The Cinema of the Absurd: Eastern European Film, 1958–89

January 12–February 25, 2023

A series of stark, scathing, and playful films from the former socialist republics of Eastern Europe, where absurdity was a fact of life under authoritarian rule—and a source of cinematic creativity.

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  • I Hate Mondays

  • The Witness

  • What Would Happen If . . . ?

  • March, March! Tra-Ta-Ta!

  • The Barnabáš Kos Case

  • Upcoming
    Films
  • Past
    Films
  • Past
    Events

Upcoming Films

  • I Hate Mondays

    Tadeusz Chmielewski
    Poland, 1971

    Digital Restoration

    • Thursday, January 12 7 PM

    This lighthearted comedy turns a dysfunctional Warsaw into a slapstick playground worthy of Jacques Tati, balancing criticism and lyricism in its portrait of the forgotten details of daily life in a socialist state. With Roman Polanski’s Two Men and a Wardrobe.

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  • Case for a Rookie Hangman

    Pavel Juráček
    Czechoslovakia [Czech Republic], 1969

    Digital Restoration

    • Saturday, January 14 7 PM

    Juráček imaginatively adapted part of Gulliver’s Travels into a sci-fi journey through socialist Czechoslovakia. The film’s allusions to uncomfortable truths caused it to be “banned forever.”

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  • The Barnabáš Kos Case

    Peter Solan
    Czechoslovakia [Slovakia], 1964

    Digital Restoration

    • Friday, January 20 7 PM

    A humble triangle player in a city orchestra unexpectedly winds up its party director and, engorged with a taste of power, soon becomes a tyrant in Slovak director Solan’s droll send-up of authority and hypocrisy.

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  • March, March! Tra-Ta-Ta!

    Raimondas Vabalas
    USSR [Lithuania], 1965

    Digital Restoration

    • Wednesday, January 25 7 PM

    A Baltic Duck Soup about the dispute between two nations over a desert borderland, this ambitious, playful film makes colorful fun of fascists and imperialists, patriotism and dogmatism, in a burst of creative satire made the same year as Dr. Strangelove. With Jan Švankmajer’s The Garden.

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  • The Witness

    Péter Bacsó
    Hungary, 1969

    Digital Restoration

    • Friday, January 27 7 PM

    A bumbling protagonist fails at a series of assignments before finally showing defiance in this recently restored Hungarian classic, whose acerbic humor and political critique made it renowned in the Soviet bloc. “As broadly entertaining as it is bold” (New York Times).

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  • Four White Shirts

    Rolands Kalniņš
    USSR [Latvia], 1967
    • Sunday, February 5 7 PM

    An idealistic singer in a fledgling Latvian rock band fights censorship and indifference in this inventive musical, which earned comparisons to the French New Wave. With Gyula Gazdag’s The Selection, a Hungarian take on the intersection of socialism and rock and roll.

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  • What Would Happen If . . . ?

    Gerhard Klingenberg
    East Germany, 1960
    • Sunday, February 12 7 PM

    Released the year before the building of the Berlin Wall, this farce imagines the relocation of a village from East to West Germany. With Vlastimil Venclík’s Czech short The Uninvited Guest about a couple confronting—then growing accustomed to—an intruder.

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  • The Reenactment

    Lucian Pintilie
    Romania, 1968

    BAMPFA Student Committee Pick

    • Sunday, February 19 7 PM

    The police force two friends to reenact a drunken crime on-screen—with awkward results—in Pintilie’s masterful satire, voted best Romanian film of all time in a poll of Romanian critics.

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  • The Asthenic Syndrome

    Kira Muratova
    USSR [Ukraine], 1989
    • Saturday, February 25 7 PM

    Legendary director Muratova’s demented chronicle of the absurdities and insults of post-glasnost Soviet life takes its title and cues from a psychological condition that alternates between maniacal aggression and apathetic inaction. “A movie that breaks all the rules” (Jonathan Rosenbaum).

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