Cinema of Poland


Ashes and Diamonds (1958, Andrzej Wajda)

 

Anguished Land (1967, Glauber Rocha)

 

Evolution of a Filipino Family (2004, Lav Diaz)

 

They all clambered into Mikolka’s cart, laughing and making jokes. Six men got in and there was still room for more. They hauled in a fat, rosy-cheeked woman. She was dressed in red cotton, in a pointed, beaded headdress and thick leather shoes; she was cracking nuts and laughing. The crowd round them was laughing too and indeed, how could they help laughing? That wretched nag was to drag all the cartload of them at a gallop! Two young fellows in the cart were just getting whips ready to help Mikolka. With the cry of “now,” the mare tugged with all her might, but far from galloping, could scarcely move forward; she struggled with her legs, gasping and shrinking from the blows of the three whips which were showered upon her like hail. The laughter in the cart and in the crowd was redoubled, but Mikolka flew into a rage and furiously thrashed the mare, as though he supposed she really could gallop.

 

“Let me get in, too, mates,” shouted a young man in the crowd whose appetite was aroused.

 

“Get in, all get in,” cried Mikolka, “she will draw you all. I’ll beat her to death!” And he thrashed and thrashed at the mare, beside himself with fury.

 

“Father, father,” he cried, “father, what are they doing? Father, they are beating the poor horse!”

 

“Come along, come along!” said his father. “They are drunken and foolish, they are in fun; come away, don’t look!” and he tried to draw him away, but he tore himself away from his hand, and, beside himself with horror, ran to the horse. The poor beast was in a bad way. She was gasping, standing still, then tugging again and almost falling.

 

“Beat her to death,” cried Mikolka, “it’s come to that. I’ll do for her!”

 

“What are you about, are you a Christian, you devil?” shouted an old man in the crowd.

 

“Did anyone ever see the like? A wretched nag like that pulling such a cartload,” said another.

 

“You’ll kill her,” shouted the third.

 

“Don’t meddle! It’s my property, I’ll do what I choose. Get in, more of you! Get in, all of you! I will have her go at a gallop!…”

 

All at once laughter broke into a roar and covered everything: the mare, roused by the shower of blows, began feebly kicking. Even the old man could not help smiling. To think of a wretched little beast like that trying to kick!

 

Two lads in the crowd snatched up whips and ran to the mare to beat her about the ribs. One ran each side.

 

“Hit her in the face, in the eyes, in the eyes,” cried Mikolka.

 

“Give us a song, mates,” shouted someone in the cart and everyone in the cart joined in a riotous song, jingling a tambourine and whistling. The woman went on cracking nuts and laughing.

 

… He ran beside the mare, ran in front of her, saw her being whipped across the eyes, right in the eyes! He was crying, he felt choking, his tears were streaming. One of the men gave him a cut with the whip across the face, he did not feel it. Wringing his hands and screaming, he rushed up to the grey-headed old man with the grey beard, who was shaking his head in disapproval. One woman seized him by the hand and would have taken him away, but he tore himself from her and ran back to the mare. She was almost at the last gasp, but began kicking once more.

 

“I’ll teach you to kick,” Mikolka shouted ferociously. He threw down the whip, bent forward and picked up from the bottom of the cart a long, thick shaft, he took hold of one end with both hands and with an effort brandished it over the mare.

 

“He’ll crush her,” was shouted round him. “He’ll kill her!”

 

“It’s my property,” shouted Mikolka and brought the shaft down with a swinging blow. There was a sound of a heavy thud.

 

“Thrash her, thrash her! Why have you stopped?” shouted voices in the crowd.

 

And Mikolka swung the shaft a second time and it fell a second time on the spine of the luckless mare. She sank back on her haunches, but lurched forward and tugged forward with all her force, tugged first on one side and then on the other, trying to move the cart. But the six whips were attacking her in all directions, and the shaft was raised again and fell upon her a third time, then a fourth, with heavy measured blows. Mikolka was in a fury that he could not kill her at one blow.

 

“She’s a tough one,” was shouted in the crowd.

 

“She’ll fall in a minute, mates, there will soon be an end of her,” said an admiring spectator in the crowd.

 

“Fetch an axe to her! Finish her off,” shouted a third.

 

“I’ll show you! Stand off,” Mikolka screamed frantically; he threw down the shaft, stooped down in the cart and picked up an iron crowbar. “Look out,” he shouted, and with all his might he dealt a stunning blow at the poor mare. The blow fell; the mare staggered, sank back, tried to pull, but the bar fell again with a swinging blow on her back and she fell on the ground like a log.

 

“Finish her off,” shouted Mikolka and he leapt beside himself, out of the cart. Several young men, also flushed with drink, seized anything they could come across—whips, sticks, poles, and ran to the dying mare. Mikolka stood on one side and began dealing random blows with the crowbar. The mare stretched out her head, drew a long breath and died.

 

“You butchered her,” someone shouted in the crowd.

 

“Why wouldn’t she gallop then?”

 

“My property!” shouted Mikolka, with bloodshot eyes, brandishing the bar in his hands. He stood as though regretting that he had nothing more to beat.

 

- Crime and Punishment (1866, Fyodor Dostoyevsky)

Essential Killing (2010)
Jerzy Skolimowski
English/Polish/Arabic

 

Essential KillingJerzy Skolimowski’s Essential Killing (2010) opens with helicopter shots of a nearly otherworldly desert with dizzyingly abstract contours – more of a psychoscape than a landscape – through which Taliban (?) soldier and protagonist Mohammed (Vincent Gallo) maneuvers unsuccessfully. Maneuvering is what Mohammed does throughout the film, as he sneaks out of an American (?) facility and traverses the frozen geography of what seems like Russia (?), while his memories, fantasies, visions and reality coalesce to form an amorphous psychic force that drives him. (For a film that’s so keen on ‘observing without judgment, this sort of alternate psychoanalysis is threatening if not fatal). The irony here is that Mohammed, supposedly a brainwashed killing machine for whom death translates to martyrdom, is exhibiting the highest forms of survival instinct. And an assortment of this kind of contradictions – behaviour as a negation of ideology – is what Essential Killing aims for. While his ‘mission’ might propel unwaveringly him towards death, Mohammed – now that his imminent death is not entirely of his making as he might have liked it to be – is continuously moving towards a rebirth of sorts, as is suggested by behavioral details such as his inability to speak, walk properly and, well, his drinking of milk from a woman’s breast. While his mission dictates that America is his enemy, he tries virtually to make it his home, blending in with his landscape (as he did in his country in the opening segment), apparently moving ever close to a promised land. Skolimowski might have wanted to counterpoint the dominant image of the Taliban terrorist – like Laura Poitras – with a sober opposite which portrays him as a weakling clinging on to life, but his interminable bout of decontexualization, coupled with his tendency to reduce cinema to a denotative art form, removes any sting from his political stance.

Repulsion (1965)

Repulsion (1965)

Cul-de-sac (1966)

Cul-de-sac (1966)

The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967)

The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967)

Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Rosemary's Baby (1968)

The Tragedy of Macbeth (1971)

The Tragedy of Macbeth (1971)

Chinatown (1974)

Chinatown (1974)

The Tenant (1976)

The Tenant (1976)

Tess (1979)

Tess (1979)

Pirates (1986)

Pirates (1986)

Frantic (1988)

Frantic (1988)

Bitter Moon (1992)

Bitter Moon (1992)

Death and the Maiden (1994)

Death and the Maiden (1994)

The Pianist (2002)

The Pianist (2002)

Przypadek (1981) (aka Blind Chance)
Krzysztof Kieślowski
Polish

“If I hadn’t missed a train one month ago, I wouldn’t be here with you”

 

Blind ChanceKrzysztof Kieślowski’s films often deal with the themes of fate, coincidences and choices. The phenomenal Decalogue (1988) teased us with the possibilities of seemingly disparate lives being connected. Equally staggering Three Colours trilogy (1993-94) completed a full circle and testified Kieślowski’s theory. But almost a decade before the trilogy, Kieślowski had made Przypadek (1981) that had already embraced the possibility of plasticity of fate and existence of truly free will.

Read More…

Krótki Film O Milosci (1988​) (aka A Short Film About Love)
Polish
Krzysztof Kieślowski

“I watch you through the window”
 

A Short Film About LoveWhat is love? Is it the inevitable sensual desire that arouses? Is it only bodily game played by the hormones? Can science explain all loves? Or is it something that transcends reasoning? These are issues explored in Kieślowski’s Krótki Film O Milosci (1988). Released as an extended version of an episode from Kieślowskis phenomenal TV series Dekalog, Krótki Film O Milosci was shamelessly ripped off (including the title) for the Indian version Ek Choti Si Love Story.

Tomek, a nineteen year old boy whose parents have left him, lives in the house of a friend with the latter’s mother and works at a post-office. Tomek passes his time by watching his neighbour Magda through a telescope everyday. Magda (aka Marie Magdalena, get the point?) is a middle-ager who has a number of men visiting her regularly. Hobby turns into obsession as Tomek starts pinching Magda’s letters, delivers false notices and hides milk bottles so that he can see her now and then. When the truth is revealed to Magda, she asks Tomek the reasons for his spying. Tomek says that he has no intentions of sleeping with her and he truly loves her. Magda is of the opinion that there is nothing called love and wants to teach this to Tomek. After a unsuccessful sexual encounter, Tomek is humiliated and slits his wrists. Roles reverse as Magda starts worrying about Tomek and keeps watch on his room using binoculars. The final scene (which was made to differ from Dekalog VI) has her acknowledging the fact that there is something called love and it needs no reason.

The film cleverly uses point of vies to develop its characters at various points in the movie. Like all Kieślowski films, chance and fate play important roles in the development of the events. Never over the top or judgmental on its characters, Krótki Film O Milosci is marked by top-notch performances by the leads Grazyna Szapolowska and Olaf Lubaszenko. For its effort, the film won The Golden lion at the Poland Film Festival.

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