The War of the Worlds: Next Century [Wojna swiatów – nastepne stulecie](1981)

This is one of Polish director Piotr Szulkin‘s four political parables disguised as Science Fiction films from the Eighties.  One wonders how in the world he got them made, as they offer a blistering assault on the realities of Communist life.  I believe Poland was, at the time, one of the most repressive Eastern Bloc states, which makes it even stranger.

This one is so dark that I hesitate to describe it as a comedy, even if the term did fit his rather dark first film, Golem.  The Martians landed just a few days ago, to a warm welcome from the Government, who have, naturally, immediately organized the citizenry to donate blood.

However, the supposedly independent – and privileged – TV newsman, Iron Idem, finds himself trapped in the absurd coils of Government repression:  his scripts are rewritten, his wife is kidnapped, he’s thrown out of his apartment, tagged like an animal, and his banks accounts have been seized.

There really isn’t much reference to The War of the Worlds, or to H.G. Wells, other than the basic idea that blood sucking Martians have invaded the Earth.  This, he seems to be saying, is how it would happen now, with the State rushing to cooperate with the enemy, then compelling us to give the Martians what they want out of “friendship”.

This is a brutal attack on Television, on the Government, and on the means used to cow and coerce the public – and make them do it to themselves.  I find it hard to believe that Szulkin’s political fig leaf – that the film is set in some English speaking country (we assume, because of the signs and posters – and a few references to the Martians speaking perfect English. The film itself is in Polish, however) – actually worked.  But then, he was an expert at navigating the tricky political currents of a repressive state.

Ironically, his career foundered after the Wall fell, as he didn’t know how to work within the new bureaucracy.

Oh, well.

The War of the Worlds: Next Century isn’t a film for everyone – and not just because of the dreaded subtitles.  It is dark, violent, and offers little hope.

What hope is there, after all, if we are all afraid to speak up – and if no one will pay the least attention to those who do?


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