Edited by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld


Edited by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Counterfactual Communists? Netflix Announces Polish Alternate History Series Will Be Called "1983"


I just saw that Netflix’s forthcoming alternate history series about Solidarity-era Poland has now been given an official name: “1983.”  

(To paraphrase a classic line from the film, This is Spinal Tap, I'm assuming the name means that it's "one less" than George Orwell's famous dystopian novel, 1984).


In a press release yesterday, Netflix announced that 1983 will be directed by Academy Award-Nominee Agnieszka Holland and “feature Robert Więckiewicz and Maciej Musiał as a disgraced police investigator and an idealistic law student who stumble upon a conspiracy that changed the course of the nation and kept the Iron Curtain standing.”

Shot in Warsaw, Wroclaw, Lublin, and Silesia, the series is based on the following premise: 

“Twenty years after a devastating terrorist attack in 1983 that halted the course of Poland's liberation and the subsequent downfall of the Soviet Union, an idealistic law student and a disgraced police investigator stumble upon a conspiracy that has kept the Iron Curtain standing and Poland living under a repressive police state.  Now, in 2003, after two decades of peace and prosperity, the leaders of the regime enact a secret plan made with an unlikely adversary in the 1980s that will radically transform Poland and affect the lives of every citizen in the nation - and the world. What these two men discover has the potential to ignite a revolution and those in power will stop at nothing to keep it a secret.”

I imagine the writers of the series pitched it to producers as “Fatherland meets Solidarity” -- in the sense that the 1992 Robert Harris thriller and later HBO film also featured a police investigator trying to bring a deep (in its case, Nazi) secret to light.  This time the offending party is probably the Polish communist party.  But who knows, when international intrigue is involved....

As always, alternate histories have clear political messages.  It remains to be seen
how “those in power” in “1983” will be interpreted.  If they are communists, then Poland’s current right-wing Law and Justice government will probably be content.  But, needless to say, the government of 1983 can easily be interpreted as symbolic of the current government -- in which case, we can expect substantial criticism of the series.  Meanwhile, American viewers will probably interpret the show – especially the hunt for the pivotal “secret” -- against the backdrop of Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation of President Trump’s possible collusion with Russia.  

Much of this is (fittingly) speculative.  But we shall soon find out.  1983 is supposed to debut later this year.


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