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Enemies of the State (1983)

Enemies of the State, written by Zdena Tomin, is a one-off drama-documentary.  It was produced by Granada Television, and first broadcast on 15 March 1983 (ITV, 8.30pm).

Running time: 1 hour and 20 minutes


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Enemies of the State takes place in Prague, Czechoslovakia, between 1977 and 1980.  It dramatises the real-life struggles of philosopher Julius Tomin and his wife, Zdena (played by ZoŽ), whose radical political views lead to them becoming victims of severe state oppression.  Scenes played out by Zoe and the other cast members are accompanied by the real Zdena's commentary (read by the programme's director, Eva Kolouchova) and footage of her family, helping to contextualise the events portrayed on screen.

At the beginning of the programme, Zdena's commentary provides political background to the unfolding events: 'Julius and 240 leading Czechs had signed a document called "Charter 77".  They were asking our Communist regime to end police brutality, and they were demanding the kind of freedoms taken for granted in the West'.  As a result of their actions, 'All the Chartists had become "enemies of the state"'.

Julius's radical views mean that he has found it impossible to secure a university post in Czechoslovakia, despite his obvious academic talents.  Instead, he runs an 'underground' university from the Tomins' living room, and is frequently arrested and detained for so doing.  As he explains to his wife, 'For the regime, everything outside their control is illegal'.  Zdena, an interpreter, is the sole breadwinner for the couple and their two children, teenager Lukas and young Marek. 

Initally, Julius's involvement with the Chartist movement leads to arguments between the forthright philospher and his wife, in particular when the family's unconventional political stance leads to Lukas being denied a place in higher education.  Growing despondent, Zdena pleads with her husband to give up his radical politics, but he holds firm to his ideals.  'Trouble is better than silence,' he insists.  As Julius points out to his wife when she is too anxious to sleep, the regime denies its subjects even the most basic of human rights: freedom from fear.

That realisation is a turning point for Zdena, and she decides to take action against the state, even if that means losing her job.  The humiliating, often brutal treatment to which Julius, his family, and friends are subjected by the authorities horrifies her.  Although mindful of the terrible personal cost of speaking out against the oppressive regime, Zdena's sense of injustice ultimately compels her to join her husband's protest.  She signs Charter 77 and encourages others to do the same.  By making a stand for free speech and human rights, she becomes a notable political activist in her own right.

Zdena joins the nine hundred or so members of the Chartist community - all of whom are forced to exist on the margins of society, inventing their own culture, entertainment, and political identity - and uses her interpreting skills to speak out to foreign journalists at a friend's trial.  The climax of her political career comes when she is appointed as a Charter 77 spokesperson: a high-profile, dangerous role that sees her intimidated, interrogated, and attacked by the regime.  Now it is Julius's turn to be worried, especially when his wife is placed under police guard, day and night, making the family virtual prisoners in their own home.

With their family's safety at the forefront of their minds, Zdena and Julius must make a difficult decision about their future.


Zdena Tomin ... ZoŽ Wanamaker
Julius Tomin ... Paul Freeman
Lukas Tomin ... Matthew Blakstad
Marek Tomin ... Nicholas Ellery
Alena ... Bernice Stegers
Vaclav Benda ... Leon Lissek
Kamila Benda ... Caroline Hutchinson
Jiri Dienstbier ... Stanley Lebor


Director: Eva Kolouchova
Producer: Michael Beckham
Designer: Colin Rees
Production Manager: Keith Thompson
Costume Designer: Doreen Whiteoak
Film Sound: Phil Smith


Although set in Czechoslovakia, Enemies of the State was actually filmed in Manchester.

At the end of the programme, the struggles of the Chartists are compared to those of the workers involved in a similar Eastern European human rights movement, the trade union Solidarity.  Reflecting her interest in socially and politically aware drama, Zoe had recently taken part in a drama-documentary about that trade union: Strike: The Birth of Solidarity (1981).

Press coverage

When Enemies of the State was broadcast in the USA, in 1988, the New York Times asserted that 'it is truth and it is convincingly conveyed'.


Unfortunately, Enemies of the State is not available on DVD.

Related links

Enemies of the State photos - Rex Features

Enemies of the State programme details - IMDB

Enemies of the State programme details - BFI Film & TV Database

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