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Jerzy Skolimowski

Jerzy Skolimowski: The Cinema of a Nonconformist

Ewa Mazierska
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Jerzy Skolimowski
    Book Description:

    Jerzy Skolimowski is one of the most original Polish directors and one of only a handful who has gained genuine recognition abroad. This is the first monograph, written in English, to be devoted to his cinema. It covers Skolimowski's career from his early successes in Poland, such asIdentification Marks: None and Barrier, through his emigre films,Deep End,Moonlighting and The Lightship, to his return to Poland where, in 2008, he made the internationally acclaimedFour Nights with Anna.

    Ewa Mazierska addresses the main features of Skolimowski's films, such as their affinity to autobiographism and surrealism, while discussing their characters, narratives, visual style, soundtracks, and the uses of literature. She draws on a wide range of cinematic and literary texts, situating Skolimowski's work within the context of Polish and world cinema, and drawing parallels between his work and that of two directors, with whom he tends to be compared, Roman Polański and Jean-Luc Godard.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-807-2
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction: Outsider, Nonconformist, a Man In-between
    (pp. 1-10)

    Jerzy Skolimowski is one of the most original Polish directors and one of only a handful who have gained genuine recognition abroad. This position is evidenced by awards Skolimowski has received at international festivals, favourable opinions from the most influential European critics and fellow film makers, including Jean-Luc Godard, and the willingness of stars such as Jean-Pierre Léaud, Alan Bates, John Hurt and Jeremy Irons to appear in his films. Yet unlike Roman Polański, Krzysztof Kieślowski and Andrzej Wajda, Skolimowski enjoys a cult following rather than worldwide popularity. This is largely due to the fact that his films, many of...

  6. Chapter 1 From Participant to Observer: Autobiographical Discourse in the Films of Jerzy Skolimowski
    (pp. 11-30)

    In his native Poland, Skolimowski is regarded as an artist who has conveyed his life and persona on screen more effectively than any other Polish film maker: the ultimate autobiographer in and for Polish cinema. This chapter attempts to establish how Skolimowski managed to convince his viewers that his films are about him, and how his self-portrait evolved over the years. Before I move to discussing Skolimowski’s films and his life, it is worth briefly presenting the concept of autobiography I will use. I regard autobiography not so much as a matter of truthful representation of one’s persona and life,...

  7. Chapter 2 About a Boy: Characters, Narratives and Ideologies in Skolimowski’s Films
    (pp. 31-70)

    Skolimowski can be described as a male director in more senses than one. Men are at the centre of his narratives while women are treated as minor characters, defined through their relation to men, typically as the objects of male erotic pursuits. In many films the man’s relationship with other men is far more important than his relationship with women. Moreover, a number of Skolimowski’s films are narrated by men and in this way inculcate the viewer’s identification with male protagonists. By contrast, a woman does not narrate any of Skolimowski’s stories. Another constant element of his films is their...

  8. Chapter 3 Between Realism and Non-realism: The Artistic Context of Skolimowski’s Films and Their Main Visual Motifs
    (pp. 71-106)

    I consider myself a dedicated realist. One of the main objects of my writing is to cut a path through Unreality to Reality.

    (Gombrowicz 1973: 31)

    The categories of realism and non-realism fail to capture the specificity of Skolimowski’s style, because in the majority of his works the unrealistic elements are juxtaposed or intertwined with realistic ones. This feature was identified early on by critics, most notably by Janusz Gazda, who in 1967 described Skolimowski’s films as ‘poetic cinema’ or even ‘cinema of a dream’, despite the fact that by then no ‘proper’ dreams were included in his narratives. This...

  9. Chapter 4 In the Land of Hamlets and Don Quixotes: Skolimowski’s Encounters with Literature
    (pp. 107-146)

    The relationship between literature and Skolimowski’s cinema is complex, not least because he is a man of literature: a poet, a playwright and a scriptwriter of films made not only by himself but by other film makers as well. Thus he not only adapts literary works of other authors, but allows cinema, including his own films, to adapt his literature. Particularly interesting is the way he uses and develops his own poetry. Another reason that Skolimowski’s relationship with literature is complex is the fact that, as he himself remarked in relation to his screening of Siegfried Lenz’sThe Lightship, his...

  10. Chapter 5 ‘I Don’t Like Obvious Film Scores’: Music and Other Sounds in Skolimowski’s Films
    (pp. 147-170)

    Contrary to the widely held opinion that film music is ‘unheard’ (see Gorbman 1987; Prendergast 1992), we hear Skolimowski’s films as much as we see them, and their scores often remain in our heads long after the memory of the plot fades. This is not an accident, as this director always attached great importance to music, and not only in his films, but also, as I will argue in due course, in his life. Its significance results largely from his conviction (typical for those who identified with youth culture), that music is a perfect way to characterise people. By accompanying...

  11. Conclusions A Successful Independent Director
    (pp. 171-174)

    In 2005, when I embarked on writing this book, it felt like an eccentric task, because Skolimowski was an almost forgotten figure. His name was still recognised in his native Poland and was not entirely alien to hard-core Western cinephiles, but it was difficult to find anyone who actually watched and remembered his films, especially amongst the younger generations. Yet, writing this book coincided with the renaissance of Skolimowski’s popularity, inside and outside Poland. Signs of this new interest are presentations of his latest film,Four Nights with Anna, at numerous festivals, often in the presence of the director, retrospectives...

  12. Biographical Note
    (pp. 175-176)
  13. Filmography Films directed by Jerzy Skolimowski (with technical details and synopses)
    (pp. 177-196)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 197-204)
  15. Index
    (pp. 205-212)