Dreams and Ashes: Essentials of Polish Cinema

Programmed by Alfredo Fee

Poland's cinema has enraptured its viewers with some of the most compelling, subversive, and, above all, humanist documentations of filmmaking's power. This series highlights the expansive scope and audacity of Polish filmmakers who strove to redefine the breadth of cinema as well as struggle to assert an identity that was uniquely formed by the political and social pressures and conditions of a post-war Poland. Represented are the suppressed and censored, and the nightmarish and surreal. While merely a brief compendium and survey of the impact of Polish film, this series will be gratifying for newcomer and film buff alike. Commencing with Kieslowski's masterful Blind Chance, the narratives represented jump from the intimately metaphysical to the epically operatic. Included is the Chicago premiere of Andrzej Zulawski's unfinished masterpiece, On The Silver Globe, as well as two of his other Polish films, The Devil and Third Part of The Night. Classic Polish cinema is found in Wajda's Ashes and Diamonds, Polanski's Knife in the Water and the rebellious Interrogation - a film banned and ordered to be destroyed by Poland's government, only to survive and gain popularity due to its illicit distribution on VHS - now presented on 35mm. Wojciech Has's The Hourglass Sanatorium and The Saragossa Manuscript reveal surreal dreamscapes of ruin and isolation. These are worlds of cinema at its purest and most visceral, comforting in their stunning vitality, and, ultimately, reflective of the power of human passion - all dreams and all ashes.

9/26/2017 @ 7:00 PM

Blind Chance

(Krzysztof Kieślowski, 1987) · Blind Chance is an exquisite introduction to filmmaker Krzysztof Kieślowski's masterful craft, an indelible piece of cinema at its most metaphysical and political. Detailing the life of Witek, a medical student, and the crossroads of dramatic, passionate, and purposeful possibilities one single event in his life determines, the film concerns itself with the futility of human choice before that undeterminable and blind face of chance.

runtime: 123m format: DCP


10/3/2017 @ 7:00 PM

Ashes and Diamonds

(Andrzej Wajda, 1958) · As exemplary of Poland's realist movement as it was iconic for Polish cinema, Ashes and Diamonds is the perfect introduction to the wide breadth of Wajda's majestic oeuvre. Focused on the immediate aftermath of Nazi Germany's surrender, Zbigniew Cybulski stars as an assassin hired to kill a Russian leader to quickly help determine the political structure of the newly liberated Poland. Wajda examines the moral conflict of one man and his sway over the fate of a nation.

runtime: 103m format: DCP


10/10/2017 @ 7:00 PM

On The Silver Globe

(Andrzej Zulawski, 1988) · Doc Films is proud to present the Chicago premiere of Zulawski’s unfinished masterpiece, On the Silver Globe. Operatic and nightmarish, the film was sabotaged by the very government who funded it, barely escaping destruction. A group of astronauts land on a uncivilized planet but find, in their deaths, the inception of a new society as they are deified into a culture fragmented from their own, setting into motion the wars, madness, and struggles of a new world.

runtime: 166m format: DCP


10/17/2017 @ 7:00 PM

The Saragossa Manuscript

(Wojciech Jerzy Has, 1965) · A picaresque trip framed by countless stories collapsing into each other, Wojciech Has presents a swashbuckling episodic romp through surreal lands. In the midst of the Napoleonic wars, two soldiers in Saragossa find themselves entranced by the discovery of a manuscript, in between whose pages unfolds the epic and bizarre labyrinthine comedy of seduction, paranoia, and magic that plagued the soldier Alfonso van Worden (Zbigniew Cybulski) years before.

runtime: 182m format: DCP


10/24/2017 @ 7:00 PM

The Devil

(Andrzej Zulawski, 1972) · Zulawski helms the story of Jakub, a young Polish nobleman, saved at the last minute from being hanged by a mysterious stranger. In recompense, Jakub accompanies this satanic presence in a lurid journey across the country, with the express intention of eradicating evil. As his sanity wanes, Jakub finds himself at the head of a trail of blood whose expense is his own humanity and whose redemption is the sublimation of man's decay and destruction.

runtime: 119m format: DCP


10/31/2017 @ 7:00 PM

The Hourglass Sanatorium

(Wojciech Jerzy Has, 1973) · Disparate and autumnally elusive, The Hourglass Sanatorium faithfully evokes the spirit of Bruno Schulz's vibrant prose between its magnificent mise en scène and a delightful absolution of time. Józef arrives to visit his ailing father only to find that time itself has collapsed within the hallowed grounds of his sanatorium, elapsing into a surreal voyage through his father's past. A stirring homage to Schulz, the film binds his biography and fiction effortlessly together.

runtime: 124m format: DCP


11/7/2017 @ 7:00 PM


(Ryszard Bugajski, 1982) · Immediately banned for its political views, Interrogation gained notoriety via its illicit circulation throughout Poland on illegally taped VHS's, its cult viewing constituting acts of subversion among the public. Krystyna Janda, in a role that won her best actress at Cannes 8 years after the film was made, stars as an ordinary woman whose refusal to incriminate her former lover and subsequent imprisonment results in a blisteringly critical assessment of communist governance.

runtime: 118m format: 35mm


11/14/2017 @ 7:00 PM

Black Cross

(Aleksander Ford, 1960) · A response to the epic films of Hollywood, Black Cross, or Knights of the Teutonic Order, is also considered Poland's first blockbuster. War serves as the backdrop for this historical romp as Jurand of Spychów defends the Poles against the Teutonic Knights. Meanwhile, Jurand's daughter is wooed by the brave and vengeful Zbyszko of Bogdaniec. Swordplay and political intrigue collide as the film hurtles towards the historic Battle of Grunwald.

runtime: 166m format: DCP


11/21/2017 @ 7:00 PM

Third Part of the Night

(Andrzej Zulawski, 1971) · A shocking feature of dismal slaughter and the grim venture of existence, Zulawski's debut opens with the murder of Michal's family by German soldiers during Poland's occupation. Michal and his father escape into the dark wood only to find their world of escape blistered into a ruthless angelic apocalypse, exploding with the madness of doppelgangers, Nazi labs, and war's atrocities as resistance becomes the only means of regaining heaven in hell.

runtime: 105m format: DCP


11/28/2017 @ 7:00 PM

Knife in the Water

(Roman Polanski, 1962) · Roman Polanski's debut feature is an exercise in tension, effortlessly eroding the restraint and composure of its characters' humanity. When a couple condescendingly invites a hitchhiker to join their boating excursion, the stage is set for a bitter competition between both men for the woman's attention. With a knife taking the place of Chekhov's gun, chaos is set into spiraling motion in this virtuosic display of the grace to be found in accumulating pressure.

runtime: 94m format: 35mm


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