A portrait of an average, everyday Neo-Nazi, The White World According to Daliborek illustrates East-Central European ennui in the form of a gently ironic documentary.
Pathos stalks the world of white supremacist Daliborek from the opening frame of Vit Klusák’s sympathetically drawn portrait of a Czech racist. The sympathy is not for Daliborek’s revolting beliefs, but for the poor sinner himself.
Welcome to Hell
Fuzzy webcam images of a tall, slightly pudgy man sitting in a nondescript, cheaply furnished room with an open laptop, introduce us to the cyberworld of Daliborek. Wearing a black leather waistcoat, a dead giveaway that he inhabits fashion hell as well as other hells, Dalibor (as he prefers to be known) uses a voice synthesizer to address his audience in gratingly devilish tones.
«Klusák’s film–made with not only the cooperation, but approval of its subject–wastes little time in establishing the frugal frames of this white, working class (if not exactly underclass) man’s world.»
“Welcome to hell…” He is the master of all he surveys; the lord of a world accessed via his computer screen. In a cut-away shot we see that his webcast has had all of 187 views, giving us a clue to where this gently ironic documentary (at times it seems more mockumentary) is headed.
The White World According to Daliborek, produced by Prague’s Hypermarket Films, is from a director who was part of the team that delighted audiences in 2004 with their debut documentary Czech Dream, about the all-pervading emptiness of the Czechs’ enthusiastic embrace of consumer capitalism after the Velvet Revolution of 1989 saw the collapse of communism.
Diving into the strange world of sad loner Dalibor is essentially part of that same trajectory: what becomes of a country and its people when a monolithic system collapses, especially a people whose thin history as a sovereign nation gives them little in the way of stable roots?
Working Class Nazi
For a Slavic people who suffered grievously under the Nazis (who occupied first the ethnic German Sudetenland border region and then the entire country shortly before the outbreak of World War Two) the ubiquity of white neo-Nazis such as Dalibor is perhaps surprising. But the pestilence of fascism is something hard to rub out, as the resurgence of popular right-wing parties in Germany and Austria currently demonstrates.
Klusák’s film–made with not only the cooperation, but approval of its subject–wastes little time in establishing the frugal frames of this white, working class (if not exactly underclass) man’s world: he lives with his mum, gets up early to go to work (the shot of him clutching a budget supermarket’s plastic bag at an otherwise deserted bus stop is a small masterpiece) at a small old-fashioned garage where he spray-paints metal components in a cluttered workshop, earning just 375 euros a month. It is precisely the sort of job that is rapidly falling prey to automation throughout Europe, hinting at the deeper reasons for Dalibor’s apparent hatred of those he considers “others”: it is a self-loathing, a fear that he will soon end up on the scrap heap of capitalism, though he does not see it that way himself. Meanwhile mum Věra spends her days smoking in the kitchen, watching Latin-American romantic soap operas and searching for love online. It is a picture of East-Central European ennui.
«We are barely cognizant of Dalibor’s political views, but already we cannot escape immediate sympathy for the good-looking, muscular man.»
Dalibor’s world is a small one: work, home, his mates. “Is your mum asleep?” one asks as they play a violent computer game in Dalibor’s bedroom. Here we have just seen him posing for selfies with guns, weights, a cuddly toy and other props lying around, such as a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf which is lazily observed by the camera. “She’ll give us hell if she catches us smoking in here,” his friend adds.
It is a clever approach: we are barely cognizant of Dalibor’s political views, but already we cannot escape immediate sympathy for the good-looking, muscular man. The director drips out small, telling details: a conversation with a workmate allows for details of Dalibor’s childhood to emerge. An only child, his father was a boozing womanizer who would even make a play for his mother’s girlfriends. When mum was on night shift the young Dalibor was afraid to be at home alone with his father. As we later learn, his father had been a forced labourer in Germany during the war, perhaps helping explain the subsequent alcoholism.
Beginning of Change
And there is clearly something rather Oedipal going on between the 36 year old man and his mother. When she tells him she has invited her (as yet unseen) social media date to stay the night, he explodes in self-pitying rage. Later Věra comes to sit on the side of his bath as he calms down beneath the bubbles, and suggests that it was time he found a wife who would care for him in the way she does.
«With his clumsy attempt at a relationship with a local woman, cheesy lyrics to the painfully sung songs he composes and umbilical link to his mother, Dalibor is a painfully pitiful figure, more naive than Nazi.»
Dalibor does his best to ruin the date, stomping around swearing and banging doors (though it turns out that Věra ‘s new beau is much more of a Nazi than Dalibor, or so he says.) The next scene we see is a video he has made of his own “funeral”, replete with onscreen captions: “Burn in hell Dalibor, I hate you… your God.” The sense that The White World According to Daliborek exists only inside Dalibor’s head becomes inescapable.
With his clumsy attempt at a relationship with a local woman, cheesy lyrics to the painfully sung songs he composes and umbilical link to his mother, Dalibor is a painfully pitiful figure, more naive than Nazi. It is to his credit that after a trip to Auschwitz where he learns that he had Jewish ancestors (this we see in the film’s epilogue) he comes to understand his beliefs only cause him pain and grief, and he begins to change, taking down the Nazi flags in his bedroom and deleting 100s of neo-Nazi friends from his social media accounts, writing to the film’s producers: “I am too old and tired to worry about being dragged to court because of your film. You know I have never hurt anyone and am not some kind of villain…”