Poland Cinematography in the 1960’s
During the Sixties Cybulski, Munk, Kobiela and the musician Krzysztof Komeda disappeared: with them, as well as an era, also a style ended. Munk was leaving, leaving a masterpiece unfinished, Pasażerka (1963; The Passenger), which describes life in concentration camps without illusions, as a sadistic game between tormentor and victim. As the years passed (and it was very clear at the time of Solidarity), Nazism became the great metaphor used to refer to the authoritarianism of the regime. The nouvelles vagues that traveled around Europe at that time, with a different look also allowed by the new and manageable cameras that took the directors out of the studios, also touched Poland in an original way. Among the directors of that generation, R. Polański immediately became famous, awarded for his short films, including Dwaj ludzie z szafa (1958, Two men with a wardrobe), with a more than surreal, philosophical setting (there is nowhere on earth for the two protagonists who came from the sea carrying a wardrobe), and Ssaki (1962, The mammals), even more cruel in describing human selfishness. Short films and documentaries gave a lot of space to the analysis of the numerous problems induced by the rapid industrialization of the country, while the enormous bureaucratic apparatus, prostitution, alcoholism and petty crime are not found in feature films except in a very allusive form. Among the documentary filmmakers Jerzy Hoffman, trained at the VGIK in Moscow, stood out, who together with Edward Skórzewski directed Uwaga, chuligani (1954, Attention, hooligans!), and Kazimierz Karabasz, who in the 1960s made documentaries on the life of the workers. Polański achieved international fame with his debut film, Nóż w wodzie (1962; The knife in the water) forerunner of the new ‘wave’, a dramatic intertwining between three people on board a yacht. Jerzy Skolimowski also demonstrated a strong personality in his graduation essay Rysopis (1964; Ryposis – Particular signs: none), also interpreted by him in the role of a young man who does not find his space in life, in Walkower (1965; Walkower), in Bariera (1966; Barriera), finally in Ręce do góry (1967; Hands up), a mockery of Stalinism that was blocked by the regime and only came out in 1981. Great popular success of those years, sold all over the world, was a historical film, Krzyżacy (1960; The Teutonic Knights) by A. Ford, from the novel by H. Sienkiewicz, which narrates the victory of the Poles in 1410 over the Knights of the Teutonic order, demonstrating that the theme of resistance and national identity was always vital, despite the disenchantment shown by the young people in their films. In the wake of this success Wajda, Kawalerowicz and Has made memorable historical films, Kawalerowicz’s Faraon (1966; The Pharaoh), in which power struggles are described with great scenographic creativity, Piopoły (1965; Ashes on the great army) by Wajda, set in the Napoleonic era as Has’s Rękopis znaleziony w Saragossie (1965; The manuscript found in Zaragoza), from the novel by J. Potocki, a philosophical essay against superstitions and a fascinating tale.
With his creative path Wajda proved to be in step with the times, finding in Daniel Olbrychski the actor of the new generation, incarnation of ancient national glories and new ferments, interpreter of his other films: Wszystko na sprzedaż (1968; Tutto in sale), confession of a personal crisis and film on Cybulski’s death, Krajobraz po bitwie (1970; Landscape after the battle), again on Nazi concentration camps to talk about the destinies of the nation, and Wesele (1973; The wedding), from the nineteenth-century drama by S. Wyspiański, on the two Polish souls, the aristocrat and the peasant, whose opposition was still evident despite the frenetic urbanization and industrial transformation taking place in the country.
According to findjobdescriptions, the so-called Polish cinema of the third generation is that of directors born after the war and raised under the socialist regime, and unlike that of the previous generation, it appears steeped in personal themes. Its most illustrious representative is Krzysztof Zanussi, a physicist by training with studies in philosophy, who in his works raises moral questions linked to scientific progress and has brought an unprecedented rigor and vision to world cinema. He was noticed since the diploma film Śmierć provinciala (1966, Death of a provincial father), already full of spirituality, and by the first films produced by television, in which he highlighted the loneliness and indifference towards others typical of life contemporary (e.g. Twarzą w twarz, 1969, Face to face), to then recount the questions and choices of the new socialist bourgeoisie (e.g. Struktura kry-ształu, 1969, The structure of the crystal), and reaffirm the spiritual dimension typical of the debut in the years in which its Catholicism was able to show itself without problems of censorship (but with less interesting results); at the end of the 1980s he produced the extraordinary project of the Dekalog (1989; Decalogue) by Krzysztof Kieślowski. Other directors include Marek Piwowski, famous for his short films, author of Rejs (1970, Cruise), a satirical comedy of poisonous irony on contemporary costumes; Andrzej Żuławski, author of Trzecia część nocy (1972, The third part of the night), a film about the war in which children meditate on the fate of their fathers (after seeing all his films censored, the director will choose France); Antoni Krauze, struck by censorship after his debut with Palec Boży (1973, The finger of God). After the six-day war between Israel and the Arab countries (1967), Poland, as well as the USSR, broke off diplomatic relations with Israel, and during the VI congress of workers’ unions W. Gomułka affirmed the impossibility of remaining indifferent towards those who claimed to be on the side of the aggressor: thus began the repression against the Jews and some directors (including A. Ford) were forced to emigrate, renouncing Polish nationality. The demonstrations of ’68 saw students and filmmakers united (but not the workers, isolated in their struggles until the time of Solidarity): the filmmakers were attacked for their contacts.