Archive for the 'Krzysztof Krauze' Category

Polish Paths to Freedom: Sparks of Hope (screening times)

Further to my post last week about the Imperial War Museum’s ambitious, very welcome and entirely free series of screenings of Polish films illuminating the country’s post-1970s history, they’ve now confirmed dates and screening times. You can download a PDF document here, but I’m sure they won’t mind me reproducing the details for easier Googling:

Monday June 1/Tuesday June 2

10.30am: Poznań 56 (d. Filip Bajon, 1996, 106 mins)

This film examines the events surrounding the workers’ protests in Poznań in June 1956 from the perspective of two boys of 10–12 years old. In reconstructing the strike and demonstrations; tanks and shootouts in the streets; the film’s director Filip Bajon recalls his own memories when as a 10 year old he was a witness to the riots in Poznań.

2.00pm: Krzysztof Kieślowski Programme: A Short Working Day (Krótki dzień pracy, 1981, 73 mins); The Office (Urząd, 1966, 6 mins); The Factory (Fabryka, 1970, 17 mins); The Hospital (Szpital, 1976, 20 mins); The Railway Station (Dworzec, 1980, 14 mins)

A Short Working Day tells the story of the workers’ protests in Radom in June 1976 from the point of view of a local Communist dignitary. The protests were sparked by a speech by the Prime Minister the day before, in which a 69% increase in meat prices was announced. The film combines archival material with a dramatized reconstruction of the events.

The Office: filmed with a hidden camera in the offices of the Social Insurance Agency, this documentary film satirises the bureaucracy and the heartlessness of the petty clerks who work there.

The Factory: filmed Production Council meetings at the Ursus tractor factory are contrasted with the realities of the work conditions there, in order to present a true portrait of how such an enterprise functioned in the realities of a Socialist economy (a picture quite different from that of the official propaganda of success).

The Hospital: the movie camera follows a team of doctors in Trauma Ward One of the hospital on Barska Street in Warsaw. As a result, we watch the extraordinary account of a 31 hour shift, depicting the realities of a hospital in Socialist Poland in the 1970s.

The Railway Station: the Central Railway Station in Warsaw – a flagship investment of the 1970s – as seen through the wry eye of the documentary filmmaker. The modern closed-circuit television system monitoring the platforms and corridors of the station brings to mind methods of social control typical of a totalitarian political system.

Thursday June 4

10.30am: Krzysztof Kieślowski Programme

2.00pm: Poznań 56

Friday June 5

10.30am: Man of Marble (Człowiek z marmuru, d. Andrzej Wajda, 1976, 153 mins)

The year is 1976. Agnieszka, a young and ambitious director, decides to make a film about a Stalin-era ‘hero of socialist labour’, the mason Mateusz Birkut, who laid 30,000 bricks with his five man crew during a single shift in 1952. During her search through archival and documentary material, Agnieszka uncovers the human drama hidden behind the facade of official propaganda. It emerges that Birkut went from being a favourite of the authorities to becoming a critic of them, falling out of favour and ending up in prison…

2.00pm: Man of Iron (Człowiek z żelaza , d. Andrzej Wajda, 1981, 147 mins)

The story is a continuation of the saga of the Birkut family. Maciek Tomczyk, the son of Mateusz Birkut, is a worker at the Gdansk Shipyards. He is also an active member of the strike committee. A radio journalist named Winkel receives orders to produce a radio feature to discredit Tomczyk. In order to get into the shipyards, Winkel visits the family of a union activist, Wiesława Hulewicz. He learns of the marriage between Agnieszka (who made the film about Birkut in 1976) and Maciek Tomczyk. Agnieszka is currently under arrest for supporting the strike. Thanks to his connections inside the police, Winkel arranges to see her. The young woman tells the journalist the story of how she met and later married Birkut.

Sunday June 7

10.30am: Man of Marble

2.00pm: Krzysztof Kieślowski Programme

Monday June 8

10.30am: Workers 1980 (Robotnicy ’80, 94 mins)

A documentary film produced during the strikes at the Lenin Shipyards in Gdańsk (in August 1980) by a group of filmmakers from the Documentary Film Studio in Warsaw. Workers 1980 follows events during the strike and the negotiations of the Inter-Enterprise Strike Committee with representatives of the Governmental Commission. The Communist authorities prevented the film’s release.

2.30pm: Man of Iron

Wednesday June 10/Thursday June 11

10.30am: Workers 1980

2.00pm: Man of Iron

Friday June 12

2.00pm: Strajk Die Heldin von Danzig (d. Volker Schlöndorff, 2006, 104 mins)

A historical panorama of the milieu of workers at the Lenin Shipyards in Gdańsk from the 1950s to the ‘Solidarity’ era. The story is told via the biography of a female worker from Gdańsk – a welder and crane operator with a defiant nature and the charisma of a leader, who is never able to remain silent when she sees someone suffering injustice.

Monday June 15/Tuesday June 16/Thursday June 18

2.00pm: Death as a Slice of Bread (Śmierć jak kromka chleba, d. Kazimierz Kutz, 1994, 116 mins)

A film record of the pacification of the Wujek mine – the most tragic episode during martial law – when a strike by miners against the imposition of martial law and the arrest of labour leaders was brutally broken up by the army and police.

Friday June 19

2.00pm: To Kill A Priest (d. Agnieszka Holland, 1988, 115 mins)

This drama – about the efforts of an officer in the Security Service to discredit and eventually eliminate a young priest known for his anti-communist sermons – was inspired by the real life murder of some dozen priests during martial law, notably that of Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko in 1984. This was the only case in which those directly responsible (who were functionaries of the Security Service) were found and tried.

Saturday June 20

10.30am: Workers 1980

2.00pm: Strajk Die Heldin von Danzig

Sunday June 21

10.30am: To Kill A Priest

2.00pm: Strajk Die Heldin von Danzig

Monday June 22

2.00pm: Man of Iron

Tuesday June 23/Wednesday June 24

2.00pm: The Last School Bell (Ostatni dzwonek, d. Magdalena Łazarkiewicz, 1989, 107 mins)

In a provincial high school in the 1980s, a new student named Krysztof – who has been thrown out of a school in Gdańsk for distributing anti-Communist leaflets – begins his senior year. At first he is treated by his schoolmates with distrust, but he soon becomes the leader of a class that carries on an unequal fight with the authoritarian school directorship. The students have a quiet ally in one young teacher, Meluzyna, who infects them with her love for theatre. In defiance of the school directors the students decide to put on an amateur
play that contains politically incorrect messages.

Thursday June 25

2.00pm: Calls Controlled (Rozmowy kontrolowane, d. Sylwester Chęciński, 1991, 93 mins)

A comedy set in the dark early days of martial law. Winter, bitter cold, tanks on the streets, omnipresent propaganda and constant surveillance. But people have to somehow carry on their lives … Everyone does what they must to get by. Some fight against Communism, others engage in small-time side interests.

Friday June 26

2.00pm: To Kill A Priest

Saturday June 27/Sunday June 28

10.30am: Calls Controlled

2.00pm: Escape from the Liberty Cinema (Ucieczka z kina ‘Wolność’, d. Wojciech Marczewski, 1990, 87 mins)

A portrait of a character typifying the late 1980s. A run-down man, who is a seemingly dangerous Communist functionary, is in reality fearful, lonely and fully aware of the approaching death of Communism – and thus the senselessness of his work.

Monday June 29

2.00pm: Street Games (Gry uliczne, d. Krzysztof Krauze, 1996, 100 mins)

Two young journalists receive information that a certain well-known politician, Senator Makowski, was an undercover agent for the Security Service in 1977 and was responsible for the death of their friend. The friend in question, Stanisław Pyjas, was a student and opposition activist, murdered most likely on orders from the secret police. For both reporters, Pyjas’ death is an event from the distant past, but Makowski’s arrogance spurs them to take action. They set out on a journalistic investigation.

Tuesday June 30

2.00pm: Three Buddies (Trzech kumpli, d. Ewa Stankiewicz/Anna Ferens, 2008, 111 mins)

A documentary tale of three friends from the university in Kraków in the 1970s. One of them is murdered, the second turns out to be a traitor, and the third fights on the side of truth years later.

For further information, address, directions etc., please see the Imperial War Museum’s own website.

Posted on 27th May 2009
Under: Poland, Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Krzysztof Krauze, Wojciech Marczewski, Retrospectives | 1 Comment »

Saviour’s Square

Saviour’s Square
Plac Zbawiciela
2006, colour, 105 mins

  • Directors: Joanna Kos-Krauze, Krzysztof Krauze
  • Producer: Juliusz Machulski
  • Script: Joanna Kos-Krauze, Krzysztof Krauze, with additional dialogue by Arkadiusz Janiczek, Jowita Miondlikowska, Ewa Wencel
  • Camera: Wojciech Staroń
  • Editing: Krzysztof Szpetmański
  • Production Design: Monika Sajko-Gradowska
  • Costume Design: Dorota Roqueplo
  • Cast: Jowita Budnik (Beata); Arkadiusz Janiczek (Bartek); Ewa Wencel (Teresa); Dawid Gudejko (Dawid); Natan Gudejko (Adrian); Beata Fudalej (Edyta); Małgorzata Rudzka (Ola); Zina Kerste (Hania)

The latest film by Krzysztof Krauze (this time sharing writing and directing credits with his wife Joanna Kos) returns to the territory of his breakthrough The Debt in its chilling portrait of how external economic forces can devastate the lives of ordinary people – though here there are no gangsters or melodramatic threats, merely the day-to-day problems of people whose life is unexpectedly turned upside down by a single event.

Bartek (Arkadiusz Janiczek) and Beata (Jowita Budnik) have just sold their flat and have temporarily moved in with Bartek’s mother Teresa (along with their young sons David and Adrian) prior to starting a new life in a much more child-friendly area. But the company developing their new flat goes bankrupt, wiping out their savings, and if things weren’t already tense due to the fact that Teresa (Ewa Wencel) has also lost a substantial sum in the disaster, they’re exacerbated by the fact that she’s never got on with her daughter-in-law and they find life together quite unbearable. And that’s before Beata discovers Bartek’s secret…

With the aid of flawless performances, Kos and Krauze deftly sketch the family’s newly pressurised lives, as well as offering vivid glimpses of life in contemporary Poland. The three leading actors are also credited as co-writers, resulting from the directors’ decision to develop the script through improvisation workshops in a fashion inspired by Mike Leigh, and those familiar with Leigh’s own dysfunctional families, especially in Meantime (1984) and Life is Sweet (1990), will find much to recognise here. Kos and Krauze are highly sensitive towards their characters’ social class: Beata comes from a rural background where everyone looks out for each other, and is helplessly out of her depth when it comes to the pressures of city life.

Her eventual breakdown is foreshadowed by the film’s opening sequence, which jumps forward in time to hint at a dreadful tragedy but offers few concrete details. The Debt did something similar, and it’s a technique that deliberately casts a pall over the entire film, tainting even the early scenes of wide-eyed optimism about the future. The title comes from the address of Teresa’s flat, the square dominated by a statue of Christ. His hands are presumably conferring spiritual benediction on those that live there, but that turns out to be scant comfort in this aggressively secular age.


Posted on 18th October 2007
Under: Reviews, Poland, Krzysztof Krauze | No Comments »

The Debt

The Debt
1999, colour, 102 mins

  • Director: Krzysztof Krauze
  • Producer: Juliusz Machulski
  • Script: Krzysztof Krauze, Jerzy Morawski
  • Camera: Bartosz Prokopowicz
  • Editing: Krzysztof Szpetmański
  • Design: Magdalena Dipont
  • Music: Michał Urbaniak
  • Cast: Robert Gonera (Adam Borecki); Jacek Borcuch (Stefan Kowalczyk); Andrzej Chyra (Gerard Nowak); Cezary Kosiński (Tadeusz Frei); Joanna Szurmiej (Basia); Agnieszka Warchulska (Jola); Przemysław Modliszewski (Gerard’s assistant); Krzysztof Gordon (Adam’s father); Sławomira Łozińska (Adam’s mother); Maria Robaszkiewicz (Basia’s mother); Edyta Bach (Joanna); Jakub Bach (Jurek); Joanna Kurowska (Ania); Jerzy Gudejko (doctor); Henryk Gołębiewski (builder); Katarzyna Tatarak (police officer)
  • I’ve been asked to write a short piece on the Polish director Krzysztof Krauze for the London Film Festival website (his latest film Saviour’s Square/Plac Zbawiciela is screening there on October 24 and 27), so I caught up with his 1999 breakthrough film The Debt. I knew absolutely nothing about it in advance other than what I could glean from the DVD artwork, a montage of black-and-white images of an axe, a gun, a rope, some dollar bills and a police mugshot. So it clearly wasn’t going to have much in common with My Nikifor (Mój Nikifor, 2004), the gentle study of a naive painter that’s the only other Krauze film I’ve seen to date.

    Indeed not - although the beginning is leisurely enough, as we meet twentysomething business partners Adam Borecki (Robert Gonera) and Stefan Kowalczyk (Jacek Borcuch) and get an insight into their family lives, once they get involved with Gerard Nowak (Andrzej Chyra) things get much faster, tougher and nastier. Gerard seems friendly enough at first, offering to act as a business go-between. The deal fails to come off, so Adam and Stefan thank him for his time and assume that’s the end of it. But Gerard claims to have expenses, and would quite like to get them repaid…

    …and that’s all I’m going to reveal about the plot, as this is the kind of film where the less you know in advance, the better. Suffice it to say that Gerard knows some exceptionally unpleasant people and his interest rate of $1,000 a day is slightly in excess of that charged by most lenders, and you’ll see why Adam and Stefan’s professional and personal lives are turned upside down - but what can they do, in the absence of any evidence?

    The Debt is a real palm-sweater for the most part, brilliantly capturing that helpless drowning-in-quicksand feeling of being unable to cope with runaway debts while simultaneously trying to conceal them from relations and loved ones. I didn’t know that it was based on a true story until the closing credits, though the situation works so well as a metaphor for Poland in the chaotic atmosphere immediately following the end of Communism that this scarcely matters. There’s also a strong hint of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment in Adam and Stefan’s psychological torment, especially in the final scenes.

    I watched it courtesy of ITI Home Video’s Polish DVD, which was perfectly serviceable. The film itself is presented in what I assume is the correct widescreen aspect ratio - it’s non-anamorphic, but the picture is otherwise quite acceptable. The sound has a couple of glitches (unfortunately, there’s something about the main theme of Michał Urbaniak’s score that triggers a slight pulsing that sounds like an encoding error), but it’s not a serious issue. The subtitles are excellent: clear, idiomatic and properly synchronised, and I don’t recall any problems. Extras are Polish-only, but consist purely of the trailer, very brief biographies/filmographies and a list of awards won by the film.


Posted on 12th October 2007
Under: Reviews, Poland, Krzysztof Krauze | No Comments »

My Nikifor

I’m reviewing Krzysztof Krauze’s My Nikifor (Mój Nikifor, 2004) in much more detail for Sight & Sound, but here’s a précis: a quiet, understated, rather moving film about an elderly tramp (or so he initially seems) who installs himself in the studio of artist Marian Włosiński (Roman Gancarczyk) and produces tiny paintings on card at a furious rate. Włosiński’s boss Nowak (Jerzy Gudejko), a cultural functionary, recognises him as the naïve painter Nikifor and insists that he stay, as the government has a policy of promoting folk, or peasant, art. And as Nikifor stays, Włosiński gradually realises that he has a natural talent that his academy training can never hope to match.

In more melodramatic hands, this could have turned into an Amadeus remake, with Włosiński in the jealous Salieri role, but in fact director Krzysztof Krauze and his screenwriter wife Joanna Kos stick strictly to the known facts, which are that Włosiński more or less gave up his career to look after Nikifor and ensure he had a decent working environment - no mean feat when one considers that Nikifor is both verbally and physically unsavoury, even to the point of posing a health risk for Włosiński and his family.

I watched it twice, the first time with literally no advance knowledge (I didn’t even know that Nikifor was played by a woman, the veteran actress Krystyna Feldman, who does a remarkable job), the second time after doing some background research into Nikifor’s real-life career, and enjoyed it much more as a result. I suspect Krauze’s Polish target audience would have been similarly well-informed, as Nikifor seems to be as famous there as the Douanier Rousseau (a close equivalent) is in France.

Posted on 12th September 2007
Under: Reviews, Poland, Krzysztof Krauze | No Comments »

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