On 22 October 1908 in Warsaw on Wierzbowa Street there was a projection of the first Polish feature film - a funny burlesque about a countryman's adventures in the capital city: ANTOŚ PIERWSZY RAZ W WARSZAWIE.
This piece of information can be found in many documents about the history of film as well as in press articles. This October date was remembered and accepted, although historians of film have long suspected that the beginnings of Polish feature film should be dated a little bit earlier. The October date is still regarded as the recognised one, although symbolic and highly conventional.
Filmoteka Narodowa has also planned to celebrate its anniversary, focusing on the fascinating, although hardly known era of Polish silent cinema. This was an excellent moment for an important shift in the date of birth of Polish cinema - due to the discovery by two professors: Małgorzata and Marek Hendrykowski. In 2000, in the film archive of Bois d'Arcy near Paris, they found a print of the film PRUSKA KULTURA, made at the turn of 1907 and 1908 or at the beginning of 1908. The print is in our collection now. Its first public screening took place in the Warsaw Iluzjon Filmoteki Narodowej on 22 October 2008. The film lasts 8 minutes and, as described by Kurier Warszawski in 1908, it depicts "scenes of the life of Poles in Poznań struggling against Germanisation". We have the great pleasure to invite the audience of the Festival Era New Horizons to a second public screening of this extraordinary film, miraculously recovered for our national culture.
We will also present one of the most interesting films of the 1920s - a patriotic drama referring to the war against Bolshevik Russia - MOGIŁA NIEZNANEGO ŻOŁNIERZA of 1927, directed by Ryszard Ordyński.
To celebrate the anniversary, Filmoteka Narodowa has also published a book entitled KINO OKRESU WIELKIEGO NIEMOWY, part one - POCZĄTKI, an extensive and fascinating study of the origins of Polish film and a presentation of the most significant figures of this period, people who realised the astonishing potential of the new medium. There were excellent theorists, who analysed the essence of the new art, and people of practice - constructors, cinematographers, filmmakers. And there were those who saw cinematography as an opportunity to earn - and earn a lot. Such people actually made cinema a popular art. We do recommend this book.
Let us also invite you to a special evening with Filmoteka Narodowa - an excursion to our Polish sources of cinematography.
Grażyna M. Grabowska
Manager of the Repertoire Section
PRUSKA KULTURA 8 minutes
directed by [?]; cinematography: cinematographer from a Parisian company; cast: non-professional actors [?]
produced by: Siła, Poland 1907/8
The film is a feature-style acting documentary about the Prussian methods of fighting the Polish character. For decades it was believed that no print of this film was preserved. As Stanisław Janicki wrote in his book "Polskie filmy fabularne 1902-1988", published in 1990: Only a list of some of the films was preserved: 1) Szkoła ludowa we Wrześni, 2) Profesor Kulturtreger, 3) Katusze dzieci, 4) Wywłaszczanie, 5) Pruskie żołdactwo, 6) Wóz Drzymały, 7) Apoteoza Polski (Jutrzenka).
A complete copy of the film was found in 2000 by professors Małgorzata and Marek Hendrykowski in the French film archive in Bois d'Arcy. This graded film of about 8 minutes has French subtitles. The worn perforation proves intensive exploitation of the print. Małgorzata Hendrykowska believes that the film was probably made by the energetic distributor and producer Mojżesz Towbin, owner of the Warsaw film enterprise "Siła". In those times copies rarely included information about the film's creators.
We know that such film existed from short articles in the Warsaw press of those times, where the film's synopsis was printed. Right after the premiere, in spring 1908, censors banned the film. Towbin resolved therefore to screen it in Moscow, in Italy and France. (...) One should realise that in those times, when this work was shown in Italy or France, Poland was not even on maps. This is why both its French title "Les martyres de la Pologne" - the martyrdom of Poland, and its contents should be interpreted in the context of big European politics - professors Małgorzata and Marek Hendrykowski stressed after the announcement of their discovery.
And in the first part of the book issued by Filmoteka Narodowa to celebrate one hundred years of Polish cinema - "KINO OKRESU WIELKIEGO NIEMOWY" they wrote: The film entitled "Pruska kultura" corresponded perfectly to the atmosphere in Warsaw in 1914. In September 1914 theatres in Warsaw offered such spectacles as: "W niemieckich szponach", "Prusacy", "Szpieg pruski", "Grunwald" and "Balet militarny - Potężny sojusz".
When was the film made? There are many indications that it was produced at the turn of 1907 and 1908. Towbin hired "a cinematographer from a Parisian company" as early as in December 1907. The cinematographer participated then in the making of "Widoki miasta Warszawy". The next images (shot probably by Meyer or Tiberville) were screened as early as in March 1908. By May 1908 the film we know as "Pruska kultura" had already been screened in Moscow. No matter whether it was made at the end of 1907 or at the beginning of 1908, the film is undoubtedly at least half a year older than the comedy "Antoś pierwszy raz w Warszawie" (which premiered on 22 October 1908), previously believed to be the first Polish feature film.
MOGIŁA NIEZNANEGO ŻOŁNIERZA 77 minutes
directed by Ryszard Ordyński; screenplay (based on a novel by Andrzej Strug): Ryszard Ordyński, Seweryn Romin; cinematography: Antoni Wawrzyniak; scenography: Wacław Moszkowski, Józef Galewski; cast: Jerzy Leszczyński, Maria Malicka, Nina Olida, Konstancja Bednarzewska, Maria Gorczyńska, Leokadia Pancewiczowa, Władysław Walter, Jerzy Marr and others, produced by: Star-Film, Poland 1927
After the outbreak of the war against Bolshevik Russia, captain Łazowski goes to fight, leaving his loving wife and daughter behind. He is captured by the Russians. Helped by a Russian girl who is in love with him, he manages to escape from the Siberian settlement where he is held. He arrives at the Crimea where under dramatic circumstances he gets to know the princess Turchanowa. Disguised, under a false Russian name, he takes a job at a munitions factory. However, he is soon exposed by the Soviet commissary Simonow. Łazowski escapes to Poland. After many dramatic experiences, he crosses the border and returns his to homeland, happy with the vision of homecoming, when he is accidentally shot dead. While the captain is in Russia, his wife loses any hope of seeing him again and remarries. Her daughter despairs about her decision and tries to commit suicide. She is saved, but she becomes completely apathetic. Only when Łazowski dies, can she feel - as it was written in the pre-war advertisement of the film - that the vision of her father fades and disperses. And somewhere far, far away, amidst the fields of impeccable white snow, there is a hidden tomb of the unknown soldier.
The film is notable for its rich historical and social background. What's interesting, Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz was hired to play one of the roles, but after a couple of days of shooting, he waived this job, disgusted by the nature of work on the film's set in those times.
The music for these films, composed by Rafał Rozmus, will be performed by a seventeen-person Chamber Orchestra, conducted by the composer himself.
Rafał Rozmus graduated from the 1st and 2nd grade of the Karol Lipiński music school in Lublin, where his specialisation was violin. He graduated from the Institute of Music at the Faculty of Arts of the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University with an honourable mention. From 2004 to 2005 he had an internship as an assistant at this university, now he is a lecturer at the Department of Music Theory at the Institute of Music of the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin. During his studies he learnt conducting (specialisation) from Z. Bernatowicz and composing, orchestration and instrumentation from K. Górski and A. Nikodemowicz. In 2001 together with Z. Bernatowicz he established the vocal and instrumental group Presto, specialising in world premieres and performances of Rozmus's own compositions. Rafał Rozmus also developed the Numerical Method of Twelve-Note Composition (2002). The versatile musician composes vocal music, vocal and instrumental music, instrumental music, both symphonic and chamber works, he composes for children, he is involved in orchestration (e.g. Dima Chaaback's works for the Pan flute and symphonic orchestra) and he composes theatre and film music, too (from 2003).