Absurdistan: The Central and Eastern European Cinema of the Absurd
Why We Recommend it
Restored films from Ukraine, Hungary, Poland, Romania and former Czechoslovakia, all centered around the theme of the absurd, are screened at the Hong Kong Arts Centre and Tai Kwun.
Ranging from documentaries to sci-fi, allegory, satire and multi-media animations, this programme is organised by HK Cine Fan to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the liberation of the former socialist republics from their repressive governments.
A Czech term that conjures up a distant nonsense land, ‘Absurdistan’ refers to the absurdities homegrown in the Czechoslovak and other socialist republics of Central and Eastern Europe, from the end of World War II until – for most of these countries – the revolutions of 1989.
HK Cine Fan is screening restored films that foreground the Central and Eastern European sense of the absurd. Unlike the idea of the absurd in Western Europe, the absurd in the East was a personal, concrete and everyday experience. It overflowed in the gaps between the ideals and realities of their socialist states: between the happiness the Central and Eastern Europeans were supposed to enjoy and the material hardships they faced; the failure of basic services, strictures of official culture, pretences of public life, physical and spiritual confinement, ruin of the landscape, fantasies of escape and the search for daily dignity within regimes that refused to admit any flaw.
The seven films in HK Cine Fan’s programme, which are produced between 1964 and 1982, evoke the liberties that Central and Eastern Europeans only intermittently were able to enjoy in the 20th century, and that again feel fragile as of today. Each film resonates beyond the system that created it, to show how remote certain rights once were, and how precarious they remain. Glossy or stark, scathing and playful, these films express the ludicrousness of authoritarian rule through creative varieties of absurdity.