Poland’s uninteresting- they’ve got sausages and stupid people and that’s it. Well, that’s what we’re lead to believe… But it turns out, they’ve also got film directors and really cool movie posters.
Poland is criminally undiscovered in terms of cinema; their greats are, disputably, Kieslowski and Polanski. But there are much more…
Skolimowski, a master of the human psyche, is mainly known for the films he made in the UK- Deep End, The Shout, etc. He’s a good friend of Roman Polanski, and their styles both have a few similar aspects, i.e. it would be fair to write an essay comparing Bariera to Knife in the Water. He’s still living and working, mostly with Vincent Gallo. He’s unknown to a lot of people, unfortunately not as much as the other directors below…
Kawalerowicz is pretty much known as “that guy who made Mother Joan of the Angels”. Now, to be honest, I haven’t seen any of his films, but he is a director I am very interested in. He made a lot of critically acclaimed films, such as Pharoah and Austeria.
Wajda, a leading member of the Polish Film School, is well-known for creating the classic Ashes and Diamonds, Kanal, and the epic The Ashes. He was the mentor of Skolimowski and Polanski. His father having died in WWII, some of his films have an anti-war background. He is alive and well.
Ryszard Bugajski made one of the most gripping and unsettling films I’ve seen, Przesluchanie (Interrogation) is about the cruel injustice against an innocent woman in Stalinist Poland who is being held a prisoner and tortured for several years.
Grzegorz Królikiewicz is a little known master whose film Tanczacy jastrzab (The Dancing Hawk) surprises with a highly innovative and breathtaking cinematography and experimental repetition of scenes, an almost surreal experience unlike anything else.
Zbigniew Rybczynski was not just the cinematographer on The Dancing Hawk, but he also made the wonderful animation work Tango as a director.
Wojciech Has is perhaps the greatest surreal filmmaker aside Luis Buñuel, his adaptation of Bruno Schulz’ short story The Hour-Glass Sanatorium is one of the most fascinating films I’ve yet seen.
Andrzej Żuławski has impressed me most with his otherworldly but sadly unfinished masterpiece Na srebrnym globie (On the Silver Globe) which could have been one of the landmarks of science fiction cinema if production hadn’t been stalled.
their greats are, disputably, Kieslowski and Polanski
this site would argue against that. (probably anyone that’s just breathed in Łódź at a certain time could pick up a camera and do something with it…)
i don’t know why you’re doing this brady but i love you. i decided this year to really watch some more polish cinema, by trying to work my way through that site….next up, Strachy ….then more pressing perhaps, learn polish…
and someone who’s seen most of them could really do with giving a proper intro to the polish documentary movement
personally i am in love with the certainly flawed but charming tadeusz konwicki right now….
oh and if you want more big names don’t forget agnieszka holland, andrzej munk, zanussi…
AND THE MYRIAD ANIMATORS! including as Apursansar mentioned, the great Zbig, piotr dumala, dear borowczyk…jan lenica, in fact all of these and my new discovery julian jozef antonisz
edit: i think i love apursansar as well….would love to see a nice clean scrubbed up dancing hawk on dvd!
i’m sorry i got a bit overexcited
Brady you are the new ambassador for Polish cinema:)
My personal favourites are Munk’s Passenger, Zanussi’s Year of the Quiet Sun, Kawalerowicz’s Pharoah, Wajda’s Landscape After Battle, and the Ashes, Kieslowski’s No End and Has’ Hour Glass Sanatorium.
I need to discover more Jerzy Skolimowski, and an earlier director in Aleksander Ford who made Knights of the Teutonic Order, a really beautiful film but not in the style of the new wave at all.
Another interesting film maker is Wanda Jakubowska who made Estani Etap in 1948.
Walerian Borowczyk is another great who is mostly known for his work in France, but some of early animations were made in Poland and I am keen to see some of them.
Modern day Polish filmmakers do not have the same street cred as their ageing counterparts, but in fact Poland in recent years has had a revival in fortunes. Andrzej Jakimowski made the beautiful Tricks available on dvd in the uk and I would urge anyone who can find this film to watch it. It’s subtle magic charm is spellbinding. An unexpected film to fall in love with:) Other films which I have not seen but have had good reviews include 35 Scenes From Life Malgorzata Szumowska, the Scratch Mihal Rosa, Before Twilight Jacek Blawut.
Just one correction Brady Wajda is not even remotely well known for the Ashes. The film has remained largely forgotten over the years. I hope at some point it will be restored and released on dvd somewhere in the world as it is a true masterpiece and deserves to be seen:)
@cyclo…i was completely surprised by tricks/sztuczki as well
haven’t seen anything yet but apparently xawery zulawski lives up well enough to his father’s reputation. also i want to see wrony by dorota kedzierzawska and all the dodgy looking ‘comedies’ made in the 80’s.
also sci-fi: piotr szulkin’s films and test pilot pirx by marek piestrak
and the ashes is on dvd, Here but no subs but for only £5 you might as well…
I have just seen Tricks is available to purchase here on Mubi at least for Europeans. Three pounds very well spent everybody.
Thank you Brady for creating this topic. Polish cinema is definitely worthy of more exposure.
I am truly convinced that, as said Heracle, "panta rei” – everything changes, everything evolves.
Therefore, I cannot think and see anymore as the young director who was shooting in the Polish reality
during the communist regime. I remember what were my aims; I used to try to reach them, and I think I
partly did. However, among all the films I made, there is none that I used to consider as the most
important one. A film is never finished. According to me there are no canonical films. – Andrzej Zulawski
The television industry doesn’t like to see the compexity of the world. It prefers simple reporting, with simple ideas: this is white, that’s black; this is good, that’s bad. – Krzysztof Kieslowski
Language also encodes our past. We want to know who we are. To know who we are, we have to know who we used to be. Consequently, our literature, written in the past, anchors us in that past. – Andrzej Wajda
Another vote for the unfinished and mutilated On the Silver Globe (“1988”), a surreal experience in more ways than one. I also admire a number of other films from the director, including The Devil and The Third Part of the Night. But he’s perhaps still best known for Possession, for which Adjani won an award at Cannes.
You might be right about Kawalerowicz, Brady. But I think his earlier Night Train, perhaps one of the last significant films of the so-called “Polish School,” is also quite good. And Death of a President is interesting as well.
Thanks for the links, twodeadmagpies.
Mother Joan Of The Angels… i saw this used at a record store, never heard of it, and bought it because i didn’t have any Polish movies at the time… it’s AWESOME.
The big names are familiar to moviegoers: Polanski, Wajda, Kieslowski, Kawalerowicz, Has, Munk, Hoffman, Ford…
However, the classic Polish cinema is sadly unknown, I could see these works through translation of a former resident and they are all fantastic:
Córka generala Pankratowa (1934)
Pan Twardowski (1936)
Florian (1938) & Zakazane piosenki (1947)
Kamienne niebo (1959)
Krzyz Walecznych (1959)
My current top 10 would be:
Ashes and Diamonds
Knights of the Teutonic Order
Knife in the Water
A Short Film about Love
And sure there are lots of gems to discover.
Thanks Apursansar for mentioning Bugajski’s Interrogation. Other than being an incredibly powerful film, the context of its making, banning and eventual premiere in Warsaw post 1989 makes for fascinating reading. Especially, the 35-page transcript (recorded on a smuggled dictaphone) of the meeting of the Cultural Committee that banned the film provides a stark and somewhat chilling picture of the repressive mechanisms of the Polish State. Second Run DVD has done a splendid job of this release!
Go here: http://www.secondrundvd.com/release_more_int.php
We shouldn’t forget Zanussi who made a number of exceptional films through the 60s and 70s, especially The Structure of Crystal, Behind the Wall, Illumination and Camouflage before The Year of the Quiet Sun in the 80s that Cyclo mentions.
I need to see The Dancing Hawk.
Thanks for the thread Brady, and kudos to your new last name :)
let’s expand the remit a little, for love….
it ain’t cinema, but by god it’s polish. + there IS a dvd
this thread is incredibly enriching, thanks to everyone who contributed
“Poland’s uninteresting- they’ve got sausages and stupid people and that’s it.” strange, i thought “the stupid people stereotype” definitely refers to americans.
anyway, few things about polish cinema. in my view totally underrated as for me 4 best cinematographies during (let’s say) the period 55-89 are french, italian, polish and czechoslovakian. i guess 45 years of the iron curtain took a heavy toll on polish cinema and that’s why it is pretty unknown outside poland apart from the obvious choices of kieslowski, polanski and wajda (his best-known are not his best!). (its probably the same with the cinema of czechoslovakia).
so, apart from those choices i’d recommend:
jerzy has (my favourite one)
jerzy skolimowski (my favourite one 2)
funny thing about polish cinematography during communism (i guess filmmakers from czechoslovakia can also relate to that) is that that business at that time wasn’t that much about the money. if the censorship agreed on starting a movie the artistic value of it was a key factor and the costs weren’t that much of an issue while the movie was “sponsored” by the party/government/nation. the whole process didn’t have to be that much cost-effective as i suppose it had to be in western countries. perhaps that’s why so many “art-house movies” were made during that period.
plus (you’re right brady!) those mind-blowing posters. to people who might be interested:
Yeah, what about Zulawski? He made a couple of films in Poland.
i forgot to say, wishes do come true: Grzegorz Królikiewicz box set including dancing hawk!
this director needs some serious rediscovery. he’s quite the film theorist, as far as my non-polish can gather… and his own wesite
i’d also add Witold Leszczyński and Wojciech Wiszniewski to this thread.
and of course Janusz Majewski (he knew Sławomir Mrożek!)‘s Lokis that no one’s got round to making subs for yet. hint hint.
“strange, i thought “the stupid people stereotype” definitely refers to americans.”
Królikiewicz is a professof of mine and I am very excited to be in his class.
For those interested, there’s a book called Polish New Wave/Polska Nowa Fala that discusses a lot of Skolimowski, Królikiewicz, and Żuławski’s work as well some of the films in the creative documentary area.
Don’t forget Marcel Łoziński’s 89mm od Europy:
Suggestions welcome for my Poland list
Up this thread!
Since I’m infatuated with Polish cinema , I will try to resurrect this thread and hopefully get more users interested in the range amount of great film this country has produced over the years .
I’d like to talk about Wojciech Jerzy Has’ last film The Tribulations of Balthazar Kober – one of his least known despite it being one of his best efforts , in my opinion .
The film is an adaptation of Frédérick Tristan‘s novel – It’s basically the story of a stuttering teenager ( Balthazar Kober ) , the only surviving child of a family who has been eradicated by the plague – he has constant episodes of hallucinations in which he interacts with dead members of his family . He has visions of archangel Gabriel who urges him to study theology in order to overcome his stammering but upon meeting Pappagallo – the director of a theater group and a beautiful woman known as Rose , he decides to leave the church and joins them . He subsequently meets Cammerschultz , an alchemist who takes Balthazar under his wings as they travel throughout Germany to finally reach Venice . The story takes place during the Inquisition, and therefore they are threatened by sectarianism due to their blasphemous ideologies.
The journey of Balthazar is much more of a spiritual one than a physical journey and one can’t stop but draw comparison with Carl Gustav Jung‘s theories on alchemy in analytical psychology – and it’s interesting to note that Frédérick Tristan himself translated several of Jung’s work .
The process of individuation which Jung’s theory revolves around is a journey that occurs within the psyche of a person , in which he encounters people that reflect a part of his Self – to have a more direct quotation :
The symbols of the individuation process…mark its stages like milestones
Each milestone adds pieces together and makes his discovery of his own identity closer to completion.
And the entire story is basically , Balthazar’s own discovery of himself through himself and the characters he meet each revealing an aspect of his identity ( We could make a point that his visions of himself represent his shadow , the alchemist is The Wise Old Man and Rose is the anima ) – but this interpretation remains fully subjective but nevertheless plausible .
The cinematography in this film is spellbinding just like in Has ’ Hourglass Sanatorium , the use of natural light is also reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon in terms of the image and beautiful colors in the film and as usual the mise-en-scene is nothing short of excellent .
And finally , a few screenshots
It might not be a masterpiece , but it’s an excellent surrealist film that falls into the same category of Has ’ The Saragossa Manuscript and Hourglass Sanatorium
Note : English subtitles for this film are available.
Mariusz Grzegorzek is a filmmaker mostly known for his disturbing experimental short film Krakatau which has earned him some considerable acclaim – but not too many people are acquainted with his other films .
I’ll try to talk briefly about Queen of Angels , a film he wrote and directed in 1999 .
The film is divided into two narrative structures with different spatiotemporal elements : the first occurs in a relatively modern setting , in which a doctor named Jacob reacts erratically when his fiancee Maria breaks up with him by kidnapping her and taking her into a dilapidated building where he subsequently shares with her the most intimate details of his life .
The second part of the story takes place in an isolated house – where Maria takes cares of a ( seemingly ) dying old woman and her daughter who is about to give birth to her first child . Upon the arrival of Jacob , a young priest ; who has come to assist the old woman – Maria falls madly in love with him and believes he is her guardian angel who has come to take her far away – only to be rejected by him .
Through a sequence of surrealist symbolic images , Mariusz Grzegorzek has created a dense existential film whose characters are longing for meaning and sense , suffering from despair , craving for love and seeking to obliterate loneliness from their lives .
The acting in this film is absolutely amazing – Gabriela Muskala‘s performance is simply mesmerizing – but the rest of the cast doesn’t fall short . Grzegorzek can guide his actors and it is perceptible throughout the film as everyone delivers great performances .
The cinematography in this film is interesting to say the least – in the first narrative , it seems like the scenes were shot with a hand-held camcorder creating a disorienting feel and making us question who’s narrating what constantly – the second part has a more traditional photography and camera use ; but the images created in this film are absolutely hypnotizing and the dream sequences will leave you in awe .
The film has excellent use of music that are exquisitely appropriated with each scene and each movement making everything harmonious .
And finally a few screenshots :