Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bieganski in Sweden? "Morkt Vatten" or "Dark Water"

Blog reader Artur Szulc sent this in, and granted permission for me to post it.

"I do not know if you ever have studied the Bieganski stereotype in countries other than US, but I can tell you that it is alive and kicking in Sweden. One obvious example is the movie "Mörkt vatten" (in English, "Dark Water").

The movie is in Swedish cinemas right now.

It is about a couple of real estate brokers who go to stay in a big house which is up for sale. Their job is to check that everything is ok before the sale. Short after their arrival, a Polish craftsman presents himself and says he is to do some finishing jobs on that house. Of course, the man is a psycho. He is depicted as lazy, scruffy, thickheaded and as a Peeping Tom who stands outside and looks at the young couple in bed.

I have not yet seen the movie, only read reviews, and some of the Swedish reviewers are very harsh in their criticism, because the movie is based on prejudice against people from the East."

Neither Artur nor I has seen "Morkt Vatten." Has anyone out there seen it, or seen press about it, who might be able to tell us more? Thank you.

The trailer for "Mokt Vatten" is here.


I thank blog reader Mieszko for drawing our attention to a 2010 Canadian film, "The Shrine," that depicts cult-based human sacrifice in modern-day Poland. 

"The Shrine" exemplifies for me why I work on Bieganski, the Brute Polak stereotype in its entirety, rather than any one manifestation of it, and why any response to it must address the entire stereotype, rather than just one phrase (e.g. "Polish concentration camps") or one demonized, purported enemy (Jan Tomasz Gross.)

The Bieganski, Brute Polak stereotype is culture-wide, it is pervasive, and it pertains to every aspect of EE Bohunk identity, not just discussions of the Holocaust, not just discussions between Poles and Jews. Blaming the Jews or the leftists, as two recent books have done (reviewed on the blog here and here) gets us nowhere. We must do the hard work of uniting, supporting each other, organizing, and acting strategically, not randomly, as described in this series of blog posts

If you are a Canadian and you want to make a film today about a scary place where weird cult members sacrifice human beings, your location of choice is Poland, exactly because of the Brute Polak stereotype.

As ever, I encourage people who want to better understand this phenomenon, and who wish to be intellectually equipped to begin to address it, to read Bieganski and this blog. 

Please have a look at the trailer for "The Shrine" here.


  1. Echoes of the 'sleazy' Poles we saw in "the Fugitive". On a slightly better note, in the superb BBC series "Five Days" (series 1), the witty, intelligent forensic examiner is one Dr. Tobolska.

  2. I watched the trailer and read a few Swedish reviews (courtesy of Google Translate). This may be the Bieganski stereotype incarnated, but it seems to be so grotesque that I find the whole thing rather amusing :)

    Poles as uncouth blue collar psychopaths determined to harass well-educated, graceful Nordics. Cute :)


  3. And - also on the positive side - there is the lovely Kochanski in the brilliantly funny sci-fi TV series "Red Dwarf". If you haven't seen it, you need to see it from the start, as it has a series of running jokes that get funnier and funnier. Pity about this Swedish movie though. I don't know whether this is a result of the American media constantly signalling who is "uber" and who is "unter" in PC terms or not. And that is the problem - the political agenda is muddying the waters so much. I couldn't and wouldn't complain about Poles sometimes being portrayed as the villains, if it weren't for that agenda. So I don't know if this is a deliberate drop of poison - or not.

  4. I have another Bieganski-themed movie for You,this time from Canada:
    portraying a Polish village as akin to...lets say, an Amish settlement....have a look at

  5. Mieszko, thank you. Here is an imdb thread devoted to the film "The Shrine" about human sacrifice in modern-day Poland.

  6. Sorry, can't accept that The Shrine depends on the Bieganski stereotype. The "bad guys" look Nordic, the name of the place (Alvaina) doesn't even sound Eastern European and many examples of this type of film have been made set in different parts of the world not least in parts of the United States. We can go back to Deliverance others include The Hills have Eyes, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Devil's Rejects and literally many, many more.

    Mieszko, if you've seen this film then perhaps you can answer the following question : what elements that the public at large identify as Polish (if any) does the film present to the viewer as essentially Polish and which could not be transplanted to any other country/region? Only when that question is answered can we assess if this film deploys the Bieganski stereotype.

  7. "The Shrine" relies on the Bieganski stereotype and is a manifestation of it.

    I'm careful about what I post here and what I say. I have to be. I get a fair amount of hate mail from people who have a problem with this project.

    Regular readers know that. Previous posts, and my reviews on Amazon, argue, for example, against demonizing Jan Tomasz Gross. An Amazon review says good things about his book "Fear."

    In short, not all books, films, songs, newspaper articles, etc, that say bad things about Poles or other EE are examples of "Bieganski."


    "The Shrine" is an example of Bieganski. Read reviews on IMDB, read the Wikipedia page devoted to the film, and view the clips available on youtube.

    The filmmakers are Canadian. they are operating with a low budget. They went out of their way to locate their film in Poland, to spend money to create sets replicating their idea of Poland, and to have actors speak Polish.

    Why? Because part of the Bieganski, Brute Polak stereotype is an idea of EE as a dark, primitive, weirdly and darkly religious place. All the negative manifestations of religion are associated with EE. Examples of this stretch from "Dracula" to "The Painted Bird." this is part of our cultural baggage.

    "Deliverance" is an American film set in America that perfectly demonstrates my point. In the introductory chapter of "Bieganski," I talk about the relationship of the "Bieganski" stereotype to the "white trash" / "trailer trash" / "redneck" / "hillbilly" stereotype in the US. Thus, "Deliverance."

    Ditto "Texas Chainsaw Massacre."

    Other horror films not set in scary rural / alien locales heighten features of more familiar locals with which the viewer is uncomfortable. "The Stepford Wives" took our discomfort with the sterility, pleasantness, and sameness of conventional suburbia and heightened that to horror proportions.

  8. Another detail:

    "the name of the place (Alvaina) doesn't even sound Eastern

    Total ignorance of the REAL EE is very much part of the Bieganski stereotype.

    An example:

  9. Here's another Canadian movie for your consideration: "Sure Shot Dombrowski". I believe the filmmaker actually won an award for this, though it never received wide release (thankfully)

  10. Danusha you write that the film makers "went out of their way to locate the film in Poland". All films are constructions but how do you know they "went out of their way" to set it in Poland? Unless you know what was said at the script conferences you have no evidence about them "going out of their way" I've read your book and am well aware of your argument about the connection between the "white trash" stereotype and the Brute Polak stereotype. It's an important connection.

    "Films with negative manifestations of religion are associated with EE". This is not true. for example, there is a whole sub-genre of films, often referred to as Nunsploitation, that are usually set in Italy or some other western Catholic country or films like Witchfinder General, that is set in mid 17th century England and in which religion has a negative portrayal.

    i am not arguing that the Shrinedoes not rely on the Bieganski ST but that setting is not enough to categorise it that way.

  11. If we have to live with the Bieganski stereotype, then I prefer the 'Poles - bad guys" scenario than the 'Poles - subject of scorn' alternative. If there is any. At least as, shall we say, sociopaths they are independent agents rather than mindless subjects of ridicule - I think that Dr Goska mentioned the Polish-American couple in "Bruce Almighty" (2003) in her book.

    Interestingly, video games tend to present Poles as the former (and in a comparatively positive light) rather than the latter. Is it possible that mocking is more fun to watch across the fourth barrier than to directly participate in?

    B.J. Blazkowicz ( is a Polish-American WWII hero and a protagonist in the best-selling first-person-shooter (FPS) series "Wolfenstein". Michael Zelazny ( is a first-generation Polish-American ex-soldier that likes to quote the Bible and take justice in his own hands in the commercially successful and critically acclaimed "Deus Ex: Human Revolutions" from 2011. In the game's universe, he is on the good side and may even help the leading character.

    Incidentally, Deus Ex was developed in Canada - just like the Shrine.

    Ideally, Poles and Polonians should overcome the crisis in Polonian leadership, organization and vision that Dr Goska identified ( In the meantime, should Poles and Polonians hope for the decline of the film industry and the rise of interactive entertainment? Perhaps they should.

    Follower (that is still doing his research and learning a lot from this blog)


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