In this dramatic and wickedly subversive portrayal of the tense conflict between students and teachers at a country summer school for linguistics, Krzysztof Zanussi offers a subtle but fierce critique of Communist Party politics and the precariousness of success in a socialist society.
In the cinema of Krzysztof Zanussi, livingly embodied & taut with the internal debates of a transforming society, the clash of Polish generations reaches its pinnacle in this richly erudite drama of debate. His usual university-educated protagonists are under his microscope—a microcosm of a nation.
Definitely my favorite (up until now) of what I've seen of Zanussi's films. The way he takes something as "simple" as the clashing of different moral and sociopolitical philosophies and builds an entire film around that concept makes his films seem so precise and hard hitting. Of what I've seen (just what's been shown on Mubi the last month) it seems his films are mostly dialogue driven, which I'm totally fine with.
What at first struck me as being a kind of comic Trotskyite nightmare of overlapping voices and contention unto naught very quickly began to strike me, despite the obviously unique particulars of time and place, as something much more universal and perhaps even timely. CAMOUFLAGE could almost be repurposed to take place at contemporary Berkley. Cynicism may be sanity in the face microfactionalist dissonance.
PC. A film that follows direct and directly its ideological program without making the interruptions or short circuits that the previous ones did or tried to establish. It serves as a discursive anti-stablishment movement but serves little the cinematographic cause, unlike some Zanussi's magnificent earlier and later films. Socialist naturalism. The final two frames recovers the memory of his appellant geometry.
It's a bit easy to characterize this as a battle of idealism against cynicism. Cynicism has less to do with the age of the person, and more about a kind of moral laziness. It's more about manipulation. I saw this movie as a battle between the older man trying to use the younger man as a pawn in his games.
A cleverly constructed philosophical discourse about a never ending clash between naive morality and mature cynicism. What makes this film different from the tried and heavy handed predecessors is its hidden in plain view perverse sexuality. Can you see it?
At first I was a bit distracted by the particulars of time and place but on second viewing the universality of the piece and its relevance to the political and philosophical struggles of today totally grabbed me. Idealism and pragmatism struggle in the shadow of implacable bureaucratic structures. Since I was 26 when the film was made I can see in it my own personal migration between the principle points of view.