LOOKING FOR IDENTITY: POLISH CINEMA OF THE NINETIES
Polish cinema had to face a shift in the early nineties. Its goal was no longer to fight the system and express the doubts and fears of an individual living in totalitarian society. The “code” used in many popular and artistic Polish films made in the eighties and earlier had become useless.
Films such as “Seksmisja” by Juliusz Machulski (Sex Mission, 1984) or “Rejs” by Marek Piwowski (The Boat Trip, 1970) listed among Polish cult favourites, could no longer satisfy the needs of the nineties’ audience. Some directors noticed the need for change. Film – both in its popular and artistic form – became part of the entertainment business.
Polish cinema’s place within the context of European and world cinema is determined by many factors. The system of film production, obscuring the difference between studio-style and independent film production, is certainly one of the most important factors that enabled Polish cinema to continue the auteur line after 1989.
The system also allowed many producers to emerge and – with some state support – make purely commercial films, sometimes imitating American and Western European popular cinema.
The System of Film Production in Poland
Polish cinema of the nineties was largely determined by the system of film production based in part on some “old” principles. While many forms of cultural activity have been almost entirely privatised and commercialised, cinema was still supported by the state.
The funds provided by the state budget made non-commercial productions possible. Yet the system, based on three agencies working with the Committee of Cinematography, also allowed for the production of films that do not address an audience and would never be screened.
Although every year the number of films that never reached an audience decreased, there were still films produced without any prior consultation with a distributor. In 1998 two such films were made: “Poniedzialek” (Monday, 1998) by Witold Adamek and “Malzowina” (The Auricle, 1998) by Wojciech Smarzowski.
Prior to their screening at the Polish Film Festival neither had found a distributor, although both films include popular rock musicians in the cast. Maciej Maleñczuk of Cracow’s cult band “Homo Twist” and Pawel Kukiz – the leader of “Piersi” – could easily attract the interest of the viewers.
Moreover, Kukiz proved to be a talented comedian starring in “Girl Guide” by Juliusz Machulski, a low budget comedy, both a box office hit and Polish Film Festival winner (1996).
Three agencies – two of them closely related to film production – were established in 1991, two years after the fall of the communist system in Poland. Their goal was to promote valuable Polish film production and give support to both commercial and non-commercial projects.
The Screenplay Agency was founded as a film institution that would offer grants for both film producers and independent screenwriters, and included scripts in the “screenplay pool” so that they could later be offered to producers.
During the past seven years the Film Production Agency has co-financed about 140 documentaries, animated and educational films. The above agencies were supported by the Distribution Agency, responsible for cinema release of all Polish and the most worthy foreign films.
The support from the state allowed Polish producers to make around 20 feature films per year. Some of them were produced by independent producers, and most were co-financed by Polish Television, which operated through its own Television Film and Theatre Production Agency established in 1994.
The support came from private, independent television broadcasters obliged to invest in film production. Canal + Film is certainly the most important partner. Until September 1998(Canal + Film decided to stop financing films to protest against the law allowing the stations broadcasting from abroad (through satellite) in order not to support Polishfilm production.) Canal+ Film has participated in the production of 27 feature films and 7 documentaries made with Polish and foreign investors.
Independent film producers/investors usually co-operated with Polish Television and/or the Film Production Agency.
However, there are some examples of successful films made without those institutions: “Szamanka” by Andrzej Zulawski, based on a screenplay by one of the most outstanding Polish directors working abroad, was rejected by Polish Television because it contained obscene elements; it was later financed by Canal + Film and some private investors.
How does the system of production affect the films themselves?
During communism there was no independent filmmaking in Poland with the exception of some marginal enterprises like “Silesian westerns” by Klyk. Those films, made usually by amateur directors and cinema buffs, were not distributed theatrically. Professional films were supported by the state and were subject to censors’ interventions.
Yet many films resisted the system in more or less direct ways; some were banned after, or even during, production. Ryszard Bugajski’ s “Przesluchanie” (The Interrogation, 1982) was not screened until 1989 because of its political topic: the censors did not accept the story, set in the fifties but with numerous allusions to contemporary situation.
The excellent science fiction epic by Andrzej Zulawski “On Silver Globe” was not even completed when the authorities ordered to destroy the film in 1977, together with props and even costumes. Some of them were hidden by the members of the crew.
Zulawski intended to finish the film, but ten years later this was no longer possible. Instead he decided to screen the unfinished work with the gaps filled by his own commentary and some scenes dubbed by different actors.
With the end of communism the censorship problem disappeared abruptly, but financial problems became even more apparent.
Studios and artists were not sure how to react to the changing situation; some tried to comment, like Feliks Falk in his “Kapital, czyli jak zrobic pieniadze w Polsce” (Capital, or How to Make Money in Poland, 1989), while others could speak freely about the oppressions of communism: like Radoslaw Piwowarski in “Marcowe migdaly” (March Almonds, 1990) about March 1968 in Poland, when many Jews were persecuted and forced to leave the country; Janusz Kijowski in “Stan strachu” (The Martial Law of Fear, 1990) and Waldemar Krzystek in “Ostatni prom” (The Last Ferry Boat, 1989), films about martial law and people who – sometimes against their will – had to make their political statements.
There were also many examples of pure entertainment: “Czarodziej z Harlemu” (The Magician from Harlem, 1990) by Pawel Karpiñski, about an American basketball star trying to cope with Polish reality, Marek Koterski’s “Porno” (Blue Movie, 1989) and Jacek Bromski’s “Sztuka kochania” (Ars Amandi, 1989), both about middle aged men and their sexual problems. Some directors tried to imitate or adopt foreign postmodern cinema, such as Juliusz Machulski in “Deja Vu” and Robert Gliñski in “Labêdzi spiew” (The Swan Song, 1989).
The most successful films of the period 1988-1990 were more universal stories. In 1988 Kieœlowski directed his famous television series “Dekalog” (The Ten Comandments).
Despite many allusions to the situation in Poland in the late 80s, “Dekalog” is easily understood by foreign viewers. The series uses classical narrative style with a delicate touch of “art-house” film.
Polish audiences identified films by Krzysztof Kieslowski as quality productions no worse than foreign imports. “300 mil do nieba” (300 Miles to Heaven, 1990) by Maciej Dejczer is another example of well-made narrative film with a difference.
This successful drama (Felix 1990), based on American-style scenario by the director himself and Cezary Harasimowicz, is the story of two young boys trying to escape to Sweden. Told in a slightly melodramatic way, “300 mil do nieba” proved again that Polish audiences expect Hollywood-like stories set in Polish reality.
Some of the producers working for film studios decided to give the audience what they wanted. Juliusz Machulski proved not only to be a successful director, but also a producer. As a head of Zebra Studio he produced debut feature by Wladyslaw Pasikowski, a young director who later became the greatest director-star of the 90s.
His “Kroll” (Private Kroll, 1991) was a violent drama about a young escaped soldier, starring Boguslaw Linda, Cezary Pazura and Olaf Lubaszenko, a team of actors appearing in many box office hits of the years to come.
Pasikowski’s film was not only the first huge success of Polish cinema after the fall of communism, but also an artistic success. The director, cinematographer Pawel Edelman and supporting actor Cezary Pazura were awarded for their work at Polish Feature Film Festival in Gdynia.
American-style films quickly captured attention of some Polish businessmen, who turned into independent producers. While Pasikowski’s second feature “Psy” (The Dogs, 1992) was produced by state-owned Zebra Film studio with some support from private investors, its sequel “Psy 2. Ostatnia krew (The Dogs 2. The Last Blood, 1994) was a large-budget, independent production. The famous Polish tennis player, businessman and art collector Wojciech Fibak with Visa Film produced an action packed thriller that finally established Boguslaw Linda as a biggest star of Polish cinema. The company produced more films of this kind: the next film by Wladyslaw Pasikowski, “Slodko-gorzki” (Bitter Sweet, 1996), a teenage love story; and “Szamanka” (Shaman Woman, 1996) by Andrzej Zulawski.
Heritage Films is another important independent producer, known for its collaboration with Steven Spielberg on the set of “Schindler’s List”. Its biggest success was “Tato” (Daddy, 1995) – a love story about a man struggling to keep his daughter with him after divorcing his mentally ill wife.
This postmodern melodrama, based on American ready-made cliches, was directed by Maciej Slesicki who, along with Wladyslaw Pasikowski and Juliusz Machulski, is one of the most successful Polish directors of the nineties.
His second feature. “Sara” (also co-produced by Heritage Films, 1997), a pastiche thriller quoting the most popular films of the decade, was another box office hit.
Visa Films International, Heritage Films and some other companies not only offer their services to state-owned investors but also invest their funds in the projects. Most of the so-called film producers are in fact financial executives from television.
This makes the situation really difficult to describe: there are literally hundreds of film production companies, but only some of them develop projects independently, from the idea to complete film. On the other hand, many independent producers co-operate with television and state-funded agencies.
Nearly all films intended for cinema exhibition are in part co-financed by Film Production Agency. Thus, its very difficult to distinguish so-called independent productions, especially when independent projects are at the same time the most commercial ones.
Instead we could distinguish between films that try to fit in new situation and those which seem to resist it. The system of financing film production through agencies of the Committee of Cinematography allowed many films to be produced without any prospects for distribution.
Some of them, although intended for cinema exhibition, were screened only by public television, which contributed to the costs of production. Independent producers, although receiving state support, search for a distributor in the pre-production stage. In many cases distributors invest in film production.
Independent producers are usually interested in projects with good commercial prospects. Yet more artistic films are made not only by state-owned studios with the funds coming from Agencies and public television.
Heritage Films invested also in some more sophisticated productions made by one of the most prominent Polish “auteurs”, Andrzej Wajda. Two of his recent films, “Pierscionek z orlem w koronie” (A Ring With The Crowned Eagle, 1993) and “Wielki Tydzieñ” (Holy Week, 1995), were produced by Heritage Films.
Polish audiences want to watch Polish films (see table 1), if there is a chance to do so. However, the most successful films prove that the viewers still expect films based on generic structures adopted from American cinema. In the first six months of 1998, “Mlode wilki 1/2” (Fast Lane 1/2, 1998) was the most successful Polish production.
As a sequel (or rather pre-quel) to a film made three years earlier, it openly identifies itself as a part of a certain system, in which a movie is not a unique work of art, but rather a commodity made to satisfy the needs of a consumer.
Its narrative structure is based on American action cinema, while the setting is Polish. As in the first part, the young protagonists are shown in the changing reality of early Polish capitalism, only they are younger and the violence is less literal to allow for younger audiences.(In Poland there’s no film classification system; age limits are usually determined by the distributors or cinemas, sometimes none are issued at all.)
“Kiler” is a postmodern, intertextual extravaganza that quotes American, European and Polish popular cinema but – unlike films by the Coen Brothers – does not call for real “knowledge” of film history and genre formulas. Instead it tries to simply please the audience. The third Polish box office hit, “Demony wojny”, was made by Wladyslaw Pasikowski.
It is a violent action movie about Polish soldiers in former Yugoslavia. The fourth film, “Spona” (1998) by Waldemar Szarek, is a typical example of a family movie about a teenage protagonist with school problems.
|Film Title (Polish productions)||Audience in first half of 1998|
|M3ode wilki 1 / 2||610.307|
|Kiler(“Kiler” opened in 1997, and is the highest grossing Polish movie after 1989.)||540.016|
|As Good As It Gets||401.576|
Polish Cinema in European Context
Polish Cinema tries to find its place within the context of European and world cinematography. Before 1989 co-productions with foreign film studios were made sometimes for political reasons.
In the 1970s most co-productions with the USSR were historical and propaganda films, and only in the 1980s more popular films were co-produced between the two countries.
In the seventies there were very few examples of films co-produced with Western studios, as for example “Panny z Wilka” (Maids of Wilko, 1979, Poland/France) by Andrzej Wajda.
In the eighties Polish producers started looking for foreign partners in Western Europe or even the USA. In the nineties the situation changed completely: there are few examples of co-productions with countries of the former “Eastern Block”, especially the former USSR, although Polish films are occasionally filmed on set in Russia, Ukraine or Belarus.
Producers working with partners from Western Europe expect both funds and foreign distribution. Some films were supported by European funding agencies, such as Eurimages: the Polish-Hungarian “Wittman Fiuk” (Wittman Brothers”, made by a Hungarian director with Polish actors and crew members), is a perfect example of such a production.
There are only a few Polish films that really succeeded commercially abroad. For most foreign cinema buffs, Krzysztof Kieslowski with his “Three Colours”, “Double Life of Veronique” and “The Ten Commandments” seems to be most noteworthy Polish film director of the nineties. After a series of successes his films became art-house attractions in Europe and – after the Oscar nomination for “Three Colours: Red” -, they were distributed by Miramax Films. Many films were co-produced with foreign television companies for broadcast rather than distribution
Identity of Polish Cinema
Films produced in Poland in the nineties try to establish their identity as a part of European and world culture not only in terms of economics. Despite the growing number of co-productions with Western partners, the majority of Polish film production is still fully financed from domestic sources. Yet those films are more and more “for export”.
The reason for the adoption of foreign aesthetics and narrative schemes was connected to the expectations of Polish viewers. In the 1980s the audience’s competence was unexpectedly high.
Despite the obvious repertoire shortage due to financial problems and earlier censorship, they were familiar with the most important American and Western European films, especially in the popular genre.
At the time there were more VCRs in Poland than in many Western countries; satellite receivers were also very common. Audio-visual equipment was not only an attribute of success, but also a way of accessing foreign culture.
The Polish video market in the mid eighties was one of the most dynamic, while being nearly non-existent. The equipment, although available in selected shops,(The VCRs were initially available in “Pewex” shops , where goods were sold for foreign currencies. Due to the exchange rate, not many customers could afford to buy them there.) was much too expensive for the average customer. There were only few officially released movies, and the rental prices were high. On the other hand, cheaper equipment and bootleg tapes were easily available from private “importers”, smuggling them from Germany. Thus the choices of the Polish audience in some way followed the German market.
Popular cinema on video shaped the expectations of the Polish viewer. At the beginning of the 1990s many art house cinemas and film clubs were closed.
The retrospective of world cinema “Konfrontacje” was cancelled in 1991 due to the reorganisation of distribution in Poland.
Polish cinema had to attract the attention of the viewer by proving that it is no worse than foreign imports and can offer the same kind of excitement.
Some Polish directors understood the new challenges and easily found their niche on the market. Juliusz Machulski, director of “Deja Vu”, clearly identified himself as a part of world cinema. His film is an example of Polish-style postmodern comedy, a sophisticated puzzle for cinephiles.
The protagonist, mistaken for a famous American gangster, operates in Odessa in the mid twenties only to lead us through the maze of quotations from classical American and European movies including Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin”.
Despite many allusions to Polish-Russian relations, “Deja Vu” is no longer a metaphorical vision of changing reality of Central Europe. Machulski’s comedy, although certainly not his best, is a breakthrough film, indicating a change in Polish entertainment: from the metaphorical representation of reality to pure intertextual fun.
Two of the most popular Polish films of the nineties, “Kiler” by Juliusz Machulski and “Sara” by Maciej Slesicki, are perfect examples of the tendency. They both use global imagery and define their viewer as a member of a community larger than the Polish one.
“Kiler” managed to gather popular cinema enthusiasts and art house audiences: it was both popular and rated very highly by most film critics. Yet it clearly defines itself as a non-serious, fun production.
At the very beginning we learn that Polish gangsters prepare a deal to sell the Palace of Culture, a famous Warsaw building “presented” by Soviets to our country, to some foreign “investors”. This abstract and “impossible” situation moves the story to a level that is later defined as intertextual.
Instead of relating the story to any experiences of the viewer, the director calls for his cinema competence. “Kiler” builds on clichés and admits it in many ways.
In one of the scenes Jurek Kiler, a taxi driver mistaken for a famous hit man, builds his image from popular films. After watching “The Taxi Driver” by Martin Scorsese, “Leon: The Professional” by Luc Besson and a couple other films he poses like the protagonists of the movies that inspired him.
He also chooses one Polish film,“The Dogs” by Wladyslaw Pasikowski, an almost perfect copy of American action movies. Parodying the character created by one of his colleagues, Boguslaw Linda, with whom Cezary Pazura (Jurek Kiler in Machulski’s movie) often stars, the protagonist assures the viewer that Polish movies (both “The Dogs” and “Kiler”) are part of a larger-than-Polish tradition.
“Kiler” also defines a new function of cinema. Juliusz Machulski seems to admit that his movie is more a sophisticated product than an artistic event. Its goal is to entertain and do it well, to provide consumer-like satisfaction.
Not only the protagonists are defined as members of consumer society, but the movie itself encourages its audience to consume. “Kiler” is one of the first Polish movies to use intensive “tie-in” product placement techniques.
The producers signed contracts with some companies to show their products in a positive context in the movie. Thus, nearly all protagonists drive Nissans (from Micra to a sports coupe), they watch “Nasza” Television (owned by the distributor), read “Viva” weekly and use Era GSM mobile phones.
The strategy is used in many foreign movies, but in Machulski’s film some products (especially the cars) are ever-present. Their presentation is not simply in keeping with the terms of the agreement with the sponsors, but denotes a certain shift in Polish cinema, which starts to operate in the market to fulfil certain consumer needs of the audience.
“Kiler” was, of course, followed by a sequel, “Kiler-ów 2-ów” (Both Kilers, 1998). Canal +, the television station supporting both films financially, scheduled the first part of the film in their Christmas programme. Two weeks later “Both Kilers” opened inthe cinemas in all major cities of Poland.
“Sara” made by Maciej Slesicki was the second box office hit of the young director. After the classical melodrama “Tato” (Dad), Slesicki directed a fast action movie with comedy elements. “Sara” is a typical story about a tough but troubled cartoon-like superhero. Leon (named after Luc Besson’s film protagonist) is a special forces soldier.
After a top secret operation he returns home to his wife; as they are making love, the kids find their dad’s gun. One of them points at the sibling and fires.
Following the tragic event Leon is left by his wife, quits the army and starts heavy drinking. A few months later a former colleague finds him in an empty, devastated apartment and offers him a job. Leon is to protect sixteen-year-old Sara, the daughter of a rich and famous gangster.
Action movie elements are replaced by “Kiler”-like postmodern fun. We learn that during the shooting only the wife’s favourite puppy was killed. Leon’s wife left him not because of the child’s death but because of her affair with another man. What seemed “serious” is now “bracketed”.
The opening scene is no longer a “tragic event” but a deliberately used schematic cliché. Like “Kiler” “Sara” quotes foreign films. Strangely, some of them are the same movies that inspired Juliusz Machulski.
“Leon: The Professional” is surely the most important inspiration: the character is named after it, many situations evoke scenes from Besson’s film, the protagonist protects an adolescent girl and, of course, falls in love with her. There are some controversial, “adult” scenes between the mature, forty-year-old man and the teenager.
The references to “Leon” are quite obvious, but the director stresses them even more: in some scenes the posters of the French movie feature on the walls. Slesicki refers to other classical movies too: the gangsters, shown in an ironic context, are “learning” from famous gangster films like Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” and gory exploitation movies.
“Kiler” and “Sara” are, of course, not the only examples of films defining themselves as “universal”. Many others, both popular and art house productions, search for new contexts in the experiences common to viewers of different background.
“Brute” by Maciej Dejczer is one of the most impressive examples of such an approach. Although the idea of the film came from Polish artists (Cezary Harasimowicz and Dejczer), its story has nothing to do with Polish reality. The protagonist, played by the German actor Til Schweiger, is a Brit.
After spending a couple years in prison he gets a chance to go Romania to join the re-socialisation program in one of the local orphanages. There he meets a terminally-ill girl who desperately “falls in love” with him. Brute knows that she cannot be saved and pretends to reciprocate her feelings just to ease her pain. After her death he is not the same person any more.
“Brute” offers the viewers not only an international cast (Polly Walker, Pete Postlethwaite, John Hurt and others) and settings, but also evokes narrative structures easily associated with a foreign (American) way of storytelling.
The genre of melodrama defines the structure of the movie, but there are also elements of action movie and thriller; these elements are combined with a contemporary and “serious” topic to produce a kind of double pleasure, associated with popular culture and objet d’art.
The Polish-Hungarian co-production “Bracia Wittmanowie” (Wittman Brothers) is a different example. With funds provided by Eurimages, the director delivered a psychological drama about two young boys trying to cope with their dysfunctional family. After their father’s death, they are attracted by a prostitute.
Their passion drives them to kill their mother to get hold of some jewellery, which they offer to the girl. The locations of “Wittman Brothers” are quite difficult to recognise: the small town where the story is set is a kind of “landscape of the soul” rather than a realistically portrayed place.
Its dark and foggy streets create a depressing atmosphere in Janos Szasz’s film. “Wittman Brothers” reminds the viewer of the masters of European “auteur cinema”: Fellini, Antonioni, Herzog or Bergman, whose greatest masterpieces (like Herzog’s “Aguiree. The Wrath of God”) used settings and locations only as a pretext. Thus their works could easily become part of Italian, German or Swedish culture, or even part of European or world heritage.
Szasz’s film does not point to any recognisable external text, but ascribes itself to a certain tradition of European cinema . Other directors too try to identify their work as European by recalling existing literary texts.
Mariusz Grzegorzek in his “Rozmowa z czlowiekiem z szafy” (The Conversation with the Cupboard Man, 1993) combined Ian McEwan’s story with Johann Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. While McEwan provided main story-line, Andersen was used as a visionary counterpoint.
“The Conversation with the Cupboard Man” is the story of a young man, Karol, who was raised by his mother. After his father’s death the boy became an apple is his mum’s eye.
She isolated Karol from the external world, forcing him to stay at home all day. Sitting in the cupboard, where he was safe and comfortable, became boy’s favourite activity. After graduating from a special school he is unable to cope with the simplest, everyday challenges.
With the help of one of his teachers Karol finds a job, but after a violent confrontation with his boss, he decides to quit and locks himself in the cupboard again.
This realistic story of alienation is combined with black-and-white images evoking Andersen’s story about a mother, who is unable to decide whether her child should live and face the dangers of the world or stay in the “greenhouse”, safe but lonely.
Grzegorzek gives some clues that the characters are Polish, but the story could easily be moved to another country. The variety of inter-textual elements creates a world that does not depend on our everyday experience. The adaptation of McEwan’s story is no “translation” ; Grzegorzek does not hesitate to include motifs that are unfamiliar to Polish viewers.
For example, in Polish “Death” is female and is, in literature, art and film, portrayed as a woman. In the Germanic tradition (Andersen), Death is male.
The director, instead of changing Death’s gender to “adjust” the story for the Polish audience, decided to leave the original intact. The texts Grzegorzek uses are not translated: on the contrary, they are presented as part of a common tradition that requires no translation.
There are few examples of films about the common experience of Europeans seen from the Polish perspective. In the nineties only Krzysztof Kieslowski tried to discuss this issue in his films “Podwójne zycie Weroniki” (The Double Life of Veronique, 1991) and “Trzy kolory” (Three Colours Trilogy, 1993-1994). “The Double Life of Veronique” tells a story of two girls: Weronika, who is Polish, and Veronique, who is French.
Both of them are musicians: the Pole is a singer in a choir, the French woman teaches music in a school. Weronika feels a strange closeness of a person she doesn’t know.
This makes her leave her boyfriend and move to Cracow, where she joins the choir. During one of the performances she suddenly dies. After her death, Veronique feels strange loss.
Browsing some photographs from Cracow she finds Weronika on one of the pictures. Both girls are related in a strange way: the seem to live their own lives, but their experiences are very similar, despite the different conditions they live in.
In “Three Colours” Kieslowski tells the stories of people living in Poland, France and Switzerland. Despite some observations of the changing Polish reality, the series neither reinforces stereotypes on the place of Poland in Europe nor tries to question them.
No matter where they live, the characters have to face similar problems and make similar choices. In “Red”, the final episode of “Three Colours” trilogy, all of them are saved from the ferry crash. What do they have in common? Is it being European, or maybe just chance?
Krzysztof Kieslowski’s films proved to be truly European. Despite the director’s background, they use a perspective many European and non-European viewers can identify with.
“Three Colours” and other films by the Polish film-maker were box office hits in many Western European countries, not only because they tell universal stories, but also because they include many elements of popular “European unity ideology”.
Polish film, although sometimes desperately looking for its place within the European context, is far from becoming a major film producer in the United Europe. The language barrier an important factor in determining the position of Polish films on foreign markets.
However, there are also examples of worthy films, like “Listopad” (November, 1992) by Lukasz Karwowski, which failed abroad despite the fact they it was made in a foreign language. Accepting Poland as a full member of EC may change the situation by removing some existing legal barriers.
Foreign spectators seem to be interested in some Poland-produced films (if they comply with their expectation, which are incidentally quite similar to the expectations of Polish viewers of the 90s). Of course, there is another possible scenario: Poland could become the provider of “prefabricated elements” for a perfect “European” or “American” product.
American films often include European elements in an indirect way. European scripts, like that of Bessons’s “Nikita”, are adopted to satisfy the demands of American audiences.
Some directors are prepared to re-work their own films: recently, the screenplay of Juliusz Machulski’s “Kiler” was acquired by the Disney Company. The American version of this successful comedy is going to be directed by former Coen Brothers’ director of photography, Barry Sonnenfeld. Machulski will be one of the producers.
The deal between “Zebra” Film Studio and Disney was widely discussed in the Polish media. Before, only Roman Polañski managed to draw the attention of American producers.
Yet, his “Nóz w wodzie” (Knife in the Water, 1965) never translated into an American version. Most critics see the deal as the first sign of foreign investors’ interest in Polish cinema. But will the American “Kiler” resemble Juliusz Machulski’s film in any way?