04/05/2017

Slogans - Absurd Hierarchies

Quick Thoughts: Slogans (2001)


The second film in the World Cinema Series from Albania made by Gjergj Xhuvani.


Slogans is a terrific film and the first Albanian movie to be screen in Cannes in 2001. It serves mainly as a critique and spotlight on rural life in communist Albania during the late 1970s. To give a little background, post-WWII, 1944, Enver Hoxha, leader of the communist Part Of Labour, became the 22nd priminister of Albania. Under his 40 year reign, the country saw vast improvements and a relative stabilisation of political infrastructure with the rebuilding of the land following the devastation of the second world war, the renewing the education system, expansion of communications and transportation, lowering of illiteracy rates and building of the agricultural industry. However, Hoxha's rule was of an iron fist, with stringent control put in place by the secret police - especial in rural regions. In such, there was a strict enforcement of zero political opposition in place which saw Albania become one of the most isolated countries within Europe. This encapsulated a great use of the death penalty, long-term imprisonments and evictions, all of which begin to set the scene for Solgans' narrative.

Focused on a small rural town Slogans explores the small-scale effects of the anti-revisionist Marxism–Leninism (a form of communism based on the aforementioned Soviet political figures that opposed any change or revision) regime in place on a community. And in such, if you were to watch this film without seeing the words 'based on real events' in the beginning, you'd think it was something by Yorgos Lanthimos.

    

This is because there is such an absurd and dark humor built into the fabric of this narrative, one that sees a town obsessively care for and implement patriotic phrases across hillsides with stones and the labour of children in school. The effect of this ludicrous work is a highly toxic community fixated on political symbols and empty phrases; tribalism for the sake of tribalism. This toxicity is fueled by those with power and connections to the state party who use their positions to settle grudges and justify their constant neurotic tirades.

The point that this narrative then builds toward is on a question of community and hierarchy. In such, Slogans questions if the socialist regime put in place in this rural region is even about the community, rather dictatorial relations where power is unfairly distributed and abused with the facade of a greater good. Through this, Xhuvani (director) cites the corruption that can infect a system where ideas of hierarchy are too strictly controlled, in turn, allowing absurdity to flourish. We see absurdity through constant hypocrisy; the communist party representative of the region sleeping with teachers and slipping up with his political terminology, yet persecuting those around him for the very same thing. We see other shades of hypocrisy in upstanding citizens putting up a facade of patriotism just to stay out of trouble, like one teacher obliviously sustaining a slogan encouraging the Vietnamese in their war against the Americans - a war that had ended 10 years ago. Another example would be citizens taking advantage of the kangaroo court system for their own sexual interests.

What these many plot-points and character motivations suggest is an inherent set of interests within the community; interests that entail a need to find companionship or better social standing. With governmental bodies trying to control this only comes chaos, and such paints a picture of Slogans' poignant and witty social commentary. Its ultimate position then seems to state that people should be left with the freedom to exercise social inclinations; to be with who they wish to be, to say and do what they wish and to help those around them as they wish to.

So, to end, have you seen Slogans, if so, what are your thoughts on the narrative?

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