An Historical Movie for Our Time
My wife and I accompanied our daughter to the Gare de Lyon in Paris for her departure to summer scout camp. Liberated from parental duties we strolled through the streets of Paris on a beautiful mild summer day. In the late afternoon we stopped near the Luxembourg Gardens at one of the many little art house cinemas in Paris. My wife asked for two tickets to the Agnieszka Holland film. As per its name, Les 3 Luxembourg has only three screens, yet the young man in the booth had never noticed that Holland was the director of L’Ombre de Staline. My wife is a typical Parisian cinofile, she knows her films (except for virtually all Hollywood movies) and can be a bit snobbish. She was incredulous that he had never heard of Holland, the Polish director has in fact been nominated three times for an Oscar. I must admit that I had had no recall of Holland myself, the winner of the Golden Globe for best foreign language film Europa Europa. I have included this little vignette because this film, called Mr. Jones in English, will certainly not receive the attention it deserves because of the subject matter and the lack of star power.
The film begins with snorting pigs in a stye, with the camera posed in the muck looking up into their snouts. As the camera pulls back over waves of grain an actor playing Eric Blair (George Orwell) begins writing the allegory Animal Farm on his typewriter. The film encompasses the voyage of Welsh journalist Gareth Jones (played by the English actor James Norton) to the Soviet Union in 1933 where he became an eye witness of the forced famine in Ukraine now called the Holodomor, (the word is from the Ukranian meaning murder by hunger). The Holodomor, which consisted of the slow tourtured murder of millions of Ukranian peasants by Stalin’s Communist Party, is barely known by the general public, especially compared to the Holocaust perpertrated by Hitler’s Nazis. Thus, the film’s depiction of this event is important. The images in the film are much like those in this gallery of the Holodomor. In fact, I believe some of the photos might have been taken by Jones but there are no attributions given. The Financial Times ran an important review of the film that included an interview with Agnieszka Holland. “The fact that so many communist crimes are neglected and forgotten and unpunished makes it possible that it will happen again. What is happening today is a consequence of what happened in the 20th century and the silence and lack of punishment.”
The statue “Bitter Memory of Childhood” with the Holodomor memorial in the background, Kiev, Ukraine.
Professor Flagg Taylor has written a trilogy of insightful articles about the Holodomor. He highlights an important revolutionary aim of Stalin that was made by Anne Applebaum in her book on the subject that is applicable today.
The aspect that Applebaum adds to previous histories is that dekulakization also included an attack on the social and moral order of the countryside in general. Holidays were banned, churches assaulted—anything related to the old ethical order of the region was targeted for destruction …. Applebaum’s account is consistent with this verdict, and she adds a wealth of evidence to suggest that the motive was indeed the destruction of Ukrainian nationalism and punishment of the Ukrainian people.
Of course, the level of violence is not nearly the same, but the aims of the cultural revolutionaries of today are similar. He also quotes what Boris Pasternak wrote in Doctor Zhivago about Stalin’s massive purge of Communist Party members that also applies equally well to the terror-famine. “To conceal the failure people had to be cured, by every means of terrorism, of the habit of thinking and judging for themselves, and forced to see what didn’t exist, to assert the very opposite of what their eyes told them.” Again, with less violence, today we are to be cured of thinking for ourselves on any number of fear filled subjects.
Holland is the rare filmmaker whose own history is especially consonant to this story. She witnessed the 1968 Prague Spring and participated in the Solidarity movement in Poland to the extent that she went into exile when martial law was introduced in 1981. Furthermore, her father, a Jewish communist intellectual, volunteered to fight with the Soviet and then the Polish army during WWII. According to this book, he had passed on Khrushchev’s secret speech about Stalin to a correspondent to the French newspaper Le Monde. Cha
Article from LewRockwell