Krystyna Janda won the best actress award at the Cannes Film Festival last year for this downbeat, hard-edged drama about a woman who becomes a political prisoner in 1952 Poland. While one has to admire her tenacity in a very difficult role, both physically and emotionally, Janda's high-pitch performance is nonetheless alternately grating and over-the-top until she finally calms down in the film's final third.
Whether that will appeal to or alienate the audience remains to be seen. But as a film that springs from political repression to chronicle the horrors of Stalinism, it is a worthy, if sometimes overly familiar effort.
Janda plays a young, carefree and somewhat irresponsible cabaret singer who has a spat with her husband and allows two young men — apparently adoring fans — to take her out after a show. They get her drunk and instead of taking her home, drop her off at a women's political prison.
She wakes up the next day in a cell full of women and it takes her a while for her to realize where she is. Eventually, she is taken into a stark room where her interrogation begins: She is accused of collaboration with a "known enemy of the state," with whom she once had a one-night stand. She is also grilled about other indiscretions in her past and ordered to sign a number of depositions admitting her guilt as a spy, traitor or collaborator.
Despite encouragement from her cellmates to give in to these unreasonable demands, Janda refuses and finds herself in prison for the next five years, the price she must pay for asserting her independence and maintaining her integrity.
Most of the film chronicles the horrors of her internment, torture and harassment, ultimately turning into a soap opera as she has a love affair with one of her interrogators.
Perhaps the most satisfying elements of the film, however, are the relationships Janda has with the other women in prison, all with their own interesting and sometimes surprising stories.
Unfortunately, this is Janda's film all the way and the other characters have little depth or screen time.
Still, this is a hard-hitting, sometimes powerfully emotional film that often hits the mark in its effort to depict the drowning of the human spirit by repressive government and the dehumanization that goes on not only with prisoners but those who enforce the arbitrary law.
"The Interrogation" was actually filmed in 1981 during the brief reprieve of Solidarity and almost immediately censored as "anti-socialist." Then writer-director Richard Bugajski, who emigrated to Canada in 1985, began showing bootlegged videotape copies of the film. Last year "Interrogation" had its first public screening in Poland and made its way to Cannes before being picked up for general art-house release in this country.
It is not rated but would doubtless carry an R for violence, nudity, profanity, vulgarity and sex.