Talented Polish director Agnieszka Holland who would be better known in later years because of her films like Europa, Europa (1991) or some of her American works like Washington Square (1997), hits the mark early and again with this ostensible story about provincial actors in Poland. In reality, the comedy-drama can be read as a commentary on the contemporary Polish scene in politics and society. The story begins as a savvy director arrives in a small town to put on a stage play. His leading man is filled with insecurities and goes beyond the confines of his lead role to expand his part, restore his cut lines, and generally outdo himself while taking on some of everyone else’s job, including the director’s. No one wants to lose him because of his drawing power, and the director is caught in a bind. At the same time, the lead actor’s wife is slowly losing her chances at success, being relegated to a much lesser position in the troupe. This fine comedy won the Fipresci award at the 1980 Cannes Film Festival.
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Thoroughly and rather inscrutably Polish, Angelus makes a fable of Poland’s 20th-century history. In it, caricatures of Hitler and Stalin mix with angels, saints, and a kooky band of sun-worshipping cultists who believe a ray from Saturn will destroy the planet. In a world director Majewski renders in stylized, eccentric tableaus, this eschatology seems fairly reasonable–even if it means a naked, virginal teen boy must be sacrificed to absorb the ray and save the Earth. (Is he a Christ figure? Well, Angelus is fairly well suffused with religious symbolism, so you do the math.) This guileless chosen one narrates the decades-spanning tale, which often suggests a gentler kind of Emir Kustericia-style absurdist nationalism (see Underground) shorn of sex and violence. What lies next for Poland after the horrors of WWII and repression of the communist era? How will the world end? Judged by the movie (if not its prophecies), more with a whimper than a bang.
A kidnapped happiness
In Wrony (Crows, 1994), the central place is given once again to a little girl, this time set against the background of a small town. It also is a film about love, but this time about the absence of it. Wrona, the skinny and mouthy girl of a fragile build with a face of both an innocent and a scamp, kidnaps another little girl (Maleństwo) from the neighbourhood. She does so in order to find someone to love and to be loved herself.
A portrait of socialist Poland circa 1971 that recounts the last years of Polish poet Rafal Wojaczek, a rebel who became a legend.
Review from the New York Times
Wojaczek is a charming, maddening poète maudit whose every waking moment is a rebellion against the world around him. That world, Poland in the late 1960′s — the real Wojaczek died in 1971, at the age of 26 — is presented in gorgeously grim black and white. Mr. Majewski’s camerawork has an almost classical austerity, and for its first half the movie seems as static and distant as his shots. But just as Wojaczek’s nihilism has a core of passionate wit, so too does the movie as it moves deathward, picking up glimmers of humor amid the gloom. The funniest scenes — which might have come from the imagination of Jim Jarmusch or the young David Lynch — take place at a cavernous literary cafe, where a band called the Secret performs deadpan pop tunes while Wojaczek glowers and rants. Mr. Majewski’s view of him is candid, but also unmistakably romantic; he would rather present Wojaczek’s enigma than unravel it. Continue reading
ANDRZEJ ZULAWSKI’S adaptation of Manuela Gretkowska’s provocative and hugely successful novel reaches new extremes in the depiction of brutality, sex, and passion as it tells the story of a young(ish) anthropologist driven by the mystery surrounding the death of a recently discovered shaman; and his growing obsession with an enigmatic yet violently perverse beauty known as “The Italian”.SZAMANKA (She-Shaman) is a film ‘without brakes’. Above all else, it is a ‘demonic’ film where characters are battlegrounds in the war between demons and angels, where angels are agents of God and demons are those of the Devil. This pulpy, sexually charged tale with its deranged erotic futurism underlines Zulawski’s commitment to stretch the limits of aesthetic expression by exploring themes beyond the pale in conventional cinema. Violence, exuberance and sexuality are its key ingredients. Through hysteria, possession and hallucination we see what the Polish writer Stanislaw Przybyszewski called ‘naked soul’. Continue reading
In 1943 Poland was under nazi occupation, but the tragedy of the war seemed far-away from Poworna Estate. Other tragedies instigated by the narrator Witold and mysterious Frederick disrupted the lives of the characters reunited in the isolated estate: the “dangerous relationship” between Henia and Karol, orchestrated by Fredrick; the senseless murder of Amelia, Waclaw’s mother, Henia’s fiance; the sad event involving the partisan commander Siemain, that had to be eliminated because he lost control of his nerves. But punishment soon followed. Continue reading
*The official submission of Poland to the Best Foreign Language Film of the 85th Academy Awards 2013.
A new film by Waldemar Krzystek. Poland, Lower Silesia, the beginning of a very cold winter 1981. After the series of entrapments by the Security Service a confrontation between the opposition and the communists seems to be inevitable. Just before the proclamation of martial law a group of young Solidarity activists decide to play va banque and organize a rash action to take out 80 million of the Union money from one of the Wroclaw’s banks before the account would be blocked. Security Service officers follow their steps. It’s the beginning of a gripping tournament in which also priests and curb dealers will play their parts. Each side has aces up their sleeve. Continue reading