Several major directions of the New Polish Cinema of this era can be observed: mafia films, primarily in the early 1990s; films about the nation's recent past; comedies; and personal films and documentaries. The so-called mafia films were aimed at creating an alternative to American cinema while the other types employed entirely new, nonconventional approaches and themes in their presentation of the altered social and political realities of Poland. Moreover, these films moved away from strictly national themes (such as those characteristic of Wajda and Kutz, for instance), seeking a more universal appeal.
The early 1990s were characterized by the emergence of many important films dealing with the recent past. Robert Gliński (b. 1952), for instance, produced an award-winning film about Polish citizens deported by Stalin to Kazakstan, Wszystko co Najważniejsze ( All That Really Matters , 1992); other lauded films that honored Poland's recent past are Przypadek Pekosińskiego ( The Caséski , GrzegorzKrólikiewicz, 1993), Pokuszenie ( Temptation , Barbara Sass, 1995), and Kazimierz Kutz's Plulkownik Kwiatkowski ( Colonel Kwiatkowski , 1995). Other important films of the 1990s are Dlug ( The Debt , Krzysztof Krauze, 1999) and Poniedziaĺek ( Monday , Witold of Pekosin Adamek, 1998), as well as two other films by Kutz: Zawrócony (1994) and Śmierc jak Kromka Chleba ( Death as a Slice of Bread , 1994).
The recognizable comedy trend of the 1990s is represented by films such as Kolejność Uczuć ( Sequence of Feelings , Radoslaw Piwowarski, 1993), as well as the amusingly political films Rozmowy Kontrolowane ( Controlled Conversations , Sylwester Chȩciński, 1991), and Uprowadzenie Agaty ( Hijacking of Agata , Marek Piwowski, 1993). Finally, personal films and documentaries, many of these by women filmmakers, contribute to the complexity and wealth of themes presented in the 1990s. The honest, engaging films of Andrzej Barański (b. 1941), Jan Jakub Kolski (b. 1956), and Andrzej Kondriatuk (b. 1936), present provincial Poland in a poignant, touching manner.
Not every filmmaker, however, could find a voice in this new reality. Older masters such as Falk, Kawalerowicz, and Wajda had great difficulty finding new themes and new aesthetics that could interpret the rapidly changing reality around them, for neither their films' themes nor their aesthetics matched the expectations of young audiences. International success came chiefly to Kieślowski, whose 1990s films were co-produced with French and Swiss companies, moved away from political or social content and concentrated on larger human issues. Slow-moving and mysterious, films such as Podwójne Życie Weroniki ( The Double Life of Veronique , 1991) and the Trzy Kolory trilogy ( Three Colors , 1993–94), are widely admired by audiences in Europe and elsewhere and situate Kieślowski with Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini—among the great philosophers of cinema.
Jerzy Stuhr (b. 1947), who played major roles in the films of Kieślowski and Holland, carries on the tradition of reflexive film in Historie Miĺosne ( Love Stories , 1997), Tydzień z Zycia Męczyzny ( A Week in the Life of a Man , 1999), and Duże Zwierzę ( Big Animal , 2000). Only scarcely alluding to the social realities of Poland in the late 1990s, these films deal with the general issues of love, responsibility, ethics, and morality. Stuhr realistically presents conflicts between public and private spheres in people's lives, depicts the mentalities of both large cities and small towns, and gently advocates tolerance and forgiveness.
The years surrounding the new millennium have brought some optimism to Polish cinema. Among the most important twenty-first-century trends are new adaptations of the Polish literary canon and the return to powerful "social content" films. In the first group, Hoffman's Ogniem i Mieczem ( With Fire and Sword , 1999) and Wajda's Pan Tadeusz ( Pan Tadeusz: The Last Foray in Lithuania , 1999) and Zemsta ( The Revenge , 2002) have proved to be the most commercially successful. In the second group, Cześć Tereska ( Hi, Tereska , Gliński, 2001) and Edi (Piotr Trzaskalski, 2002) have shocked audiences with their bleakness. The style of the personal film, made popular in the 1990s also continues to be fashionable; for instance, Zanussi's Życie Jako Glin Śmiertelna Choroba Przenoszona Drogą Pĺciową ( Life as a Fatal Sexually Transmitted Disease , 2000) is widely acclaimed, having both startled and gripped spectators with its brutal honesty about people's indifference to the fate of the incurably ill.
In the twenty-first century, Polish cinema maintains its lead among its East-Central European peers. The films of promising new Polish filmmakers such as Gliński, Kolski, and Krauze continue to dominate international festivals and gain recognition and acceptance among European audiences.
SEE ALSO National Cinema
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