Communism with Its Clothes Off: Eastern European Film Comedy and the Grotesque
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The dissertation examines the legacies of grotesque comedy in the cinemas of Eastern Europe. The absolute non-seriousness that characterized grotesque realism became a successful and relatively safe way to talk about the absurdities and the failures of the communist system. This modality, however, was not exclusive to the communist era but stretched back to the Austro-Hungarian era and forward into the Postcommunist times. The analysis explores how film comedy provided a second, carnivalesque world that mirrored official culture in a grotesque way and ridiculed it, and as such these comedies indicated the failure of the Grand Narrative of Communism. The films constituted a much-needed alternative public sphere, where the controversies and absurdities in the dominant social structures could emerge in a critical light. They demystified the workings of state communism in two important ways: first, they revealed that ideological and material reality were incongruous and often contradictory and that the illusion of ideological reality was forcefully maintained through language. Secondly, the films disclosed that the communist state's biopolitics was ultimately unsuccessful since it failed to fully integrate the individuals into its ideological project and instead encouraged a particular"doublethink" to emerge (where people simultaneously accepted and defied communist control over their bodies). Ultimately, in its carnivalesque representations, Eastern European cinema performed an important counter-cultural function that commented on the very ontology of existing socialism: the films pointed to an irreconcilable contradiction between communist ideology and material reality that would ultimately lead to the system's demise as well as the state's aggressive attempts and failures to interpellate its subjects fully and successfully.