Facing the Past: Poklosie

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Facing the Past: Poklosie
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  Shaffer 1 Andrew Shaffer Polish Contemporary Film II Professor Pitrus June 9, 2013 Facing the Past:  Pok  !  osie There is no doubt that Poland has one of the most tumultuous pasts in Europe. From the  partitions to communism, the nation has faced and dealt with several problems. Prominent among them is the Holocaust, and the pogroms perpetrated by the Polish people. Until recently, few works have covered the massacres of Jews perpetrated by Poles. It is well-known that several pogroms occurred throughout the nation, including Jedwabne. Naturally, any medium  portraying a pogrom has been seen negatively by Polish society. How could Poles not only accept, but move past the fact that they themselves also participated in the killing of Jews? Agnieszka Arnold, a documentary filmmaker, was one of the first people to challenge the ‘norm’ of turning a blind eye towards Polish actions against Jews. Arnold’s films often focused on “ethnic and religious minorities.” Thus, Arnold produced several films on Polish-Jewish 1 relations. Arguably, the most important of these films was S  "  siedzi (  Neighbors ). The movie “focuses on the events in Jedwabne and presents the accounts of first-hand witnesses and a few survivors from the massacre.” This film would be the inspiration of Jan Gross’s book The 2  Neighbors. In his work, Gross wrote primarily about the Jedwabne massacre. Much like Arnold’s film, Gross used first-hand accounts of the massacre to write his work. In fact, Gross used the “The Movie ‘Neighbors’ on the Kultura TV,” Virtual Sztetl, accessed June 7, 2013, sztetl.org.pl/en/cms/news/ 1 2388,the-movie-neighbors-on-the-kultura-tv-channel/. Ibid. 2  Shaffer 2 film’s interview transcripts and was allowed to use the title  Neighbors through Arnold’s approval. 3   These works paved the way for W " adys " aw Pasikowski’s feature film,  Pok  !  osie (  Aftermath ). Pasikowski had already gained notoriety in Poland for his previous works. In 1991 he released  Kroll, and Pasikowski followed that up with  Pigs in 1992. It is important to note that this time in Polish history, and cinema, was rapidly changing. The 1990s saw the downfall of communism, followed by martial law in Poland. Then the country was finally brought into the democratic and capitalist age. In cinema, communism no longer posed a threat to directors, writers, and producers. As a result, a Polish production no longer had to worry about censorship and masking the true meanings of their films. Furthermore, with communism no longer being the form of government, Polish theaters were exposed to Western cinema. The rapid influx of American cinematography would inspire the growth of genre films, and increase the importance of plot development and character dialogue. 4    Pok  !  osie tells several stories beautifully interconnected with each other. The primary tale of the film focuses on the Kalina family, more specifically, brothers Francuszek and Josef. The audience is first greeted by the arrival of Francuszek in Poland. We find out that he has come all the way from Chicago to see his younger brother, a fact that tends to suggest that a tragedy has  befallen the family. When Francuszek arrives in the village of his brother, the thriller element of the film is presented. (The film is considered to be part of the thriller genre.) “Sprawiedliwi z Jedwabnego,” Tygodnik Powszechnv, accessed June 8, 2013, www.tygodnikcom.pl/jedwabne/ 3 okonski.html. Note: The content of this paragraph was presented on June 6th’s lecture of Polish Contemporary film by a guest 4 lecturer.  Shaffer 3  After he gets off the bus, Francuszek is forced to begin the walk to his brother’s home. Along the way, Francuszek notices that something, or someone, is following him in the woods. He quickly follows the unknown element, in what becomes a typical cinematography chase scene. The thrill of the chase is provided by the wild and rampant movement of the camera, which stays focused on our protagonist. It is further highlighted by the music of the scene. Last  but not least, the thriller element ends when Francuszek runs into a low hanging tree branch. One of the crucial errors of this scene is that it starts with the sun still being present (around dusk), and after a short chase it is now night. To cover the mistake, Francuszek is shown on the side of the road rubbing his head (we never see him get up from his fall). He arrives at Josef’s house thanks to the help of the local police. The cinematography of his arrival into the home makes the scene more intimate. The lights are dim, and the brothers are forced to discuss the reason Francuszek is here: Josef’s wife and children are living with his  brother in Chicago. The reason for this is not discussed as an unknown character throws a stone through the home’s window. These two events provide an element of foreshadowing. We know the brother has done something wrong, and we now know it has offended his family and a local. The mystery continues to be revealed slowly to Francuszek. Local townspeople speak poorly to him, and seem to threaten his brother. A young police clerk gives him an administrative paper for his younger brother’s (Josef) charges and arrest. Josef had ripped up a road in the town, and the citizens had wanted to kill him for doing so. Throughout these scenes, the camera holds tight to the faces of the characters - especially Francuszek - and leaves the background out of focus. Although this can be considered a filming error, it is a symbol of the film’s theme. It represents  Shaffer 4 not only the shrouded mystery of Josef and the town, but also the inability of Poles to face their  past through a clear and honest viewpoint.  Pok  !  osie continues to show the disdain of the village for Josef. Francuszek helps on the farm and asks about the road, but his brother reveals nothing and storms off to leave for the town. Another thriller element is presented when they are putting the wheat into the machine. The audience expects an accident when they see the rapid placement of the crop and the end result shot at the back of the machine. As the movie is a thriller, the hand of Francuszek is never cut off and flung into the wheat. The brothers go to town to discuss the title to the family farm. The lighting of this scene highlights the faces of the officials and the brothers, making the scene more intimate and more  profound. This also highlights the mystery of the title, by having everyone’s bodies more or less in the dark. Josef then goes to the bar for a drink, while his brother looks for clothes since his bag was stolen while he was in the woods. Josef causes trouble at the local bar by telling a group of workers that are drunk and looking for a fight that he supported Lech Walesa. Again thriller elements are felt when Francuszek sees the blood of his brother on the floor, and the bar completely asunder. He crawls through the dark storerooms, tripping and falling, as heightened music sets the scene for the reveal. He comes to find his brother, bloody nose and all, in the alley of the bar. Technique continues to show the importance of the brothers story to the film. On the bus home, they are the focal paint. Further, the camera not only keeps the two in the frame, but simultaneously pans and zooms out to show fields. This is finally the climactic revelation of the film, symbolically portrayed before being completely revealed. Josef finally gives in to the  Shaffer 5 questions of his brother and reveals the secret of the film. The brothers cut through the forest at the bus stop, and exit at their deceased mother’s field. The shooting of this scene is important  because the camera follows the brothers through the forest, but then leads them into the field. In other words, the revelation is shot in a way that both the audience and Francuszek learn of Josef’s secret simultaneously. It starts with a shot of the Jewish cemetery Josef has in the field, and pan’s back to being shot from behind the brothers, and then showing the brothers’ faces. This scene brings in a remaining element of  Pok  !  osie. We see the divide between anti-Semitism and filo-Semitism presented between the two brothers. Francuszek had often been complaining about the Jewish population in Chicago, and how they held a monopoly on construction and had Poles do the ‘dirty work’ of asbestos. While complaining, he often referred to them as Yids, a derogatory term. Josef, on the other hand, says he started the graveyard  because it was wrong of the Nazis to use tombstones for roads, and that he felt like doing it. In his words, he “cared for them because no one else was left to.” Josef had even taught himself 5 Hebrew to be able to read the tombstones, and corrects his brother when he says Yids. The brothers begin to work together more and to get remaining stones from the village’s vicarage. While the young priest is gone on a fake rites call, Francuszek and Josef go in to dig up the remaining stones surrounding the church’s well. While they dig them up, the entire village shows up. This happens after one villager notices the men pulling into the vicarage. Realistically, the scene is illogical. In a matter of digging up three stones, two of which the audience sees being dug up, the gate to the vicarage goes from completely empty to full - in about a half minute of scene time. The brothers complete the job, and are allowed to pass through  Pok  !  osie, dir. by W " adys " aw Pasikowski (2012; Apple Film Productions, 2012 dvd). 5
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