Just because the industry is peopled with cretins, scoundrels, and bigots—if it is or ever was—does not mean that it may not have worked, once upon a time. But film culture has been dismissive of the trade and loyal to battered, half-hearted artists. As a result, we do not know how the system functioned.
Women think in [Douglas] Sirk’s films. Something which has never struck me with other directors. None of them. Usually women are always reacting, doing what women are supposed to do, but in Sirk they think. It’s something that has to be seen. It’s great to see women think. It gives one hope. Honestly.
Dan Yakir: In A Love in Germany, unlike your other films, you depict the other side of fascism—its emergence in the lives of average people, as opposed to its systemic manifestations.
Andrzej Wajda: Yes. In order to exist, a totalitarian system has to be totally unified and uniform—every element, every individual must submit to it. The system has to be able to look into the kitchen and bedroom of the individual in order to be effective. Without an enemy to mobilize the people against, the system can’t create unity. So it creates the enemy. Here, it’s the Polish POW, who obviously can’t threaten the system. All he does is sleep with a German woman—who serves the purpose.
Before, I could only examine the impact of totalitarianism on the victims. Now I wanted to show it from the German side, which I find interesting. I wanted to show evil, so it doesn’t happen again. I think it’s as important and as relevant as ever, because totalitarianism keeps being reborn in different forms.
From our November/December 1984 issue: Andrzej Wajda on his career and (then-newly released) A Love in Germany. Read more….