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Polish National Cinema

Polish National Cinema

Marek Haltof
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 318
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  • Book Info
    Polish National Cinema
    Book Description:

    In the years since World War II, Poland has developed one of Europe's most distinguished film cultures. However, in spite of the importance of Polish cinema this is a domain in need of systematic study.

    This book is the first comprehensive study of Polish cinema from the end of the 19th century to the present. It provides not only an introduction to Polish cinema within a socio-political and economic context, but also to the complexities of East-Central European cinema and politics.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-469-4
    Subjects: Film Studies, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. x-xiv)

    Over the last several years, I have developed an academic interest in Polish film and media. Being a native of Poland (now living in the United States), this was a natural evolution:Polish cinema is a part of my cultural background and university education. Despite the importance of Polish cinema, there are only two books in English dealing with its history: Bolesɫaw Michaɫek and Frank Turaj’sThe Modern Cinema of Poland,¹ and Frank Bren’sWorld Cinema 1: Poland.² There are also books focusing on narrower topics, for example, on celebrated filmmakers from Poland, such as Andrzej Wajda³ and Krzysztof Kieslowski,₄ and...

  6. 1 Polish Cinema before the Introduction of Sound
    (pp. 1-22)

    Polish cinema has a history essentially as long as cinemas elsewhere. The first screening in the Polish territories with the Lumière brothers’ Cinématographe took place on 14 November 1896 in Cracow’s municipal theater; the program consisted of some of the films from the first Lumière screening in Paris.² But the public was already familiar with moving images before this screening organized by the Lumières’ representative. As early as mid-1895, Thomas Alva Edison’s Kinetoscopes had been introduced in several major Polish cities, and therefore Poles credited cinema’s discovery to Edison.³

    At the beginning of the century in Poland, as elsewhere, films...

  7. 2 The Sound Period of the 1930s
    (pp. 23-43)

    The introduction of sound and the disintegration of the existing international film market were perceived by many European nations as an opportunity to break the hegemony of Hollywood. The demand for pictures in national languages was enormous, and some Central European countries—Czechoslovakia, for example—quickly took advantage of it. There was, however, no immediate national film production renaissance in Poland; the sluggish economy, worsened by the global economic depression, proved to be an obstacle. Although the first sound film was screened in Poland in 1929 (The Singing Foolwith Al Jolson), the period of transition was slow and difficult....

  8. 3 Polish Films—Whose Dreams? Cinema and the Political Construction of Polish National Identity after World War II
    (pp. 44-55)

    The development of Polish cinema was brutally halted in 1939 when the Polish state ceased to exist. Nazi Germany attacked on 1 September, then Soviet armies invaded from the east on 17 September, thus completing the fourth partition of Poland. Unlike a number of other countries, whose film production was maintained at the prewar level, or even increased at the beginning of the 1940s, Poland had no feature film production during the war.

    The Germans maintained the cinema theaters in Poland after September 1939 for profit, as well as for propagandist reasons. The repertoire consisted of prewar Polish comedies, some...

  9. 4 The Poetics of Screen Stalinism: Socialist Realist Films
    (pp. 56-72)

    In Polish history, Stalinism is a term that refers to the postwar period beginning in 1949 and ending in October 1956. During that time, the one-party rule and the strict Soviet control of all aspects of Polish life² created a small totalitarian replica of the Soviet state. The Polish communist leader, Boles~law Bierut, was a faithful follower of Stalin—more accurately, his obedient political puppet.

    The Soviet model imprinted its mark on the arts. The postwar period in Polish arts was dominated by the socialist realist doctrine, detailed in the Soviet Union by Andrei Zhdanov at the First All-Union Writers’...

  10. 5 The Polish School Revisited
    (pp. 73-109)

    The true birth of postwar Polish cinema had been anticipated long before the canonical films of Kazimierz Kutz, Andrzej Munk, Andrzej Wajda, and others. The term “Polish School” was coined as early as 1954 by the film critic and scholar Aleksander Jackiewicz, who expressed his desire to see a Polish School of filmmaking worthy of the great tradition of Polish art. Jackiewicz wanted to see Polish films that confronted local history and addressed social and moral problems. A filmmaker and an influential professor at the Łódź Film School, Antoni Bohdziewicz later employed the name “Polish School” when referring to Andrzej...

  11. 6 Adaptations, Personal Style, and Popular Cinema between 1965 and 1976
    (pp. 110-145)

    The spirit of the 1956 Polish October was short-lived and gave way to a period commonly known in Poland as the 1960s “small stabilization.” The term “small stabilization” was adopted from the title of the playŚwiadkowie albo nasza maŁa stabilizacja (Witnesses or Our Small Stabilization, 1962), written by a distinguished modern Polish playwright, Tadeusz Rózewicz. This expression serves as an ironic comment on the period of WŁadysŁaw Gomulka—the Communist Party leader between 1956 and 1970. The term does not refer to socialist prosperity, as one might expect, but calls for tougher measures in politics, boredom, and empty rituals....

  12. 7 Camouflage and Rough Treatment: The “Cinema of Distrust,” the Solidarity Period, and Afterwards
    (pp. 146-175)

    The era of relative prosperity under Edward Gierek was gradually coming to an end in the late 1970s. The strikes in June 1976, caused by the introduction of price increases, signaled the decline of the Gierek regime. The archbishop of Cracow, Karol WojtyŁa, was elected pope as John Paul II in October 1978, and he made his first pilgrimage to Poland the following year. The workers’ protest that erupted in August 1980 culminated in the emergence of a mass-supported movement,Solidarność(Solidarity), headed by the future Polish president Lech Walesa. In September 1980, Edward Gierek was replaced by Stanislaw Kania...

  13. 8 Landscape after Battle: The Return of Democracy
    (pp. 176-206)

    Toward the end of the 1980s, the communist system in Poland started to show signs of decline. Round table discussions were arranged between the communists and the representatives of the opposition at the beginning of 1989 to find solutions to Poland’s political problems and poor economy. The negotiations led to a compromise that, consequently, enabled the change of the political formation. The summer of 1989 is usually cited as a turning point in Polish history, marking the peaceful transition from the totalitarian system to democracy. Tadeusz Mazowiecki formed the first noncommunist government in Polish postwar history after the stunning election...

  14. 9 The Representation of Stalinism in Polish Cinema
    (pp. 207-221)

    Focusing on the past seems almost natural in Polish cinema. Like Central European cinema in general, it has familiarized viewers with its political contexts and messages through the presentation of Central Europeans as victims of a dark history. In the novel political situation in Central Europe after 1989, one could expect “the return of the repressed” in cinema and other art forms, the return of history, and a certain boldness in a critical reappraisal of the not-so-distant past. The thorough transition from communism to democracy appears impossible without an exhaustive understanding of the past. In a time of considerable political...

  15. 10 National Memory, the Holocaust, and Images of the Jew in Postwar Polish Films
    (pp. 222-242)

    Since the return of democracy in Central Europe, a great number of narrative and documentary films, as well as literary and academic works dealing with Jewish themes have surfaced. The quantity of works focusing on Polish-Jewish relations seems to be unprecedented and is usually interpreted as an indication of a will and commitment to come to terms with the complex and frequently suppressed past. In her article on the recent emergence of Hungarian films that bear witness to history, Catherine Portuges explains that “the need to mourn and to remember what was on the verge of being forgotten…has perhaps only...

  16. 11 Polish Films with an American Accent
    (pp. 243-258)

    In the aftermath of World War II, cinema in Poland was generally regarded as more than just entertainment. There was no place for commercial cinema within the framework of socialist art. Film’s task was to communicate, educate, and perform other social duties.

    Although it had the support of an audience, genre cinema in Poland never constituted a distinct part of national film production. This type of cinema was also rarely supported or treated seriously by Polish film critics, who looked for great authors dealing with great themes. Similarly, this cinema was ignored in the West, which was chiefly interested in...

  17. Afterword
    (pp. 259-261)

    Since its humble beginnings in 1902, the Polish film industry has produced a diverse corpus of films. Often performing specific political and cultural duties for their nation, Polish filmmakers were perfectly aware of their role as educators, entertainers, social activists, and political leaders. Liberated from some of these roles after the fall of communism, they quickly managed to adjust to the new political reality and to produce some outstanding films. After overcoming the rough transitional period at the beginning of the 1990s, Polish filmmakers succeeded in winning back their audiences toward the end of the decade. Their commercial success came...

  18. Selected Filmography
    (pp. 262-271)
  19. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 272-281)
  20. Index of Names
    (pp. 282-291)
  21. Index of Film Titles
    (pp. 292-304)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 305-306)