Film reviews and more

Kinoteka 2015: ‘The Promised Land’ review

★★★★★ It has been sixty years since the release of Andrzej Wajda’s first film, Generation (1955), and in that time he has directed over fifty more. 1975’s The Promised Land, which was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 42nd Academy Awards, is one of his very best. That’s no mean feat in a filmography brimming with social […]

Kinoteka 2015: ‘The Last Day of Summer’ review

★★★★☆ Novelist turned filmmaker Tadeusz Konwicki excelled at crafting an atmosphere of the otherworldly on the screen. Though 1965’s Jump may be more widely known and highly regarded, a similar milieu pervades The Last Day of Summer (1958), Konwici’s first film behind the camera. Ostensibly a straightforward relationship drama far more in the social realist vein typical of Polish […]

Kinoteka 2015: ‘Austeria’ review

★★★★☆ There’s a moment of cinematic perfection around forty minutes into Jerzy Kawalerowicz’s Austeria (1981). It’s an instant of the kind of visual poetry that enlivens the medium in the viewer’s mind and reminds us of the simple potency that film can have in the hands of a real master. A girl runs through a field, fleeing the sound […]

Kinoteka 2015: ‘Ashes and Diamonds’ review

★★★★★ In 1956 there was a seismic political shift in Poland known variously as the Polish Thaw or Polish October. The Stalinist period ended and the entire country went through a process of comparable liberalisation that naturally extended to the filmmaking community. Free of the constraints placed upon the medium by the Soviet Union – which shackled both narrative […]

Kinoteka 2015: ‘Night Train’ review

★★★★☆ For his sixth feature, renowned Polish director Jerzy Kawalerowicz decided to board the Night Train (1959), inspired by his frequent trips to woo actress Lucyna Winnicka. She would star in the resulting thriller which was to prove no mere potboiler, but instead the chance to put his characters in an intense pressure cooker of tension. With his country […]

Kinoteka 2015: ‘Jump’ review

★★★☆☆ Surreality dons a cool sixties swagger in Polish novelist Tadeusz Konwicki’s intriguing and vaguely baffling Jump (1965). Abandoning the social realism with which many of his cinematic compatriots approached the medium in the aftermath of the war – and with which he initially made his name in print – he creates an elliptical and illusory narrative. It’s constructed […]

Kinoteka 2015: ‘The Saragossa Manuscript’ review

★★★★☆ There’s a conversation in Wojciech Jerzy Has’ hallucinatory picaresque epic, The Saragossa Manuscript (1965), in which a character utters the following words, “if I don’t understand but I can write it down, I approach poetry.” This could well be the filmmaker imparting wisdom through the mouth of his character, or perhaps comfort to the critic who will go […]

Kinoteka 2015: ‘The Hourglass Sanatorium’ review

★★★★★ Wojciech Jerzy Has took great relish in toying with narrative convention in the nestled labyrinthine pages of The Saragossa Manuscript (1965). He dispenses with it entirely in The Hourglass Sanatorium (1973), an oneiric odyssey through the cob-webbed recesses of memory and into the great beyond. Jan Nowicki plays Josef, who is first introduced on a decrepit old train […]

Kinoteka 2015: ‘Knights of the Teutonic Order’ review

★★★★☆ “Not to know what happened before you were born is to be a child forever,” quoth Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero. The turning wheel of time on which the master orator predicated this assertion is one that is palpably intertwined with the viewing experience of Aleksander Ford’s bombastic Knights of the Teutonic Order (1960), Poland’s first blockbusting epic […]

Kinoteka 2015: ‘Blind Chance’ review

★★★★☆ Traditional narrative tropes of chance and fate are employed to glean some insight into living in Communist era Poland in Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Blind Chance (1987). Imagine Sliding Doors (1998) but rather than setting in motion very different romantic entanglements, the failure to catch a train fundamentally turns on a pin someone’s worldview. This is what happens to Witek […]

Kinoteka 2015: ‘A Short Film About Killing’ review

★★★★★ “Since the days of Cain, no punishment has improved the world or deterred anyone from committing crimes.” A Short Film About Killing (1988) – Krzysztof Kieslowski’s expansion on the fifth chapter of his lauded Dekalog series – sets out its stall. Far more than mere advocacy against the death penalty (although the film played an integral part in […]

Kinoteka 2015: ‘Eroica’ review

★★★★☆ With the fires of the Second World War still smouldering European cinema rose from the embers across the continent. At one time such resurgence took place through the Polish Film School, a movement intended to make films that would help their country come to terms with the war and all that had happened within her borders. Directors such […]