“1983” is Netflix’s new Polish political series and at the same time the first attempt to reach the Polish public with Polish actors and directors. Among others, the director Angieszka Holland, who has also directed episodes of the political thriller House of Cards, is participating. The actors are pretty good, and the protagonist Cagetan by the world Maciej Musial, will also play in the upcoming Netflix series, The Witcher, while a surprise appearance will please many of you. It was, if nothing else, quite promising already from the trailer and the setting of the Cold War, for the fans of the genre of political thriller, it is of great interest, as it has not happened to be often a source of inspiration for series. Of course, there were those who described it as Netflix’s response to Amazon’s “The man in the high castle”.
The setting in which events unfold is a hypothetical universe in which communism as a political regime has never changed, the Cold War has not ended, the Iron Curtain has not “fallen”, and the Soviet Union is still in control of the states. of Eastern Europe. East Berlin still exists under the same political regime and the president of the USA is Al Gore !!! Chronologically and despite the title, “1983”, the story is set in 2003 and the connection with 1983 and the terrorist attacks of that year that helped change the history of Poland is achieved through flashbacks.
It is worth noting that the following paradox occurred, the script was originally written in English, by an English screenwriter and later translated into Polish, which is unfortunately obvious but also carefree because the plot does not clarify but confuses even the most attentive viewer.
The series has a dark European style depicting this alternative dystopia / reality, in which Polish society and citizens are completely controlled in the context of a strictly policed state, which oppresses them and leaves little room for real freedom, but only creates the illusion of existence.
It must be said that in this respect it does not seem to imitate any other series and despite the similarities with “The man in the high castle” it does not stand so much in the historical context as in the moral-political dilemmas created in such a strict police political regime.
One could also find similarities and influences with George Orwell’s book, “1984”, which appears in the series as one of the books banned by the political regime. Also, the series has some cyberpunk and futuristic elements, one might say, when one wonders if it is possible that the technology of this society really corresponds to the year 2003, while at the same time there are elements that seem to correspond to an era before the year 2000.
The protagonist is a law student Kagetan, who together with a discredited (in a system of oppression and authoritarianism where you do not have to “dig” a lot and look for the truth behind the facts) police detective Anatol end up trying to find out what happened really 20 years ago in Poland, in the terrorist attacks that were the catalyst for the nation to unite and remain in the current political regime and thus change history.
First, the series begins with a suicide-murder? – a member of a resistance organization who fights for more freedom with “stealth war” tactics mainly, while the detective Anatol who undertakes the investigation of suicide realizes that something is strange in the case and tries to investigate it off the record further. At the same time, a second assassination, that of a law professor and a prominent member of the regime, leads Cagetan literally to the door of the East and together they try to find out how the murders are connected to each other and to the events that took place twenty years ago.
At the same time, the resistance movement seeks to reveal the truth to the world and overthrow the regime, as its members were “shaped” by the catalytic events that took place 20 years ago and believe that this way they will take revenge. The many flashbacks in the series concern the parents of members of the resistance movement, who seem to have been the first to seek a change of political regime.
The political-diplomatic background of the series is very intense, but very complicated. The opening of Polish diplomacy to the American factor, its secret diplomacy with Iran, the hesitation towards possible reactions of Moscow and the attempt to involve the Israeli factor will manage to stimulate the interest of the fans of the genre with the above. Some may find it negative at this point that no more emphasis is placed on the agenda of the big players, so that we can get a broader picture of the alternative dystopia / reality that the series deals with.
This option – we can say with certainty that this is not a script gap – on the one hand leaves a wide field of development for next seasons, on the other hand it may serve to feed some of the problems that the series seems to pose.
Perhaps this last track is also the most interesting of the series, in the sense that it introduces us to a multi-level problem. This is not just a critique of authoritarian regimes, much less a traditional anti-communist propaganda that we are accustomed to in most series and movies. The series in its evolution touches on many more issues, such as who writes history, the role of the real strong in the reconstruction and collapse of regimes, the different approaches to patriotism, the attitude of different generations towards totalitarianism and much more. The most interesting of course that the series deals with, not only directly but in its entirety, in the background that runs through the story, is the question of what freedom is and also in various forms.
Agnieszka Holland herself in an interview with the Guardian, talking about “1983” and Poland in general states: “Of course, this is very close to what the PiS (Law and Justice Party) would like to see done in Poland. But the real questions are: Are these people happy? Is freedom overrated? These questions are important to all of us. Maybe people who feel lost want someone to come and tell them what to do. Maybe we face so many challenges and so many problems and threats of modernity that we can not stand it. And this is a problem in the UK as well as in the US and in other countries, and not just in post-communist countries like Poland.“
In conclusion (1) what makes the series beautiful is precisely its complexity, the political intrigues and the moral political dilemmas it poses, for those who like modern political history, and unlike most American series of the genre does not find here some of the characters are ripe for who is politically and morally right, as such a thing is never clear. In other words, there is no such thing as “this was wrong, this was right” ethics, and the story is objective as it shows all sides, without focusing on the ethics of the means used to achieve their goals.
In conclusion (2) what makes the series stand out is that where you wait to watch another commonplace anti-Soviet propaganda, you end up watching an excellent political thriller that keeps the interest undiminished throughout the series. At the same time, the political scene that is set up is not spent on embellishing someone (see USA), nor does it remain on the objective approach to events, but develops through a “raw” conflict of interest. Finally, the problems that arise and the way they tie in with the plot of the series, can not leave you unmoved, regardless of the different political starting points that one approaches the series.
*Because the article was written by two editors of freakydelia, we asked them to each write their own rating from the series.