With the rise of right-wing politics in Central Europe in recent years, the ‘filter bubble’, meaning that all-encompassing social media rarely confronts people with opinions that oppose their own, has led to growing division between those to the left, the right and at the centre. Should you be standing in a left or centre bubble, Vít Klusák’s The White World According to Daliborek (2017) may help you peek outside it. Having been compared to the hybrid documentaries by Austrian director Ulrich Seidel, and partly recalling Joseph Martin and Sam Blair’s Keep Quiet (2016), the film sets focus on the radical right in Central Europe –Czechia, to be precise.
It follows ‘gentle Neo-Nazi’ Dalibor, as Klusák’s described him, and his life in small-town Czech Prostějov. Part documentary, part scripted, the film’s a ‘documentary play’, which shows Dalibor in the small flat he shares with his divorced, social-media-addict mother, at work with his occasionally drunk colleagues – and online, where he publishes racist, misogynist videos and music of a quality so horrifyingly bad it’s almost funny. Almost – because the more we see and hear of Dalibor, the more we realise that he’s, indeed, someone who misses Hitler and fantasises about killing Roma, refugees and Jews – spurred by Vladimír, his mother’s new boyfriend. Though Dalibor doesn’t like Vladimír at first, the two soon bond over the elder’s stories about attacking Roma camps in the 1990s. Though we can’t be sure how much of Vladimir’s talk is true and how much he’s just trying to impress Dalibor, his outright swearing at Roma and refugees as ‘vermin’ is chilling. Even Dalibor’s mother, who sporadically tries to appease her son’s actions related to drinking, not his racism, suggests that the drowned refugee child Alan Kurdi’s just a doll in some fake-news alert when they see his dead body on the news.
What starts off with home videos and shooting tins in an isolated forest soon leads to Dalibor’s participation in a Neo-Nazi meeting and, eventually, a trip to Auschwitz, where he challenges the story of a death-camp survivor, because he’s read on the internet that the death camp was only an ‘ordinary labour camp’. It’s hard to keep watching as Dalibor moves from one shocking statement to the next – which he’s all ‘researched’ online, of course.
The strange, and most uncomfortable, thing is, though, that we also see Dalibor’s soft side. He may be posing as a die-hard misogynist on YouTube, but he’s kind and gentle with his girlfriend Jana, who undoubtedly calls the shots. Their relationship reveals, more than anything, an old truth: nothing and nobody’s all ‘bad’ or all ‘good’. And it’s exactly this complexity that makes the film so difficult to watch. Based on his tinfoil hat truths and Neo-Nazi political views, Dalibor’s a despicable character, whom we’d expect to beat up the women in his life next to everyone else he threatens in his hate speech. Yet what we see is a frail character with limited mental ability. He’s surprisingly creative (though you might not agree with his aesthetic), and all too often, he just seems lost in the world. This doesn’t excuse Dalibor, but what Kusák shows us is the painful reality of someone without perspective, someone who’s all too easily manipulated because he lacks education and support. This is also why, having watched The White World According to Daliborek, it’s important to get over the first moments of shock you’ll most likely experience when seeing it through. And think.
The film’s just a year-and-a-half old, but its topic’s more relevant than ever: right-wing riots took place in Chemnitz just a few months ago. Like Prostějov, Chemnitz is a town in a post-communist country, where the unskilled population feels left out – and the Right capitalises on their desperation. When drawing these parallels,The White World According to Daliborek’s more than black humour at its darkest. Intercut by pensive, long stills of microwaves, high-rises and the many screens Dalibor’s mother relies on, we’re set to think about the connection between social disadvantage, social media, and an ever-more powerful political Right. It’s difficult to say that The White World According to Daliborek’s an enjoyable film to watch. But it’s a brilliant one, which encourages long-overdue thinking.
The White World According to Daliborek screens at Regent Street Cinema on 3 November at 4pm.