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Accanto a Polanski e Borowczyc la "Terza Generazione Polacca", quella che ha
abbandonato il realismo socialista, annovera anche Jerzy Skolimowski, poeta e drammaturgo.
Laureato in etnologia a
Varsavia e in cinematografia a Lodz (1962), esordisce con due sceneggiature,
Niewinni Czarodzieje/ Innocent Sorcerers (1960) di
Andrzej Wajda e
Noz w Wodzie/ Knife in the Water (1962) di
I suoi primi film rappresentano la crisi esistenziale dei giovani in un mondo
disumanizzato, e sono quasi-autobiografici.
Ryposis/ Identification Marks None (1964), which originated in
several shorts made over the four years he spent at the film school in Lodz,
follows a disaffected young man, an anti-hero and a congenital liar,
during the few hours before his departure for military service. It is the first installment of the more or less autobiographical saga of Andrzej Leszczyc (played by Skolimowski himself).
Skolimowski's wife Elzbieta Czyzewska plays three different characters: the frustrated wife, the sexy single woman and the dreaming student (incidentally, three stages of life).
The protagonist doesn't have any "marks of identity" because he has no identity.
The film is mostly composed of long takes with a mobile camera.
The cinematography already shows a preference for odd angles and optical effects.
It's still dark when a young man, Andrzej, walks out of his apartment, without waking up his sleeping wife Teresa.
The building's manager tells him that his
dog has been bitten by an infected dog and also reminds him that rent is still unpaid.
Andrzej walks into a building where a lot of young men are waiting.
Andrzej is called into a room where officials of the draft board and a doctor examine him and find him fit for military service. They scold him for having "deserted": he is 24 and should have done military service five years earlier, but
instead he did not report.
He confesses that he enrolled in fish science only to avoid military service, but now he doesn't find any excuses and he's so eager to serve that the officer in charge suspects it's a trick. Asked if he has any
"identifical marks", Andrzej replies: "None".
He claims to be single with no dependents.
We learn that he has been expelled from university.
He is told to report the following day to military training.
He walks home past an industrial junkyard.
The following morning he wakes up and has an argument with his wife who is going to work. She thinks that he is going to university.
The dog now has rabies, as predicted.
They see and overhears two women sunbathing and gossiping on the roof above his apartment.
He takes the dog to a veterinary, who has no choice but to kill the dog.
On the way home, he witnesses a car accident.
As the ambulance arrives, he meets his friend Mundek and walks with him to
collect a debt from another friend. The trio chats at a glass counter and we see their reflection in the glass.
His cynical friends, who are still single and have good jobs, make fun of his pointless studies and of him being married.
Before leaving, Mundek phones a girl, Lena, that he is trying to date.
Andrzej borrows money from Mundek
Andrzej walks to his university to ask for a report of his studies, and the
secretary mocks him for being expelled just before graduating. He begs her
not to tell his wife that he was expelled and that he has been drafted, so we learn that the wife is totally unaware of both facts.
He asks a fellow student, Barbara, to write a note for him: it's a note to Lena signed by Mundek, and he says it's a joke.
The church bells ring noon: he only has one hour left.
He pretends to be a working man, a railwayman, to the naive Barbara, and invites her to the train station.
Andrzej looks for his wife Teresa at the shop where she's supposed to decorate
the windows but the boss told him that Teresa said she has no husband,
got her pay and took the afternoon off.
He walks to Lena's place. He meets a fortune teller in the stairwell who
first insists to read his future but then
refuses his money because she sees bad things in his future.
A man walks out of the apartment and leaves the door open for him, and Andrzej
walks into the large nice apartment.
Lena is bathing and doesn't recognize him but he insists that they met before.
Then we only see a white wall and don't hear any sounds.
She mocks Mundek and his betting business and pities Andrzej (a little confusing).
Later Andrzej walks into an office, borrows the phone and phones his mother and lies about studying and working.
His mother doesn't even know that he's married.
On the way out he pays for a month of Spanish classes.
He then walks to Mundek's place and punches him but Mundek prevails and
kicks him out.
Back home, he receives the visit of a
war veteran who lost a leg before the war, under a tram.
When his wife comes home, he yells at her demanding to know where she went and how she spent her salary.
She was working in the building, but at the fifth floor and saw him talking to her boss, and she used her salary to pay overdue rent: Andrzej has no reason to be jealous and mad at her.
The camera than walks in front of him down the stairs.
He catches a tram on the fly and gets off at the train station just in time
to catch his train.
Barbara shows up but they don't have time to talk.
Walkower/ Walk Over (1965) is the second installment of the saga, and adds touches of surrealistic humor to his social realism. It's a much more
disjointed and confused film, and quite frustrating at times.
The protagonist is now almost 30 and has become cynical.
The film opens with Barbara staring melancholic at a train.
She then apparently throws herself under a train.
This time Andrzej's train is actually arriving, not departing.
He calls a blonde "Barbara" and she recognizes him.
In fact, she immediately invites him to follow her to a factory, while
curious onlookers pity the girl who died.
Andrzej doesn't seem to know the name of the blonde: it's actually Teresa.
Andrzej carries a transistor radio and hears himself reciting verses of poems (but only he hears it).
They hitch a ride to the factory where she has a meeting.
He follows her. We learn that it's the eve of his 30th birthday and that
he failed the final examination to become an engineer.
(So it's been six years since he left for military service).
Teresa represents the polytechnic's scientific opinion on the project to build
a factory and is assigned an apartment in the factory.
Andrzej cannot get a job there because he didn't get his diploma.
He loses Teresa in the factory and passes by a boxing ring where a coach, Rogala, invites him to become a boxer.
Teresa has a heated argument with the engineers who warn about potential danger in the chemicals at the factory. She keeps repeating that, according to statistics, an incident is unlikely to happen.
Andrzej rejoins her. He is approached by a priest who insists on confessing him.
Andrzej that the priest is only a
madman who believes to be a priest.
Andrzej and Teresa need a ride to return to town and
Andrzej flags a nice car down pretending to be an inspector.
Andrzej and Teresa are having a drink when suddenly a man in suit and tie,
Miecio, sits at their table lamenting his miserable life and tries to sell
A car accident distracts most customers of the cafe' but not Miecio.
Andrzej leaves Teresa and runs away without saying a word.
He sells his transistor radio to a shopkeeper who wants to negotiate (Andrzej would sell it for the first offer but the shopkeeper insists on negotiating and ends up paying a lot more).
While running, Andrzej passed by the car accident and dropped a watch. He is detained by a puzzled police officer who also finds more watches in his pockets.
He explains that he won the watches at card games.
He returns to Teresa. They decide to catch a train and walk towards the train
station. He mentions that ten years earlier he was expelled from the polytechnic. He says that she was 17 at the time. She remembers him as a rebel student.
On the way to her apartment, an artist improvises silhouettes of them for a few pennies.
Then they stop to get postcard recordings (she records something for him, he records something for her).
Andrzej tells Teresa that he started boxing while in the military and winning
on the ring is the only thing who gave him happiness.
He tells her that he signed up for one more match.
She goes to watch the match.
Andrzej is knocked down and dreams of Barbara. Then regains consciousness
and goes on to win.
He now has to fight in the final but tells Rogala he won't.
Andrzej and Teresa go to the train station to catch a train.
While waiting, they are approached by a man (Miecio?) who lets people throw eggs at his face for a little money.
Then someone (that we don't see) approaches Andrzej with a photo of Barbara.
Andrzej and Teresa return to her apartment. They argue
(we learn that she is the one who caused his expulsion and that she was
educated in a convent)
while on the wall we
see the projection of footage about some tragic event.
Then friends walk in and a sexy girl flirts with Andrzej.
And then he wakes up in bed with Teresa, both naked.
Teresa talks about marriage.
They finally take the train, abandoning the final.
A boxer sees him leaving, steals a motorbike and chases the train, shouting
at Andrzej that he's a coward.
Andrzej initially ignores him but then jumps off the train and returns to the
His opponent doesn't show up and Andrzej is declared the winner without fighting.
The opponent meets him later alone and tells him that he let him win on purpose.
Andrzej punches him in the face, the opponent punches him harder.
It's Andrzej's birthday.
The poetic and romantic
Bariera/ Barrier (1966), the third installment of the saga (although this time the protagonist is unnamed and played by a different actor), completely abandoned social realism for grotesque surrealistic imagery and allegory,
all enhanced with a jazz soundtrack by Krzysztof Komeda.
The instability of the previous film has turned into chaotic narrative
but also into intense atmosphere.
The film opens with a man whose hands have been tied in the back and we only see him fall forward, without seeing his face. Then we see another one going through the same procedure. Then we see their faces, one by one, as they recite
monologues about their frustrated life. They are medical students and are
playing a game that will decide who gets the money that they jointly collected to pay for tuitions, stored in a piggy bank. Three of the four pledge to divide the sum among themselves, but the fourth one doesn't, and he's the one who wins the game.
He visits his elderly father who lives in a nursing home to tell him that he is about
to get married, but his father is only interested in writing a letter.
We see him climbing the wall of a building, passing by dead chickens.
He leaves the university in a fog, carrying a large suitcase that contains the piggy bank, running along hundreds of other men of
He sees his father moving away on his tricycle.
He delivers the letter to a woman, and
realizes it's a gift from his father: the woman has to pay a sum and instead
she gives him
a sword, while they hear
screams from the dentist office next door.
He takes a bath and a little girl comes to watch him.
One night he meets a girl in a street in front of a sign lit with candles.
It's the eve of Easter.
She is a tram driver. He takes her tram and asks her to join him at a party
that he is throwing and explains that the whole getting married thing is a joke.
He wants her to show up as his fiance' to prove that the engagement is real.
He is the only customer at the restaurant. Waiters and musicians sit bored in the back, although the master of ceremony continue speaking in the microphone
of an exciting evening.
He eventually convinces a janitor who is washing the floor to sing a song
as if she were a pop star.
The girl finally arrives, carrying the student's gigantic suitcase.
In the suitcase is the piggy bank he has to pay for the dinner.
They are interrupted by a madman who hands them newspapers with the story of his life.
They use the newspapers to make themselves hats. She tells him that his friends
are coming to beat him up. Two friends arrive and the student pretends that
she's his fiance'. The couple dances. There is nobody else in the restaurant.
He laments that they won't have time to fall in love with each other.
Suddenly hundreds of men all dressed in suite and tie, and wearing a newspaper as a hat, walk in. They are all men except the lady who sold the sword.
One of them demonstrates how good the sword is and the lady offers to buy back
the sword for a lot of money but he refuses. They all dance a dance that
consists in simply jumping up and down.
One man looks upset as he walks towards the table of the student and the tram driver. She tells the student that he's her husband, a war veteran.
All the men, still wearing the funny hats, intone patriotic war songs.
Now there are lots of women, sitting alone at the tables.
A waiter serves champagne and the piggy bank, which the student cuts in half with the sword.
The newspaper man dies of a heart attack and is taken away in an ambulance.
She is very distraught.
Later, they climb a lot of stairs to reach the roof of a high-rise building from which they can see his dormitory. He is still carrying his sword and his suitcase.
Then we see them on top of a sort of a tower. The student,
wearing a carton mask on his head and holding his suitcase and the sword,
lets himself slide down the tower and rolls down uncontrollably, but survives.
Then he walks into a car and turns on the windshields, whose rhythm leads the
soundtrack into a baroque dance.
He lights the one cigarette that he has saved and refused to give to anyone
else, and hears the sound of an explosion. He walks outside the garage and
enters a nursery full of flowers.
The white petals of the flowers mix with the snow as he falls down.
Then we see the girl walking under the rails of the tram.
to talk to her boss about taking a day off, but it's Easter and they are
short on personnel, and nobody wants to switch with her.
She lies down on giant letters that read "dead".
She is taken to the hospital but she is not dead: the doctor wakes her up
and he's the man whom she called her husband, but he's not. She says she said
it only because she was angry at the student, who is getting married.
After pretending to examine her,
he gives her a sick leave so she doesn't have to go to work, but she tears it up.
She leaves carrying the giant letter "E" on which she had lain dead and puts
it back where it was.
She gets on the tram and starts driving. At the end of the line a blind man
asks for her help, but he turns out not to be blind at all. She kicks him and
he explodes like a bomb.
She drives her tram till sunset.
She gets off and starts driving with everybody else, a scene reminiscent of the
scene with the student running in a crowd.
They all stop for a second as two nurses are carrying away a dead man in
a stretcher (the doctor? the student?)
She finds herself on a stage. The host tells the audience that she's looking
for her love, but she doesn't even know his name.
The audience laughs.
Then we see her driving her tram again... and he appears on the windshield.
He falls. She tells him to get up and smiles.
Tutti più o meno autobiografici (il regista ha soltanto 28 anni all'epoca del terzo), questi film sono girati alla Godard con estrema libertà di stile ed incisiva immediatezza.
Rece do Gory/ Hands up (1967), released only in 1981,
and then reassembled in 1985 in a shorter form, was another film with
Skolimowski playing his alter ego Andrzej Leszczyc,
the third part of the Andrzej trilogy, but little is left of the original.
lasciato la Polonia gira Le Depart (1967), in Belgium in French,
with Godard's cameraman Willy Kurant (and the two actors of Godard's
ironica storia di un parrucchiere per signora che
sogna di diventare pilota di auto sportive, ma che proprio alla vigilia di una gara importante scopre il
Ancora più umoristico è
The Adventures of Gerard (1970), farsesca
parodia del cinema avventuroso e dello humour nero (based on Arthur Conan Doyle's stories, the first of his literary adaptations).
A Londra gira the English-language Deep End (1971), filmed in Germany with British actors,
un film di conturbante tensione
fantastica e di seducente eleganza figurativa.
I protagonisti sono due giovanissimi (lei ventenne, lui quindicenne), inservienti
nei bagni pubblici di un sudicio quartiere londinese dove sono a quotidiano contatto con le più
volgari scorrerie; lui è imberbe e timoroso, lei si è ormai adattata all'ambiente, ha diversi
amanti, è spregiudicata e maliziosa; gode nell'affidargli incarichi imbarazzanti, e ancor
più quando lui si innamora trepidamente lei. La vigilia delle nozze con un maestro di nuoto, lei
perde l'anello; l'adolescente la aiuta a ritrovarlo, ma vuole in cambio il suo corpo; lei accondiscende, ma
poi l'amore trascende il litigio e involontariamente lui la ammazza.
Gli echi del free-cinema inglese (nell'ambientazione squallida e deprimente) e del neo-realismo magico nell'approccio poetico-fiabesco passano in second'ordine rispetto all'introspezione psicologica, che dal conflitto fra la purezza di lui e il vizio di lei sa trarre poesia e comicità.
Dopo alcuni film minori fra cui una trasposizione di
King, Queen, Knave (1972) da Nabokov,
Lady Frankenstein (1976), satori
del suo humour nero, Skolimowski gira The Shout (1978), an
adaptation of Robert Graves's story, photographed by Mike Molloy,
with a soundtrack by Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford of prog-rock band Genesis,
his most surrealist film.
Un uomo si aggira per le dune di sabbia.
Un donna (Rachel) lascia un uomo (suo marito Anthony) davanti a una villa.
Il giovane Robert arriva alla stessa villa e incontra una donna paranoica.
Alcuni uomini stanno giocando a cricket. Un personaggio esterno al gruppo
racconta a Robert la storia di uno dei giocatori, Anthony.
Un uomo si aggira per le dune di sabbia... una coppia si risveglia
spaventata. La donna, Rachel (la stessa dell'inizio), pensa di aver sognato
il misterioso vagabondo.
Vivono in una casa li` vicino, isolata dal villaggio.
Il marito, Anthony (lo stesso dell'inizio), e` un musicista elettronico che a
casa produce suoni concreti amplificati selvaggiamente.
Arriva in ritardo in chiesa, dove la domenica suona l'organo.
In chiesa una ragazza gli sorride. Fuori qualcuno gli sgonfia le ruote
della bicicletta. Al termine della messa un matto tenta di imbastire
una conversazione teologica, ma Anthony lo evita. Gonfia le ruote, prende la
ragazza e se ne vanno in bicicletta.
La moglie lo attende a casa, spiata da qualcuno.
E` lo stesso matto, che si fa invitare a pranzo. Rivela loro di essere
vissuto fra gli aborigeni dell'Australia. Ha la mania di far suonare i
bicchieri sfregandone il rim. Racconta le pratiche dei maghi e confessa
di aver ucciso i propri bambini, come consentito in quelle tribu`.
Poi si installa in camera da letto a meditare. Racconta ad Anthony di
aver appreso da uno stregone una tecnica di urlo che puo` uccidere un uomo
e di aver passato 18 anni a perfezionarla. Gli racconta come lo stregone
fece piovere squartando una vittima all'addome... e gli fa vedere di avere
una tale cicatrice all'addome. Anthony, musicista di professione, e` curioso
di sentire l'urlo magico, anche se l'ospite lo avverte che ne potrebbe
morire. Lo tratta con disprezzo e arroganza.
Il mattino dopo i due uomini si recano sulle dune dove nessuno li puo`
sentire. Anthony si tappa le orecchie e il vagabondo emette l'urlo: le
pecore cadono morte e Anthony sviene. Anthony non si accorge che fra le
pecore giace anche il cadavere del pastore.
Anthony vorrebbe che l'ospite se ne
andasse, ma lui si conquista le grazie di Rachel.
Tornati al presente, ci rendiamo conto che
il vagabondo e` colui che racconta a Robert mentre Anthony sta giocando a
La donna e` morbosamente attratta al vagabondo. Con una scusa manda
Anthony al villaggio e poi si avventa letteralmente sull'ospite.
Al villaggio Anthony incontra un amico che ha sentito l'urlo e ne e`
stato terrorizzato. Anthony si reca in chiesa a pregare.
Un altro ritorno al presente svela che
la villa e` in realta` un ospedale mentale. I giocatori di cricket
sono i pazienti. Rachel aveva portato il marito in ospedale psichiatrico.
Il vagabondo continua il racconto a Robert.
Il sacerdote viene a chiedere ad Anthony di partecipare al servizio funebre
per il pastore morto, e Anthony apprende cosi` che mori` proprio la mattina
dell'urlo. Anthony sorprende la moglie che bacia la mano del vagabondo
come un cagnolino. Gli comunica freddamente che intende dormire con sua moglie
e gli intima di andarsene o lo uccidera` con l'urlo.
Anthony corre sulle dune a cercare il sasso magico.
A casa sua il vagabondo ha paura di qualcuno che gli sta dando la caccia.
Anthony trova il sasso magico e lo percuote: il vagabondo si accascoa.
La polizia irrompe in casa e arresta il vagabondo per l'omicidio dei suoi
bambini. Il vagabondo emette l'urlo per ucciderli, ma Anthony riesce a
spezzare la pietra e ha farlo crollare. La polizia porta via il vagabondo.
Il racconto di quello che e` rivelato essere un pazzo (e che quindi non
si sa se sia vero) si conclude durante un violento temporale:
i matti danno in escandescenze e gli infermieri tentano di ricondurli alle
loro camere, ma il vagabondo oppone resistenza.
Il pazzo esplode il suo grido, che si confonde
di boati del tuono, e sul terreno restano dei morti (ma fulminati o assordati?).
Robert aveva creduto al potere dell'urlo e si e` buttato un secondo prima
di essere colpito dal fulmine.
Il vagabondo e` morto e Rachel accorre a visitare la salma.
E` la scena con cui era iniziato il film.
Molti temi si sovrappongono a quello "frontale" dell'ambiguita`
(il pazzo e` stato davvero in Australia? il suo urlo e` davvero omicida?
oppure i due si sono conosciuti in ospedale e il racconto e` totalmente
Tutto il film gioca sull'ambiguità (quasi hitchcockiana) di non sapere
mai se è realtà e finzione.
Uno e` quello dell'ipocrisia borghese: la coppia sembra un modello di serenita`,
invece lui e` un marito infedele e lei una moglie frustrata e ninfomane.
Un altro e` l'impotenza della tecnologia moderna davanti ai miti ancestrali:
l'uomo razionale (musicista elettronico) tenta invano di esorcizzare il demone,
che finira` invece per distruggere la sua esistenza.
Skolimowski, etnologo, si immerge negli abissi neri dell'anima, fra sortilegi
infernali e credenze arcaiche, forze ancestrali e superstizioni letali.
L'"urlo", nel panorama civile e razionale di una coppia borghese, ha un chiaro
significato metaforico di elemento di crisi: gli indistruttibili valori di
natura travalicano e annientano tutte le convenzioni e le ipocrisie, segnale di
riconoscimento per la più intima essenza umana. Il film è
un viaggio dentro l'inconscio di uno dei protagonisti ed è al tempo
stesso una parabola sull'abbandono dello stato di natura.
Moonlighting (1982), his most commercially successful film, è ironico e più legato
Un ricco polacco fiuta la crisi nell'aria e si compra un appartamento a Londra, che
poi fa completare da quattro muratori mandati apposta da Varsavia. Questi quattro uomini sono
perciò all'estero quando il generale prende il potere in Polonia, e soltanto uno di loro che conosce l'inglese,
sa dell'accaduto, ma decide di tacere. I rapporti tra di loro si incrinano, i soldi vengono a mancare e gli
involontari esuli devono procurarsi da mangiare rubando nei supermercati. Infine fanno ritorno in patria
senza uno zloty.
Success Is The Best Revenge (1984) è più didascalico
e meno caustico, afflitto dalla nostalgia dell'esule.
The lavish historical costume drama
Torrents of Spring (1989) is an adaptation of Ivan Turgenev's 1872 novella, an international project filmed in Czechoslovakia, involving an Italian producer and a German actress (Nastassja Kinski).
The Lightship (1989), another literary adaptation, from Siegfried Lenz's novella "Das Feuerschiff/ The Lightship", set entirely on a coastguard ship,
mostly at night and during a storm,
filmed in the North Sea of Germany with an international cast
(including Austrian actor Klaus Maria Brandauer) and a US crew,
is a tense psychological kammerspiel, a mind game between
the captain of a ship and the criminal who hijacks it,
and also a study of heroism.