Posts Tagged ‘Polish Film’

Kinoteka 2021 | 6 May – 4 June 2021

KINOTEKA Polish Film Festival in London goes online again this year from 6 May – 4 June. Lockdown permitting the 19th Edition hopes to show some live screenings so watch this space for further details.

Meanwhile back online, some of the UK’s leading cultural institutions will host the festival’s 19th edition: BFI, ICA, POSK Cinema, The International Online Theatre Festival, Second Run and Channel 4’s Walter Presents.

KINOTEKA 2021 launches on 6th May with Mariusz Wilczyński’s award-winning animated debut feature Kill It and Leave This Town, a surrealist reflection on memory and loss (below and review to follow).


In a programme brimming with Polish talent – established and emerging there – will be two strands dedicated to great masters from the 20th and 21st centuries. The Undiscovered Masters strand at Second Run On Demand highlights five lesser-known films from, amongst others, Jerzy Skolimowski, Andrzej Żuławski and Agnieszka Holland (whose Kobieta samotna is the most devastating love story I have ever seen). Meanwhile the Modern Polish Cinema strand on BFI Player brings together documentary and fiction from directors including Krzysztof Krauze, Paweł Łoziński and Agnieszka Smoczyńska.

The Kinoteka x Walter Presents strand at POSK Cinema premieres the first two episodes on VOD of two recent breakout Polish TV productions.

Also to look forward to is the 80th anniversary of Krzysztof Kieślowski’s birth, with the 80 Years of Kieślowski strand on the ICA Cinema 3 platform which commemorates the great Polish auteur’s life and legacy, and will stream from 11 May – 1 June 2021.

KINOTEKA 2021 will also showcase Cannes 2020 Official Selection – Magnus von Horn’s sophomore feature Sweat, exploring the cult of fitness and celebrity at a time when many are yearning for meaningful human interaction and intimacy.

Dekalog 6


80 YEARS OF KIEŚLOWSKI | Dekalog and documentary shorts

The 80 Years of Kieślowski strand highlights a selection of the internationally-acclaimed director’s work pre-1990. The 10-part television series Dekalog is presented in its entirety, with individual episodes available for streaming across the festival period. Additionally, a selection of five early documentary shorts – Refrain (1972), From a Night Porter’s Point of View (1977), Hospital (1976), Seven Women of Different Ages (1978) and Talking Heads (1980) – highlight the formal and narrative motifs that Kieślowski would continue to develop throughout his career.

Fugue (2018)


MODERN POLISH CINEMA | Poland’s leading documentary and fiction films

The Modern Polish Cinema strand presents a selection of 10 contemporary classics. Among the fiction films presented are the gripping thriller Fugue (Agnieszka Smoczyńska, 2018); irreverent comedy Day of the Wacko (Marek Koterski, 2002) and the harrowing Rose (2011) from enfant terrible Wojciech Smarzowski. A selection of recent documentaries includes the moving You Have No Idea How Much I Love You (Paweł Łoziński, 2016), a dreamlike vision of Warsaw in All These Sleepless Nights (Michał Marczak, 2016) and the Oscar-nominated The Children of Leningradsky (Hanna Polak, 2004).

The Modern Polish Cinema strand is available to stream via BFI Player Subscription from 6–27 May.

On The Silver Globe (1988)


UNDISCOVERED MASTERS | Five films from 20th century icons

The Undiscovered Masters strand presents, in association with Second Run, a series of lesser-known films from five renowned Polish filmmakers, many of whom would later gain great international success: Man on the Tracks (Andrzej Munk, 1957), Walkover (Jerzy Skolimowski, 1965),On the Silver Globe (Andrzej Żuławski, 1988), and The Temptation (Barbara Sass, 1995).

The Undiscovered Masters strand is available to stream on Second Run On Demand from 6–27 May.

The King of Warsaw


KINOTEKA x WALTER PRESENTS | Raven and The King of Warsaw

The Kinoteka x Walter Presents strand brings two exciting Polish television productions to UK screens for the first time. In Raven (2018–present), a troubled detective returns to his home town in eastern Poland to investigate a child kidnapping case. There, he quite literally battles his own childhood demons in this supernatural take on the crime genre. An adaptation of Szczepan Twardoch’s novel of the same name, The King of Warsaw (2020) charts the rise of Jewish boxer Jakub Szapiro through the criminal underworld of 1930s Warsaw, as he negotiates not only the political elite but also the growing fascist threat. Both series will be available at a later date via Walter Presents, which already hosts some of Poland’s leading television productions.

Raven is available on demand via POSK Cinema on 20 May and will be followed by a Q&A with lead actor Michał Żurawski.
The King of Warsaw is available on demand via POSK Cinema on 3 June and will be followed by a Q&A with lead actor Michał Żurawski.

DOCUMENTARY | The Wall of Shadows

The Documentary strand highlights the award-winning The Wall of Shadows (Eliza Kubarska, 2020). The film is shot in the Himalayas, where a group of European climbers convince a local Sherpa couple to guide them up the holy mountain Kumbhakarna, against their better judgement.

The Wall of Shadows is available to stream on demand via ICA’s Cinema 3 platform from 13 – 20 May.



The Wind. A Documentary Thriller (2019) **** Visions du Reel 2019

Dir.: Michal Bielawski; Documentary; Poland/Slovakia 2019, 74 min.

This poetic essay plays out like a thriller set in the mountain region of Podhale in southern Poland. Although the Tatra mountains are well known as a paradise for winter sports, Bielawski focuses on the cruel and unpredicable natural phenomenon of the ‘halny’ winds. These often terrorise locals but also cause rapid changes in atmospheric pressure strongly influencing the wellbeing of both people and animals and wreaking havoc with their habitat. Bielawski shows how the communities organise themselves to fight back.

A poetess, a female ambulance driver and old farmer, all unnamed, are the main protagonists of this tour de force eco-doc. The farmer is trying to batten down the barn hatches where a cow has just given birth to a baby bull. The storm is so strong that only planks nailed to the door will prevent them blowing open by the strength of the wind. Meanwhile the ambulance paramedic takes a call from a gentleman who says he wants to report a suicide. “Yours, or someone else’s” she asks him. “Mine” comes the strange reply. She remembers a long journey to a town far away where she had to deal with the corpse of a person hanged for his crimes. Meanwhile, the poetess emerges as the one most ‘in tune’ with the wind’s forces. A very fit woman in her fifties, she enjoys reciting her verses in the woods, hugging the trees, many of which have been felled in the recent storms.

The film then tracks back to the farmer who, with his friends, erects a small pylon, later fitting it with a windmill. The farmer and some children decide to go up to the mountain on the cable car, but the old man starts to feels sick. He later visits a doctor, who runs an ECG. Far away, we see a Ferris wheel, like a fata morgana. The poetess collects wood from a fallen tree, she saws it in little pieces and tells the forester she wants to buy a small part of the woods. The ambulance driver meanwhile deals with a drunkard and a victim of epilepsy, while his colleague fails to resuscitate a patient. The poetess sings in the woods where the snow storm is blowing a gale, trees are blocking the road, the windmills are devastated and a fire breaks out in the farmhouse, spreading to the barn and killing two cows before he can open the door. After the storm, the poetess saws off a piece of a fallen tree, takes out a piece of paper, and writes a new poem on the tree. Meanwhile, the old farmer, repairs the windmill as the children watch on.

Bielawski develops an elliptical rhythm as humans permanently try to mend what nature has destroyed. But ironically they don’t blame the storm, or even think of leaving the area: they have accepted their lot, but go on loving the mountains. DoP Bartek Solik’s fly on the wall images, particularly the close-ups, show us a rich emotional life. Most impressive is the poetess who is happy to be a witness to the living and the dead, animal and nature. A unique study of how an ongoing struggle has strangely becomes a rewarding way of life. AS





Silent Star | First Spacecraft on Venus (1960) **** Kinoteka Film Festival 2019

Dir. Kurt Maetzig; Cast: Yoko Tani, Oldrich Lukes, Ignacy Machowski, Julius Ongewe, Michael Postnikow, Kurt Rackelmann, Günter Simon, Hua-Ta Tang, Lucyna Winnicka; East Germany/Poland 1960, 93 min.

In many ways SILENT STAR is a cult classic oddity. East German director Kurt Maetzig had had his career put on hold due to his Jewish background. The Rabbit is Me (1965) was seen as too critical of the socialist East German leadership and was banned along with ten other films considered equally “subversive”. Classified as the “Rabbit Films” they were greeted with avid applause on their re-release in 1989, at the end of the Cold War. In 1954 Maetzig had also directed the lauded two-part biopic Ernst Thaelmann, about the German communist leader murdered in a concentration camp. He was eventually allowed to continue making films again, but some of the other directors were relegated to TV. Maetzig died in 2012, at the age of 101.

Many of the East German feature films were also considered rather tedious – people wanted to watch Hollywood blockbusters – although the mostly black-and-white political films did find an audience with intellectuals in the West. First Spacecraft, or The Silent Star, to give it the translated title of the US version, suffered the same fate. Popular in all Eastern block countries, particularly the GDR, were it was watched by over four million people, it was shunned in the West as a “populist melodrama in the Hollywood style”.

Set in the “future” of 1985, an artificial ‘spool’ is discovered in the Gobi-desert. Aeronautics Professor Hawling (Oldrich Lukes) deems it originated in Venus. And Professors Sikarna (Yoko Tani) and Dr. Tchen-Yu (Hua- Ta Tang) come to the conclusion that it’s a flight recorder. But failing to make contact with Venus, they decide to use the Soviet spaceship ‘Cosmostrator’ to fly to the planet and investigate. During the journey Sikarna attempts to translate the text. The rather cold-blooded message turns out to be a declaration of war: the inhabitants of Venus had been trying to colonise earth, and exterminate the human race. A model toy computer, rather like R2/D2 from Star Wars, then turns vicious, attacking German pilot Brinkmann (Simon); his spacecraft lands on Venus, finding no form of life, but a totally destroyed city in a huge crater. One of the scientists triggers the still-functioning computer, programmed to destroy Earth and mayhem ensues.

PDs Alfred Hirschmeier and L. Kunka must take most of the credit for this terrific Sci-fi adventure, along with  composer Andrzej Markowski and DoP Joachim Heisler. Obviously it looks dates in today’s eyes, but no more so that some other US Space outings of the era. But Stanislaw Lem, author of the novel on which co-writer Maetzig based his script, was not impressed, and claimed: “not even children would be frightened by this film”. AS


Nina (2018) **

Dir.: Olga Chajdas; Cast: Julia Kijowska, Eliza Rycembel, Andrzej Konopka; Poland 2018, 122 min.

This hit and miss debut drama from Polish filmmaker Olga Chajdas struggles with an illogical narrative, despite some positive elements. 

French teacher Nina (Kijowska) desperately wants a child despite her failing marriage to Wotjek (Konopka), a car mechanic. In order to find the ideal surrogate mother the couple embark on a bizarre strategy: reversing their car into a prospective surrogate’s car, they then offer the victim a cost free repair at Wotjek’s garage and make a connection. And it’s during one of these ill-conceived escapades that Nina meets Magda (Rycembel), an airport security guard with an active lesbian sex life. Nina falls head over heels for the androgynous young woman but Wotjek, feeling left out, reacts with a violent assault on Magda. Nina then gets cold feet, after a confrontation with one of Madga’s ex-lovers with the whole debacle culminating in a positive conclusion. 

Strangely enough some of strongest scenes in NINA take place away from the central lesbian love affair. But while the lovers somehow lack a certain chemistry, Rycembel’s performance as the hot to trot initiator of the sensitive sexual encounter scenes has a lot going for it. And this is what makes Nina unique in spite of its hapless narrative. DoP Tomasz Naumiuk does a great job of recording the wild goings on with his mobile handheld images. There are also some extremely beautiful snowy landscapes.

At Rotterdam Film Festival 2018, where NINA won the VPRO Big Screen Award, Chajdas talked about the repressive new government and the lack of a gay club scene in Poland – so so she makes this a more colourful feature of her drama than reality permits.  AS


53 Wars (2018) Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2018 ****

Dir: Ewa Bukowska | Drama | Poland | 79′

Ewa Bukowska’s stunning feature debut is a visceral impressionist portrait of anxiety, longing and psychotic meltdown seen through the eyes of a woman whose husband is a war correspondent in Chechnya. Based on a best selling book by Grazyna Jagielska, Bukowska builds up a collage of snatched memories, archive footage, thoughts and scenes from the couple’s life together and apart to palpably convey how it really feels to yearn passionately and to fear desperately for a loved one until it hurts, quite literally.

Anchored by a quivering, neurotic tour de force by Magdalena Poplawska (she also appears in this year’s festival’s Panic Attack) this tightly scripted and searingly affective psychological thriller mesmerises during its compact running time. Bukowska makes use an evocative score of romantic tunes, requiems, electronic buzzings and moments of deafening silence as she deftly manages the subtle tonal shifts between the heart-pounding good times when the couple are united, during love-making and with their little son, and those of sheer, dry-mouthed palpitating terror when Anka imagines Witek (Michal Zurawski) dead or on a gurney in some foreign hospital.

Eventually dark dread and purple passion meld into one chasm of terror as Anka downloads her angst-ridden neurosis to everyone in her sphere  – summed up in an extraordinary scene where her head-splitting palpitations are chanelled into a builder’s jammering drill in the street outside. She begs him to stop – but the angst is inside her own head. Later she threatens an innocent woman passer-by in a hijab to ‘stay away from her husband”. Stylishly captured in intimate close-up and on the widescreen by DoP Tomasz Naumiuk this is an inventive and unique way to show how anxiety can eventually take over and become completely destructive. Clearly fear eats the soul. MT


Gods (Bogowie) 2014

Dir.: Lukasz Palkowski;

Cast: Tomasz Kot, Piotr Glowacki, S. Piotr Warszawski, Magdalena Czerwinska

120 min  Polish with subtitles  Drama

The ‘Gods’ of the title are three Polish heart surgeons who, under the leadership of maverick Dr. Zbigniew Religa (Kot), performed the first heart transplants in Poland in the mid-80s. Palkowski portrays Religa as a rebellious rock star rather than a stuffy medic; the unrelenting tempo of GODS matching Religa’s unrest.

We first meet our ‘hero’ in a Warsaw clinic hemmed in by bureaucracy and an entourage of flaccid colleagues, reminding us that medicine is run by traditionalists, whatever the country. When Religa saves the life of the son of a party official, on the pavement in front of the hospital (by extremely unorthodox means), he is given more freedom to flex his muscles. After loosing a teenage girl on the operating table, Religa and his colleagues Zembala (Glowacki) and Bochenek (Warszawski) re-locate to the provincial Silesian town of Zabrze where they are promised a ‘state of the art’ venue to perform heart transplants. But when they get there neither the operating theatres nor the funds are available. Religa doesn’t give up. Rather than returning to his long-suffering wife Anna (Czerwinska) in Warsaw, he commandeers a gang of new nurses to kick-start the building works; tricks the local party officials into giving him the grants; and performs in 1985 the first heart transplant on Polish soil.

Palkowski creates a sort of Wild-West atmosphere in Zabrze; everything seems possible for the chain-smoking Religa, who is as egoistical as he is daring. Driving like a bat out of hell through the countryside, he hires a dissident doctor and fights the secret police: he is an old-fashioned hero in the Errol Flynn mould: gung-ho and uncompromising; tough on himself and everyone around him; taking the medical establishment by storm; disregarding the rules and making his own.

The real Dr. Zbigniew Regila (1938-2009) went into politics, ran for president and was Minister for Health between 2005 and 2007. Whilst the laws of (political) reality are often stretched, the sheer panache of Regila and his crew keep us glued to the screen. Piotr Sobocinski’s camerawork is as vivid and innovative as the good doctor, and we’re rooting for him with bated breath as he overtakes everything on the road. The rest of the ensemble cast matches his manic enthusiasm, apart from Religa’s wife Anna (Magdalena Czerwinska) who sacrifices her career for her husband, in the only downside of this tour de force story. AS

On general release from 24 October 2014

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One Way Ticket to the- Moon Bilet na ksiezyc (2013) Kinoteka 2014

Director: Jacek Bromski

Filip Plawiak, Mateusz Kosciukiewicz, Bozena Adamek, Alicja Bach, Andrzej Beja-Zaborski, Kaja Walden

120 min Comedy Drama  Polish with subtitles

Jacek Bromski’s gloriously nostalgic rites of passage road movie takes place a Communist Poland in 1969.  Country boy Adam Sikora (Filip Plawiak)is drafted into the Navy to serve at Swinoujscie naval base on the Baltic. With his older and more worldly brother Antoni (Mateusz Kaosciukiewicz) he sets off on the bucolic road to coast from Warsaw in a journey that will change their lives forever.

Despite their easy blokeish bonhomie, tousled blond Adam and darkly charismatic Antoni disagree on everything, especially sex. Travelling mainly by train, they meet up with old friends and new. Antoni certainly knows how to get the girls and is determined to show his kid brother the ways of the world. The tone is light-hearted and fraught with of period details including the Apollo 11 moon landings  accompanied by an eclectic sixties soundtrack and even a live rendition of House of the Rising Sun.

When Adam finally breaks his duck, he unintentionally also falls foul of a police officer in an altercation that develops into an ugly situation as he attempts to extricate himself. Almost immediately Bromski ‘s light-hearted comedy shifs in tone into a melodramatic hostage caper which fetches up in edgy Berlin, in a bizarre true-story style ending.

Despite its ill-judged final stages where it ultimately loses its way by the end, it’s the two leads energy and joie de vivre that drive the early narrative forward, particularly Kaosciukiewicz who went on to be a big star on the Polish film scene. MT

Showing 18 May at

Rose (2011) Kinoteka 2021

Dir: Wojciech Smarzowski | Writer: Michal Szczerbic | Cast: Marcin Dorocinski, Agata Kulesza, Malwina Buss, Kinga Preis, Jacek Braciak, Marian Dziedziel | 90min    War Drama

Wojciech Smarzowski’s bleak feature set in 1945, brings to light a largely unknown slice of Polish history: the post Second World War persecution of the Mazurians who first colonised north-eastern Poland.

Rose is a brutal and unremittingly harrowing story of war, love and loss. To say it’s a romantic narrative is partly true but in the real sense that it evokes strong feeling, individual aspiration and a way of thinking. And this aspiration is bound up with a sense of pride and belonging for Rose (Agata Kuleska), a woman who has lost her land and national identity to the Germans and her husband to the ravages of war. Living alone in a isolated farmhouse she is just about surviving, the last knockings of war raging around her, framed by Piota Sobocinski’s masterful but stark visuals.

And into this setting steps Tedeusz (Marcin Dorocinski). His wife has been raped and killed and he has witnessed the murder of Rose’s husband and comes to report his death. The reception Rose gives him is frosty to say the least and if ever there was a more unlikely backdrop to a relationship it is this one. An uncertain pairing then; if ever there was one, but believable.  Rose is certainly a film worth seeing despite its almost unrelenting gloom hauntingly scored by Mikolaj Trzaska’s poignant soundtrack. MT



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