Angi Vera (1979)

Pál Gábor's Angi Vera is a story of Communist-controlled Hungary during and after the forced Stalinization era of the late 1940s and early 1950s. During this time period, the Hungarian Workers' Party was consolidating power after the forced unification of the Social Democrat Party and the Communist party. One way that this consolidation was accomplished on a mass basis was for ideologically susceptible people to be recruited and trained to be able to spread Communist beliefs and dogma throughout the population. The film concerns the ideological seduction of one such young woman, Vera Angi.

A professor of mine who grew up in Soviet Russia once said in class, "Socialism didn't alter reality. It simply altered the perception of reality. Ultimately, by government repression, people came to believe in their own happiness." This is very much the story of Angi Vera. The same feelings attend human beings at certain stages of their lives. As young people facing uncertain futures, they make choices about whether to follow certain paths set out for them, or to create or seek out new ways of living their lives. Some are optimistic and some are pessimistic; some do not know what to expect. Vera Angi is a very normal young woman, who happens to have been orphaned, who finds herself at a stage in her life when she must make such decisions.

At a workers' meeting at the hospital where she works, Vera speaks up against the hospital administration, which has not outgrown the "corruption" of capitalist forces. As she does so, she almost shakes. What might seem a simple statement is a real emotional manifesto for Vera: she has made her decision to follow a path in life, whether she realizes the implications of that decision or not.

Vera is approached by a Party functionary who is seeking out recruits for a Communist training camp. The Party officials are looking for people who are willing to believe in the Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist line and dedicate their lives to it, out of a need to believe, perhaps, as much as any real conviction. Vera is the kind of person they are looking for. She is young, malleable, indebted to the State, willing to fight for convictions, though at the time she has few. They have the idea to step in and create new convictions for her. From her own hope for the future and naïve idealism, Vera finds herself willing to submit to such an education.

In the camp, Vera meets people from different walks of life. Mária Muskát (Éva Szabó) is a strong-willed woman who has worked for the State in the past, redistributing land. Anna Traján (Erzsi Pásztor) seems to be some kind of a "plant" sent to live among the new recruits and inform on them. Vera's study group leader is István André (Tamás Dunai). József Neubauer (László Horváth) is a textile worker who at first runs away from the camp because he finds the work too difficult and misses his family.

Through a series of meetings, classes, and indoctrination by example, Vera learns what will be expected of her as a Communist. She seems to find it acceptable, or at least palatable when considering the benefits it will bring her. Her belief seems genuine, but it stems from the feeling, justified or not, that the Communist system will take care of her.

When Neubauer comes back to the camp after his attempted escape, he criticizes himself in public. Belief moves Vera to offer to help him with his studies. This is the first sign that Vera is a "true believer." All of the stands she takes are on behalf of the Party, and so she is not criticized for them. Vera also stands up to Mária when Mária begins to criticize the camp leadership. The other class members, at first sympathetic to Mária, side with Vera when they see that hers is the "correct" sentiment. They quickly change positions: it is such a simple thing to do and safer.

The major test of Vera's dedication to the cause comes when she has an affair with her teacher, István. At first, Vera feels that she is in love with him. He feels the same way about her. After their romantic encounter, however, Vera begins to feel enormous guilt for having violated the rules of the camp. At a climactic self-criticism session, Vera admits having an affair and says that she was only in love with the Party and its authority and confused her feelings with love for István. István defends himself, recounting his deeds for the Party.

In the end, Vera, who has devoted herself completely to the Party, is rewarded with a good job as a journalist (her name suggests "true messenger of God" or "messenger of truth"). Anna Traján accompanies her to be a powerful editor. Mária, in consideration of a minor infraction of Party discipline, is sent back to her same job. István, a minor rebel, disappears, probably to a "harsh but just" punishment. Angi Vera is "harsh but just" as well, an unblinking look at what totalitarianism can mean to real people who want to have a good life, simply.

Links for Angi Vera

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