Film of the Week – Easter Time in Pruchnik

“At the beginning of most of my films there is the irrational, something I don't understand. The starting point of this film was the question why the residents of a small town in Poland would take pleasure in the annual excessive lynching of an oversized Judas puppet“, says director Andreas Horvath about his film The Passion according to the Polish Community of Pruchnik

The thirty-minute film by Austrian documentarist Andreas Horvath The Passion according to the Polish Community of Pruchnik (2009) captures the rituals related to Good Friday in a village in the South East of Poland. On the night before the essential holiday of the Christian calendar, a group of men meet in the barn to make a puppet of Judas of burlap and straw. The camera follows the process of the making of a future scapegoat, with voices in voice-over telling about the great number of Jews and their fundamental position in the social hierarchy of the village in times past. These remarks as well as the oversized nose of the puppet indicate that the context of the local ritual could be much more complex than just that of a collective expression of the pious love for Christ. The next day, the puppet is beaten and dragged through the village in the presence of both children and adults, to be finally ripped by a knife, set on fire and thrown into the river. The final act alludes to the mixing of pagan and Christian customs, with Judas representing both Jesus’ traitor and the deadly winter. In the last part of the film, the camera shifts to the guards, symbolically guarding Christ’s tomb and his body. In contrast to the frenzied scenes of the lynching of Judas, the uniformed guards are moving with grace and dignity.
Horvath’s film is often interpreted as a probe into the anti-Semitism present under the cover of the local Christian ritual and, perhaps, in the core of the whole of Polish society. However, as for the possible interpretations, the director says the following: “The guarding of the grave of Jesus until resurrection at the end of the film is tightly connected to the preceding events. Obviously the one cannot exist without the other: we need to destroy the bogeyman Judas first, in order to augment our respect and love for Jesus. I am not sure anti-Semitism is the main problem here. Most villagers probably have other motives to participate. I think a far more universal logic is responsible for the unfolding events: hypocrisy and the thinking in stereotypes. Maybe this is the most disturbing aspect of this story. “

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