Zanussi: Struktura Kryształu

Trying to write up-to-date articles on Mexican cinema didn’t work out, mainly because of two reasons. Firstly, Mexican movies are rarity in Europe, especially in Germany. Sad… Secondly, the Oscar fight between Roma and Cold War made me realize one thing: the culture and the way you were brought up are a treasure which makes you understand some things better and different. Among others, yes, also movies, so why not to simply discover Polish movies instead of searching for something so far? And find out what I’ve missed so far?

The idea came up especially once I saw information about Polish film festival in Berlin and among them a planned screening of Zanussi’s 1969 movie Struktura Kryształu (The Structure of Crystal). Zanussi was suppose to be there in person as well. I couldn’t miss it! The screening preceded with a small introduction about Zanussis’s artistic work. I was stunned to find out, that he talks seven languages, was rewarded with prices in Cannes, Venice and Locarno. He didn’t start as a filmmaker. First he finished a degree in physics and only after that started to pursue a career as director, producer and screenweriter. Wow… How come that I didn’t know that? Oh wait, because not only me, but Poles in generally choose “everything foreign” above “everything Polish”? It was stuning to hear all of it.

Then, the movie itself… Well, it helped to hear that Zanussi’s professors suggested to either not bring this film out at all or shorten it to the required minimum for a featured movies. He itself did consider the movie one of the boriests he ever made. Funny and concealing to hear that, as the movie was kind of boring. It tells a story of Jan and his wife, Anna. They live in a small village, happily. One day Jan’s friend, Marek, a successful scientist, visits his old friend with whom he used to work. Two different worlds meet: peaceful village life contrasts with a stories about big, outside world: Marek likes to tell stories about USA, where he conducted his last reasearch. These contradictions and Jan’s questions will force Jan to think once again about his own life: is he really happy with giving up everything?

I watched the movie until the end mesmerized by the pictures of old, communist Poland. It was also interesting to see how Zanussi introduced his passion for physics by making the two main characters scientists, one of them studying even the titled crystals. It was still a black-wite movie with a typical “bad sound” of the 70ties. Instead of annoying, it was charming (or maybe I felt sentimental while watching it). Now, I can’t help to think that the movie itself was realeased and accepted by the Polish censorship because of the comparison: peaceful and easy village life and the busy, even unsatisfying outside world. If you know the propaganda of a Polish government of that time, you can have an idea what “truth” the movie shows.

Even though it had really slow story-telling, I recommend this movie as an example of how the Polish filmmakers tried to avoid and please censorship. It’s not the best example, I know better and more famous ones. However, still a good start, that is, if you manage to watch it until the end. Zanussi admited he knows how boring the movie is and some people even left the screening I attended after thirty minutes. Oh, and did I mention that as a 30-year old person was I one of the youngest among the audience? That made me kind of feel… strange and special at the same time. Special because the first step to watch Polish movies was made.

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