Central European cinema

Women’s equality is a term that covers broad spectrum of ideas and practices. The transition from communist rule has forced the men as well as the women to witness a number of changes. The end of communist rule has been a mixed blessing for the women of Central Europe. They have had to deal with a lot of uncertainty.

Moreover the women have always found that they have been forced to satisfy the needs of the family in the first place keeping their own needs aside and this is because they are the ones who perform the core jobs of handling a family. They are responsible for caring for the emotional and psychological needs of all the family members. As a result they are not in a position to focus their entire attention to the economic matters of the nation. Not only this but also a lot of time and energy are drained away from the womenfolk in the process.During the post communist period many women have benefited largely whereas many women have seen periods of increased hardship because their responsibility both in the domestic sphere as well as in the economic spheres have added up. The women during the post-communist era had jobs but they felt that it was a kind of “forced” or “pseudo” employment.

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There was a focus on the need for women to realize their femininity through domestic roles. The task of providing for the daily needs of the family had also become difficult than before and also the benefits of social legislation which the women used to get during the period of communist reign had also been withdrawn. It has been seen that in the post communist area both in the labor force and in the home the traditional gender roles have resurfaced as if legitimating gender inequality as it was a very common practice that even the educated women did not get jobs whereas the men could easily get jobs. (Verdey, 1991) There was an increasing tendency of confining women within the four walls of the home had increased.

Women were very strictly marginalized from political issues. There was unrealistic expectation from the successful women. They were expected to be superwomen and thus they were expected to be equally successful both in the economic realm and in the domestic front which caused a greater amount of physical and psychological strain on the women and they were the victims of dual burden. There were economic disparities as well between the men and the women and consequently the women suffered a low standard of living. It can be concluded that the women in the post communist period had to face a lot of challenges as their living conditions were no easier.

The movies were a reflection of the society’s attitude towards the women like the movie “A Woman Alone” (1981) also shows the hardship which a single woman has to face being trapped by the pressures of poverty and the harsh society. Irena has once said in the movie, “I am nobody. I didn’t fight in the war.I don’t have a car. I work for pennies; nobody respects me” These bitter words from her actually shows she is well aware of her situation and has a lot of dejection in her mind just as most of the woman were well aware that their position is nothing more than a commodity in the society Irena who is an unwed mother drains her energies to run a family and she receives cruel treatment from her surroundings which is related to her “womanness” and her “single motherhood”. She has to bear a lot as a woman and all her relations with the men leave her either physically or emotionally bruised. It actually testifies the fact that the men treat the women as play instruments and soon dump them as was Irena dumped after being utilized.

The physical strain of her job collapses her both physically and mentally. She leads a life of utter poverty far away from luxury. Her poverty is to an extent that she has to bathe with the used water of her son.

Irena is a lonely woman and she has no-one to turn to in times of crisis. At times she feels that the world looks upon her cruelly. She turns to her aunt expecting some monetary benefit but it is of no use. She feels all the more helpless when she thinks that she has to educate a child alone, she in fact loses her path and is not able to decide the course which she should take. Irena does not even get any help from the society mainly because of the fact that she was an unwed mother; therefore it is entirely her responsibility to manage her life. The movie reflects of the helpless condition of a single woman who has no means, it makes the fact clear that nobody approaches a help to her because she is an unwed mother; one more reflection of the stigmas of the society.

  This film is actually a reflection of the fact of how the society treats a woman who is alone and how her scopes are limited and also stigmatizes a woman for a reason which is no reason at all. That the society fails to identify the dignity of a woman as a human being is the message which runs throughout the film. (Waller, What’s in your head).

As per as acceptance of the women of such roles are concerned it was found that many of the women intentionally took refuge in motherhood because they wanted to escape from the dual burden system and to escape the political manipulation and give more meanings to their lives. This was so because they believed that the home was a comparatively a free sphere for them, as they could exercise some amount of authority in their homes, whereas in the political or economic sphere they were bound to get dominated by the males. (Heitlinger). In this regard we can talk of the movie “Adoption” (1975) where the protagonist of the movie Kata had accepted defeat from her husband because it was expected so from a woman. The director gets a scope to show the part played by the state in the politics of gender.

The reference of this particular movie is relevant here because it reflects the attitude of men towards women how they feel that it is not much necessary that the desires of a woman are fulfilled just as Kata in the movie who lives with a married who is far too distant from her and does not bother for her happiness at all. The movie reflects the patriarchy of the society where only the opinions of men are given importance as in the movie Kata could not get the joy of children because the man in her life did not approve of it. Joska, the man in Kata’s life very easily associates “fatherlessness” and “illegitimacy” and it is very clear that he is not ready to commit fully to Kata, which is again a reflection of the fact that most men are afraid of commitment and is happy only to derive pleasure from the women as Joska was doing.

Later as the movie progresses Kata finds a soul mate in Anna and it is Anna who instigates the maternal instincts in her. Anna emulates widowed Kata in some ways and in this way the director wants to show the variants and vicissitudes and shows that a family of choice is more viable than a family of origin. Anna on the other hand fills incomplete because she has not been able to unite with her boyfriend. Thus they both share the common string of incompleteness. Towards the end of the movie Anna finds happiness by becoming a wife and Kata finds happiness after adopting a baby.

The focus of the movie is that the society and the culture are such that women gain satisfaction through traditional roles like wife and mother. This is because the society has made the women feel so. (The Gendered State)To the general tends of film makers there were also some exceptional film makes who worked for the issues relating to women. Such filmmakers were Chytilova and Krumbachova. They were the ones who tried to portray the disgraceful situation of the women in the society and how they were trying to recuperate their situation. One such movie was “Daisies” (1966), where Chytilova shows how the women react to their dejected condition.

Though the film is filled with lot of exuberance and enthusiasm yet it meets an end which is filled with utter anger, nihilism, helplessness and despair. In the movie two seventeen year old girls feel that the world is meaningless so they play a game of it matters and it doesn’t matter. The two girls live in a vacuum without any past or future and they have an intense desire to cheat the world. The girls’ attitudes are linked with absolute political destruction. Though she portrays the naked bodies of the two girls in many places yet it is far from eroticism. In the film Chytilova tries to show something which is much deeper in meaning like existential pain and alienation but apparently the movie shows that the girls have a number of adventures but not with any particular motive but just for the purpose of amusing themselves and getting spoiled in the process exactly reflecting the society where the women suffered from alienation and a lot of respect in different subtle ways yet they keep on showing to the world that they are immensely happy. The girls have suffered alienation in various phases of their lives just because they are girls and so they try to get the attention of the people by doing something extraordinary. The stylization of the two girls like robots and like machine suggests the idea that the treatment of girls in the society were like machines and many of the scenes show that the two girls Jarmila and Jezinka are exploited by the males and they try their best to expel the male domination and assert their identity which actually reflects the feminist attitudes of the society where many women rebelled against the unfair treatment towards them.

The men folk believed that they could program the women according to their whims and fancies. The movie also tries to focus on the fact that a woman’s sexuality becomes her ultimate recognition and the men of the society are only bothered in deriving sexual pleasure from the women and they are not actually interested in knowing the identity of the women. The voice which runs through the film is that the women are mere sources of pleasure for the men. In the movie the principal of anarchy is balanced by principal of structure.

(Literature, Fancy and Experience)Even the movie Loves of a Blonde (1965) reflects the miserable emotional deprivation of women in the society. The message is that a woman is crazy of love rather it is better said a woman seeks true love all through her life because in most cases she is treated as a commodity so whenever she gets the dignity which she should get as a woman she gets inclined to it as it was a common belief in the society that women are machines and they do not require any kind of emotional fulfillment so it is not necessary to treat them with love and respect. In the movie the young woman who is romance starved young girl gets attracted to a visiting piano player and she moves away along with him. As she moves away with him she discovers her troublesome parents but she doesn’t run away because she hopes to get an assurance of true love from the piano player. Therefore we can conclude from the movie that the director attempted to show the audience that for a woman love is more important than anything else.The growing importance of the family had a growing negative connotation it was very much attached to the exploitation of women. Women were mainly represented in two different ways, they were represented either as women fulfilling the traditional roles of women that is caring and nurturing for the family and designated only to work for the family. The other way in which they were represented was in hedonistic manner, commoditized to a greater extent.

Thus we can very well understand that the cinemas were in many reflections of the fact that the men were important in the society and not the women. The function of the women is only to satisfy the men with their sexuality both emotionally and physically and such kinds of movies might have dual reaction like it may bring about a realization in the minds of those who dominate and mistreat women perennially that the thing which they are doing is not correct and they should treat women more compassionately and with more respect. On the other hand there will be many who will fail to understand the subtle meanings expressed through the movies and will continue to think that it is absolutely correct and legitimate to subjugate and exploit women and to alienate them from the social, political and the economic system.

Author: Candace Parker


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