We present directors whose output had or is having a key influence on the directions of world cinematography.
TOMASZ ZYGADŁO (1947—2011) was a complex person who still influences new generations of filmmakers. Throughout his artistic life, he searched for the right way to express himself. A sociologist, documentarist, actor, screenwriter, TV producer and finally a theatre and film director – all forms of expression of his talents could fill up several creators’ schedules. As part of Zygadło’s retrospective at the Two Riversides Festival, we will present eight of his films, following his artistic discoveries starting from his early documentaries – with a particular recommendation of “Szkoła podstawowa” (“Primary School”, 1971) – to his later storylines, like “Ćma” (“The Moth”) with the incredible Roman Wilhelmi.
Tomasz Zygadło was gifted with an unusual sociological ability, a very keen sense of observation of reality. The generational change that became prominent at the beginning of the 70s (Tomasz Zygadło, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Wojciech Wiszniewski) introduced a fresh perspective on documentaries, which became critical, socially engaged, exploratory and started to ask uncomfortable questions. Zygadło was a perceptive observer who treated his protagonists seriously. He searched for topics in places where the heartbeat of society was sometimes strayed from the norm. In “Szkoła podstawowa”, the director observed how conformism is taught from a very young age, how attitudes towards life system are formed in communist Poland; in his “Robotnicy 1971: Nic o nas bez nas” (“The Workers of 1971: Nothing About Us Without Us”), which was blocked by censorship and shortened and broadcast in state TV under the changed title of “Gospodarze” (“The Hosts”, 1972) contrary to the authors’ will, Zygadło and the co-author Krzysztof Kieślowski gave the floor to those who represented the change – workers who were critical, suspicious, always ready to rebel despite the sweet promises of Gierek’s group.
For Zygadło, documentaries were an incredible lesson of humility towards reality. The director’s exploratory and creative spirit guided him towards a storyline which would enable him to express more than he could with a documentary. All of his films, save for the first one, “Rebus” (“Word Puzzle”, 1977), co-written with Maria Horodecka, put the protagonist, an internally conflicted intellectual, in situations where they have to make moral and existential choices. “Rebus”, “Ćma” (1980), and “Sceny dziecięce z życia prowincji” (“Childhood Scenes of the Provincial Life”, 1989) touch on universal issues, still present in the 21st century.
With the black and white – or really in the grey shade of dusk – “Ćma”, polished in every respect, also aesthetically, by Jacek Zygadło the director’s brother and a camera operator, abundant in imagery, philosophical and literary quotations, or the Stendhalesque plot structure in “Sceny dziecięce z życia prowincji”, it is clear that Zygadło’s works were definitely intended for the more demanding audiences with a certain cultural competence and intellectual background. In us, his viewers, Zygadło values a broad perspective, and sets the bar very high for us. But what else should we expect from someone whom Jacek Bromski, the president of the Polish Filmmakers Association, remembers as ‘an artist who was characterised by independence’?
Sources: Culture.pl, filmpolski.pl, sfp.org.pl
Transl. BT DIUNA
1985 Sceny dziecięce z życia prowincji|Child’s Scenes of Provincial Life
1982 Z kraju i ze świata|From the Country and from the World
1980 Ćma|The Moth
1976 Mikrofon dla wszystkich|A Microphone for Everyone
1971 Szkoła podstawowa|Primary School
1968 Made in Poland|Made in Poland