27 October 2010

My Joy: a powerful cinematic exploration of post-Soviet traumatic memory

Traumatic memory is central to the latest film by Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa, My Joy (Schast'e moe). The film tells the darkly picaresque story of a flour deliveryman who, on a journey through rural Russia, encounters petty corruption, theft and violence. While clues such as the uniforms of the militia indicate that the film is set in Russia, it could take place almost anywhere in the rural, post-Soviet sphere. On his own website Loznitsa suggests that this is important to the film, saying ‘it is connected with the degradation and dying out of the space that speaks in the language of Platonov’s The Foundation Pit’. The local, rural dialects that form one aspect of Platonov’s language, and the culture they represent, are certainly strongly present in the film, although deeper affinities can also be found in its narrative ambiguity, journey structure and Dostoevsky-like examination of human baseness, cruelty and morality. What is most striking about the film, however, is its attitude to the past, or more specifically, how past traumas persist in the present.

15 October 2010

Echoes of the East in the West

The publication of eminent historian Timothy Snyder's new book Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin is surely a memory event of major implications, scholarly and politically, for today's eastern and western Europe alike. Shifting its focus away from the West-centric lens through which the history of World War II has traditionally been written, this book makes Eastern Europe its analytical centre of gravity as the actual geographic, moral, and political pivot of one of the most atrocious aspects of WWII – the mass killings of European civilians.

11 October 2010

Red Army monument in Poland vandalised in response to removal of Katyń cross

The conflict over the removal of the Katyń cross from outside the Presidential Palace in Warsaw has found a new manifestation in the shape of a recently constructed monument to Red Army soldiers in Ossów near Warsaw. The monument has been vandalised twice since it was built earlier this year.