the bittersweet with the sinister.

Edited by Rajlakshmi De, Tahsin Zaman, Song (Sean) Zhiang

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Walking Too Fast Blog

Director Radim Špaček chooses to express the bleak atmosphere of Czech “normalization” in the 1980s with gray, dimly lit exterior shots.  In general, colors are muted; beige, grey, black, dark green, and blue dominate the film. The drab color scheme of the film may convey Gustáv Husák’s aggressive repression of dissidence and difference.  For example, the viewer can tell that the character Klára’s hair is a bold red, but the intensity of that color is only fractionally conveyed by the cinematography. The cinematography also conveys the sense of being followed and controlled, in keeping with the film’s original Czech title, Pouta, which means “handcuffs.” Long distant shots and strange camera movements help create the feeling of being followed, and the many scenes shot through doors, windows, or railings reinforce the feeling of isolation and the fear of being watched.

The cinematographer portrays the urban Czech landscape as a series of smoggy streets and anonymous, industrial-style buildings. Buildings shown in the background have peeling paint or crumbling concrete, revealing the city’s decay.  The soccer field and track where the secret policemen exercise is surrounded by Soviet bloc architecture and devoid of sunlight.  The office of the film’s protagonist, the secret policeman Antonín, with the dark browns and yellows of its walls and furniture, seems drab and lifeless.  Natural landscapes are also industrialized and tainted, as in the scene where Antonín gets out of the car to relieve himself. The place he stops seems naturally beautiful, but is also clearly the site of a mine or quarry.  Only two things appear to bring color and meaning into Antonín’s life—his vividly colored dreams and Klára, with her red hair starkly contrasting with everything else around her.  When the film comes to a close and Antonin, as well as the audience, achieves a final escape from the clutches of his mind, the shot is not at all separated or claustrophobic, but radiates with sunlight and ends in an unusual white screen.

The Czech dissidents in Walking Too Fast are portrayed as troubled characters whose motivations are conflicted. The audience quickly learns of Tomas Sykora’s adulterous affair with Klára Kadlecova and bears witness to his double life as he leaves a wife and children at home to have sex with Klára in his friend Pavel Vesely’s apartment.  Tomas is distinctly unheroic when his wife discovers his infidelity; his only response to her hurt and fury is a short “sorry”. He does, however, have his courageous moments in the interrogation room with Antonín.  In one scene he refuses to submit even when he is being tortured. The cinematographer uses conventional lighting in this shot, casting Sykora in brightness and moving Antonín into the shadows.

Pavel, the film’s second dissident, is torn between trying to collaborate with the secret police in order to save his skin and feeling guilty for not standing up to the secret police and fighting for a free life. It is true that he does seem to believe in the ideals voiced in his writing. That being said, he does not have the courage to live these ideals. He informs on Tomas to stay on good terms with the secret police, and ultimately (at the request of the secret police) convinces his friend to leave the country. During his interview with a German magazine, Vesely tells a story he read: in a future autocratic state, dissidents free themselves from its control because they trust each other. Off camera, it turns out that Pavel is the one who abuses the others’ trust and “slits their throats.”

In Walking Too Fast, Czechoslovakia’s secret police force is a disjointed group of individuals who don’t seem to trust each other. Secret policemen are initially depicted as very privileged, living a seemingly carefree lifestyle with a bar and other amenities installed in their headquarters. The viewer sees just how intimately the secret police establishment is integrated into the lives of its agents – in their leisure pastimes and at home. We are privy to secret police interrogation rooms, offices, long hallways, detention cells, dark alleys, and car rides. The film portrays the secret police as omnipresent and omnipotent in society. Their power is clear: individual police officers can dictate to society through the use of their badges. Antonín uses threats and violence to reinstate Klára in her job, and he uses his badge to thwart interference when beating up a man who was flirting with Klára at the bar. Antonín also uses his power to continuously interrogate and imprison Tomas.

A definite hierarchy is evident within the organization. Both Antonín and his partner, Martin, report to the Major, and the Major reminds them both of the secret police “family.”  He tells Martin to “take care of [Antonín] like a brother, if anything happens tell dad” and explains that the secret police “don’t like people who don’t care about the family; if they disappoint us, we punish them.”  Yet, as subsequent events show, this family is one that cares only about the institution, not the individuals.

The film depicts Martin as jovial and extroverted, whereas Antonín is introverted and never content.  Antonín is tightly wound and this self-induced pressure eventually causes him to crack. Martin, on the other hand, is easy-going and kind of a goofball. Although less intelligent and often manipulated by Antonín, the sociable Martin is ultimately able to salvage his sanity by keeping a lighthearted attitude and refusing to let the job dominate all of his relationships and interactions. The introverted Antonín, on the other hand, lets “the service” become his “dad, wife, and old lady”—in the words of the Comrade Major—and slowly loses his mind. While Martin plays ball with others, the running Antonín ignores the football that Martin throws at him. When the intoxicated Martin tries to entertain everyone, Antonín drinks alone and feels sick. Antonín is tough, knows the miseries of life, assumes the role of driver, and always wants to go “somewhere,” while Martin is simple, never thinks of things too deeply, and enjoys living in the present and sitting in the passenger seat.

Klára, Tomas’s lover and, increasingly, Antonín’s obsession, seems to be a special character because she does not appear to apologize for who she is or have any illusions about her actions. Her job at the factory emphasizes this—she is above it all, above the rats in the maze, as she skillfully drives a crane. In some ways, this attitude makes her similar to Antonín. She has an affair with Tomas, and seems indifferent to his wife’s inevitable suffering. This is in line with Antonín’s actions and character, as he is a man who will do anything for what he wants no matter how much collateral damage he may leave behind. In his desire and quest to have Klára, he ruins the life of not only Tomas and his family, but also his own wife, whom he kicks her out and dispossesses. Loneliness is a common experience for both Klára and Antonín, and drives both of their actions. Antonín even tries to highlight their similarity by telling Klára that she is unhappy and alone, just as he is. It is only when Antonín becomes directly involved in her life and expresses his desire to protect and be with Klára that she becomes disillusioned with her “reality” and sees her world and the people in it as they truly are. Klára’s gradual disenchantment and acknowledgment of the forces operating around her parallels Antonín’s growing delusion and loss of control of the people and circumstances around him, though she refuses to follow him into his “chasm.”

Before the film begins, Antonín apparently served as a model agent, rigid and professional. Over the course of Walking Too Fast, he retreats further into isolation and instability as the stress of his work and jealousy towards Tomas take over.  As he becomes more enamored with Klara, Antonín grows increasingly violent. He begins to use his power as a secret policeman not to suppress dissent but to further a personal agenda.  He loses control of almost everything in his life: his health, his job, his emotions, and his allegiance to the state. First, Antonín begins to have panic attacks where he temporarily loses control of his breathing. Second, as his infatuation with Klára warms up, his fellow officers become suspicious, which in turn, stimulates his paranoia while at work. Next, his feelings for Klára escalate while his other personal relationships deteriorate. Finally, Rusinak is completely out of control. His self-deluded love for Klára trumps his allegiance to the state, which causes him to act impulsively and irrationally, paving the way to his suicide at the end of the film.

Edited by Torrey Lubkin, Alex Stine, and James Wu

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Blog post on Little Rose

            Set in Warsaw on the backdrop of the Polish government’s anti-Zionist campaign in 1967-1968, Jan Kidawa-Błoński’s film Little Rose dives into that world, humanizing the actions of the Polish secret police, dissidents, and those caught in between and bringing the tangled relationships between these three groups into focus.  The film tracks the evolving relationships of three central characters: the secret policeman Roman Różek, the dissident Adam Warczewski, and the coopted informant Kamila Sakowicz, who signs her reports as the title’s Little Rose.
            Little Rose depicts these characters’ living spaces as reflective of their personalities and plot lines.  Kamila’s apartment possesses the potential to be something more, but it remains raw and bare.  Her place tells the story of a woman, an orphan, who is still trying to carve out a place for herself in the world and is clearly concerned with upward social mobility.  Kamila’s apartment has a feminine quality to it, as seen by the lace she finds to cover her table and the various knick knacks shown in the background.  It is the site of her early sex scenes with Roman, before their relationship decays into one filled with secrecy and hurt.  The viewer is also privy to Kamila’s private moments when she enjoys luxuries brought back from Adam’s apartment: the wine and various books. 
            Roman’s apartment is always in shadow, with sunlight filtered through the windows.  It seems to serve more as a shrine to boxing and aggression than anything else; the audience can only view Roman’s office space and trophy cases.  The actions that take place in his apartment are generally unpleasant, especially towards the end of the film when Roman tries to rape Kamila on the desktop.  In this space we witness attempted rape, fights, and sexual encounters that become more impersonal over the course of the film.  Roman’s apartment lacks any boundary between work (writing and reading informant reports) and sexual pleasure and pain.
            In contrast, Adam’s living space is portrayed as homey, serene, and safe.  Flowers decorate the apartment and we see shots of his bedroom in addition to his office.  His place is filled with fine old furniture, and the warm colors of the décor are comforting.  Upon first entering his apartment, Kamila is impressed with the walls full of books and the wine that Adam serves; his is the home of a cultured man.  It harbors a close family, as exemplified by the scene of the Warczewskis gathered around a crackling fire on Christmas Eve.  Adam and Kamila have intellectual discussions as well as sexual relations here, indicating the strength of their bond over the mostly physical relationship between Kamila and Roman.
           Just as his home is privileged over Roman’s, so Adam himself is presented as a smart, coherent, educated contrast to the brash, uncultivated Roman.  Yet it is important to distinguish Adam from the other dissident writers portrayed in Little Rose.   For the most part, these writers are depicted as petty and not particularly virtuous.  Though they intellectually oppose the regime, their primary concerns are still their careers and personal desires.  Adam emerges as the hero among them, delivering the inspiring speech at the Writers’ Union that ultimately causes a change of heart in Kamila.  In addition, Adam is the first person we see treat Kamila with respect: He admires her studies, seeks to improve her writing, takes a personal interest in her hobbies, and loves her tenderly.
            While Adam does exemplify truth and virtue in Little Rose, he is at best a flawed dissident hero.  Adam is completely fooled by Kamila’s seductive acts at the beginning of the film and totally ignorant of her reports for Roman.  Even after Adam learns of her deceit, he chooses to ignore the humiliation of being duped and decides to marry Kamila.  Though Adam does believe in truth and virtue, it would seem that love and the personal gratification he gains from being with Kamilia eclipse those ideals.
            Roman and Kamila, both coming from impoverished backgrounds, form a relationship based on desperation and lust.  The orphaned Kamila has no one but Roman in her life, and this loneliness makes her crave his love and attention.  Theirs is a very physical relationship, evident during the first nightclub scene and the sex scene that immediately follows.  As the movie progresses, Kamila grows apart from Roman, recoiling from his aggressive nature, and is drawn instead to Adam.  This transition is fueled in part by Kamila’s growing role as an informant.  Though Roman does care very deeply about her, he is pressured at work to push her closer to Adam. 
            The scenes involving nudity reveal much about the characters’ thoughts and personalities.  In one early scene, Roman argues with a nude Kamila in her apartment, his hostile and offensive behavior juxtaposed with her openness, honesty, and vulnerability. When their relationship is withering, the final sex scene with Roman is particularly impersonal, devoid of conversation and eye contact, and afterwards Kamila lies curled in the fetal position.  Adam, in contrast, is much tenderer with Kamila, holding her hand as they make love.  Kamila’s nudity finally signals her resignation after Roman exposes her as an informant to Adam.  When Roman comes to her door, she simply drops her clothing and bares herself, as if she were a sex worker for hire.
            The very sexual nature of Kamila and her relationships, combined with the consequences of her actions, would seem to qualify her as a femme fatale.  She is aware of her attractiveness and exploits it to make Adam fall in love with her initially so that she can extract information.  Kamila, however, differs from the femme fatale in her intention.  She does not want to control or harm Adam; she actually believes that if she proves Adam’s innocence, all will be well.  Kamila accepts the job of informant because she wishes to please Roman and perform a significant job.  In writing up her reports, she seems more ambitious than malicious. Most importantly, Kamila undergoes a transformation that disqualifies her as a femme fatale even as it suggests her heroism.  After Adam has been intimidated and beaten by two secret police thugs, she decides to marry him. 
            Kamila’s story in Little Rose resembles that of the protagonist Sabina in another recent Polish film about the communist era, Reverse (2009).  In Reverse, Sabina struggles with her own secret policeman-suitor, Bronek.  Yet Sabina is the antithesis of Kamila in terms of her cultured background and carefully concealed anti-government ideology.  She lives with her mother and grandmother in a very comfortable apartment secured by her brother, who is a successful socialist realist painter.  Sabina’s relationship with Bronek is barely established when he asks her to inform; he comes into her life from a different place shrouded in mystery and sweeps Sabina off her feet in a whirlwind romance.  Such an impression cannot last forever, though, and the once-smooth Bronek suddenly loses his touch.  Sabina understands that she is being used and despatches her seducer with the help of her entire family.
            The film Little Rose thrives on uncertainty, so it is no surprise that the final scenes bear out this pattern.  The first ambiguity involves Adam’s death.  Was he murdered?  The single rose left at the base of the stairs to Adam’s apartment suggests that Roman was somehow involved.  Yet the cause of death, Adam’s fall from a ledge to the pavement, and the undisturbed nature of the apartment make Roman a somewhat dubious perpetrator.  Was the death a suicide?  Adam at this point had been stripped of almost everything he loved – his writing, job, reputation – and perhaps he only married Kamilia to ensure that his daughter would be cared for.  But this scenario does not account for the rose left by the stairs and does not reflect Adam’s otherwise brave character.
            The final train station scene raises even more questions.  After Roman’s Jewish identity is revealed by his superior, he is to be expelled from Poland as part of the anti-Zionist campaign.  As he is boarding the train, Roman looks most vulnerable, the lone traveler without a family member or friend to wish him well.  At the last minute, he sees Kamila watching him from behind a fence.  Perhaps Kamila’s decision to come to the station is her way of closing this chapter in her life; she needs to see Roman leaving to know that their relationship really is at an end.  Yet perhaps Kamila still cares for Roman.  Regardless of which is the case, when Kamila and Roman share a final look, the film reminds us that their intentions were initially aligned: They both longed to move up in the world and live the good life, as they knew it, together.  And in Roman’s final smile there seems to be an understanding that, despite everything, he is significant enough for Kamila to watch him leave.

Edited by Jane Chen and Alex Radek