Central Europe Review find out about advertising in CER
Vol 2, No 20
22 May 2000
front page 
sponsor us 
jobs at CER 
CER Direct 
e-mail us 
year 2000 
year 1999 
by subject 
by author 
music shop 
video store 


Cultural news from PolandStanding out from the Pulp
A round-up of the week's cultural events in Poland
Wojtek Kość

In this edition of Poland's Week in Culture we have a sad news about writer Andrzej Szczypiorski, the welcome return of the cultural announcements (there are two) and why Krzysztof Krauze's film Dlug (Debt) is so terrifyingly good.

Andrzej Szczypiorski 1928-2000

Writer and essayist Andrzej Szczypiorski died in Warsaw on 16 May, at the age of 72. He was a revered author (his probably best known book is Poczatek / The Beginning), an insightful essayist advocating Polish-German reconciliation in order to heal the wounds of World War II and an often biting publicist who would as much criticize the new Solidarity-born power elites as he would praise them before 1989.

Return to top of page


One of a Kind... So Far

Dług by Krzysztof Krauze

How come that after-1989 Poland ceased to be a favorite theme for Polish directors? The complexity of new economical, political and social realities was seemingly crying to be analyzed, filmed and then discussed nationwide.

With censorship gone, a subtle possibility of conveying concepts that were against the grain of the then regime - by means of allusions and understatements - was gone as well. No boundaries were left except for filmmakers' creativeness and producers' resources, yet Polish movies of the last eleven years could nearly all be labeled as mediocre. Not in terms of their beauty, fine scenarios, actors' performances, and entertainment values - there were good movies that lived up to those criteria. But "good" is not always "important," and this latter quality was lacking too often as nationwide discussions referred rather to whom Jerzy Hoffman was going to cast in Ogniem i Mieczem. A rather lighthearted issue, was it not?

Crime and Punishment
And now we have Dług (Debt). "This film is in essence about how people lose their freedom at their own wish," says its director Krzysztof Krauze. Let us reveal the plot - one of the assets of a good film is that revealing a plot is harmless to those who have not seen it yet because there is more to it than just who did what: some young businessmen have trouble launching their business. They are offered help (it is easy to conclude it is a fictitious one) by Gerard (the excellent Andrzej Chyra) but refuse it. But Gerard has already spent money on trying to finalize his offer -he wants them to pay him back, even though it was his own risk. And that is when the trouble begins.

What a colorless description! There must have been thousands of films like this. This is not a straightforward crime flick, however. Scene after scene it shows the mechanism of how everyone - for two indebted men, Adam and Stefan, are people like us: they feel, have scruples - can become an object of an evil action. Gerard is a cold-blooded criminal with an appearance of a respected and successful businessman. His terrifying presence can be felt throughout the whole movie even though it is not a leading role. When he extracts information from Adam's pregnant wife he is so nice and when he casts a net of brutality and blackmail over her husband and his friend ( as a result their friendship is severely tested) he is appallingly ruthless.

Again, this sounds as if Dług were a straightforward movie. Its importance - apart from the mechanism of being succumbed to evil - lies in showing a section of reality of today's Poland of which crime has become the most unnerving feature. It is analyzed in the media, and politicians' speeches are full of demagogic tirades on that it should be fought, etc. Krzysztof Krauze shows on one hand how helpless we are in face of Gerard and on the other, how we let such people humiliate us - out of fear, because we are afraid, because we have scruples. And Gerard does not. He exercises a total control over his victims until, in a desperate desicion, they decide to stand against him, and, finally, they kill him in a frantic and chaotic scene.

The reality of Poland
A bitter and terrifying film, Dług only flashed through Polish screens but still it can be seen in major Polish cities - where similar stories happen every day. It stands out of the pulp produced by majority of Polish directors who do not want to see movies as something more than brainless entertainment. A typical movie of the last few years is a comedy depicting mobsters as funny guys with guns, nothing serious really. Długby Krzysztof Krauze is a film worth seeing and thinking over.

Return to top of page


Cultural Announcements

"All You Need is Love" is the title of an exhibition held in Gdansk's Laznia Contemporary Art Center. The exhibition's theme is male-female relationships in 20th century culture. There will be multimedia projects from Marity Luli, Alex Bag, Andreas Kaufmann, Dan Asher and Hanna Nowicka-Grochal. The exhibition lasts from 19 May to 31 July. More info: 00 48 58 305 26 80.

Kontakt 2000 is the name for the 10th International Theater Festival held in Torun from May 20 to May 26. In the program: Crime and Punishment by artists from Tallin, Midsummer Night's Dream by Oskaras Korsunovas theater from Vilnius and more. Info: 00 48 56 622 52 22.

Return to top of page


Wojtek Kość, 22 May 2000

Moving on:


Andrew Cave
Finding a Role in an Enlarged EU

Catherine Lovatt
Scandal Rocks Romania

Mel Huang
Estonia's First Census

Jan Čulík
Czech Smear Politics

Oliver Craske
The UK Press and the Pope

Gusztáv Kosztolányi
Censorship in Hungary

Brian J Požun
Slovenia's Suicides

Magali Perrault
100 Days of Haider

Slavko Živanov
The Serb Crisis

Václav Bělohradský

Elke de Wit
Oi! Warning

Wojtek Kość
Polish Anti-pulp

Culture Calendar:

Student Essay:
Jiří Brodský
Little Czechs, Big Europe

Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?

PR and Extremism

Czech Republic