We began with a look at the heady influence of French cinema, followed this up with an examination of five vivid voices of a thriving and challenging cinematic emergence in Palenstine and turned to Brazil for an explosion of colour and fierce cinematic momentum.
In the latest of our World Cinema Index features Matt Rodgers looks into the heart and soul of Polish cinema.
With Pawel Pawlikowski’s stunning Ida currently occupying not nearly enough screens in UK cinemas, destined for lists such as this one in the near future, there’s no better time to highlight some of the best films to emerge from a country whose history is so intrinsically linked to some of cinemas finest films.
To the uninformed, of whom I remain a tentative honorary member; Poland is often the subject rather than the creator. With the WWII atrocities the focus of contemporary classics such as Schindler’s List, literary adaptations like The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, and harrowing documentaries like 1955 short film, Nuit et Brouillard (Night and Fog).
With the caveat that this is a series of recommendations from a reviewer only recently exposed to the country and their output, what this quintet of films of varying accessibility and notoriety is hoping to achieve is to provide a springboard to a foreign language territory to which we only receive sporadic exposure.
Three Colours: White (1994)
Although the inclusion of the entire trilogy would be a tenuous addition to the list due to the predominantly Gallic narrative, and with Krzysztof Kieslowski’s masterwork, Dekalog: The Ten Commandments (1989) actually being ten television movies rolled into one, the second instalment of the Three Colours Trilogy is the one most intrinsically Polish.
A twisty tale of love, murder, and revenge, White focuses on Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski), a Polish immigrant who marries a French woman (Julie Delpy), only to find himself homeless and penniless when she divorces him in humiliating circumstances. Forced to beg on the Warsaw underground, he befriends a man who offers him the opportunity to rebuild his life and reputation, all with the end-game of exacting revenge upon his ex-wife.
A huge sidestep in tone from the more serious tomes of Blue and Red, White is a social commentary on capitalism and equality, all wrapped in the oeuvre of comedy, which it just about gets away with. Whilst it might not be the best of the three, it is easily the most accessible and enjoyable, with a wonderful central performance from Zamachowski, which helps to balance the sillier aspects of the revenge plot.