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Polish movies - what they are like?

2 Jan 2007 /  #1
The Poles often like to exaggerate the role of the Polish film on the international arena. Although Roman Polański, starting with his first production “Nóż w wodzie” (Knife in the Water), has been for many years recognized as an important name in the film circles, the rest of the Polish productions and filmmakers, even the outstanding one, like Wajda, are anonymous to the world viewer. It is the American movies that, also in Poland, dominate the film market.

It is not that the Poles do not make movies, they do, and some are pretty good, but they find it impossible to compete with the expensive Hollywood productions. Most of the time, the Polish films never even leave the mother country.

Where movie going is concerned, which is a change in comparison with the past, the Poles do not go very often to the movies. There are many reasons for it: the rising prices of the tickets, the low quality of the films being shown; also Internet piracy and the DVD-loans, like elsewhere, are certainly two major factors. (Besides, not everyone enjoys a neighbor making smacking, sucking and chewing noises while pigging out on popcorn and coke.)

The number of Polish viewers is constantly falling: in 2005 only 20 million tickets to the movies were sold, 30% fewer than the previous year, thus, on average a Pole sees a single film a year!

It is only foreign films like “Shrek”, or “Lord on the Rings,” both shown in 2004, that attract large throngs of viewers to the movies. On the other hand, and it is typically a Polish phenomenon, that the most popular production of 2005 was a catholic documentary, "Karol – a man who became Pope" seen by almost two million viewers.

Rather than going to the movies, the young Poles prefer watching DVDs in the company of close friends or family, rather than strangers, which in the long run does not bode well for the future of the Polish movie theatres.

When it comes to the Polish productions the Poles prefer uncomplicated love comedies like "Nigdy w życiu", (Never again), which in 2004 attracted a record million and a half Polish viewers. (As a comparison a drama "Skazany na Bluesa" (Doomed to blues) about a Polish singer of a rock group “Dżem” (Jam), the most popular Polish film of 2005, attracted 200,000 viewers, which is still an impressive number taking into account, that most Polish titles, unfortunately, do not attract more than a few thousands visitors.)

In today’s Polish film market there is very little place for “ambitious” projects - just like in the West - it is all about commerce at the box office.

As an insider states, the fact that “the Polish films are not up to the standards is due to the corruption in the film industry. The funds are not given to the people that deserve it, but to people with contacts, who are mostly useless wannabes.”

There is also disenchantment with the kind of movie theatres that are being built nowadays. Those huge, soulless monoliths, that have very little with culture in common, discourage the people to come, while the old, cozy cinemas of the past are being fazed out. It is yet another reason why the Poles prefer to stay at home and watch serials instead of going to the movies: as a comparison with the falling numbers at the movies, the TV-serial, “M jak Miłość" (M for Love), had a whole 12,5 million viewers.

The Poles, if they go to the movies at all, choose primarily foreign titles, because they are simply better. Many complain that Polish movies often have absurd, uninteresting plots. In general, it is perceived, that there is a lack of talent, which manifests itself in the many inferior productions.

The Polish filmmakers do try new angles, political comedy is another lately exploited area. Another genre, that the Poles in general embrace, are “historical” films made about the Polish past based on books by the most outstanding Polish writers. The latest one, "Stara Baśń" (The Old Fable) has been received with mixed feelings. Although there is simply not enough money to produce the kind of movies, that can compete with Hollywood, there have been quite a number of films in this vein: “Ogniem i Mieczem” (By Fire and by the Sword), “Quo Vadis”, “Wiedźminem”, “Pan Tadeuszem” (Sir Thaddeus).

One viewer states that “the Polish films are as good as French or Italian” and recommends Polish films like: “Rękopis znaleziony w Sarragossie” (The manuscript found in Saragossa), ”Pociąg” (The Train), “Pan Wołodyjowski” (Sir Wołodyjowski) and “Upał” (Heat).

Many Poles turn to older Polish movies, like the comedies of the past. “Jak rozpętałem drugą wojnę światową” (How I started the Second World War), “Sami swoi” (Family and Friends), “Rzeczpospolita babska” (The Female Republic) or “Wiosna Panie sierżancie” (Spring, Seargent) are perceived as the funniest, much more funny than the current productions like “Kiler”.

Another viewer states: “I don’t watch Polish films, as a rule. Lately, I went to see “Pręga” (The stripe). Not bad, but like all the rest, gray and gloomy. Why are all Polish films either negative or stupid? Is it because the Polish reality is like that? The films before the Second World War were different. About how beautiful life can be… during the socialist years the films were also sad and difficult. I’d like to watch a happy film, not the naturalistic junk where they show dirty toilets and shabby people.” Not happy words.

The Polish film industry is in crisis. In part the situation reflects the changes in the society where computers and DVDs have taken over and where the globalization resulted in that everyone drinks Coke and watches “Star Wars”. Just like the music industry, the film industry needs to reinvent itself in order to survive. Giving the audience films that make them feel frustrated is not a solution that will bring more Poles to the movies.

Wroclaw 44 | 5,379  
2 Jan 2007 /  #2
As more people buy 42" TV's to create their own home cinema the movie industry will surely change too.
lef 11 | 477  
2 Jan 2007 /  #3
I think polish radio and tv is first class, Poland has a lot of talent in this area.

Polish actors are first class and polish films I have seen are excellent in every way.

I think the problem facing polish film makers I think is getting the capital to make these firms and the risk to shareholders of not getting a suitable return.

Keep in mind countries like America are just dumping their films at a fraction of the cost.
hello 22 | 890  
11 Jan 2007 /  #4
Polish movies are like Polish songs - somewhat nondescript and somehow boring (with some exceptions of course).
Narkommandant 2 | 37  
11 Jan 2007 /  #5
There are some great Polish comedies. Namely: "Rejs", "Mis" and "Nic Smiesznego". They are all very funny films in my opinion.
Don Pedro urodz  
3 Apr 2008 /  #6
HEH I MUST ADMIT THAT Some films are booring but isnt POLREPORT just to hard......If a foreiginer wants to watch Polish movies he should know what he want if you want some entarteiment these are titles for you:

1 Sami swoji (first and a last part of trilogy are good all three are funny)
2.Mis/Teddy Bear
3.Nie Lubie Poniedziałku (I hate Mondays)
4. Kiler (the sequel too Kilerów 2óch)
5 DEJA VU (Polish movie from 1989 Made with USSR)
6 Nigdy w życiu
7. Ogniem i Mieczem (translaited as With Fire and Sword)
8 Zemsta (Revenge)
9 Sexmisja
10 Kingsajz
11 Quo Vadis (Polish Movie version [if you seen the US version you can compare the two version Polish version is diffrent more in the book canon)

12 Faraon(Pharaon)
For Know I can name only these as you see this movies will bring in some exitment Poland is not HOLYWOOD but EVEN IN HOLYWOOD NOT ALL MOVIES ARE BLOCK BUSTERS if you looking for entairtaiment this is would you should see .....Polish Movies are not booring but they tend to be artistic showing for example some kinda metaforical destruction or something else some Movies for a nonpolish person can be even hard to understand I disscaurage watching Mr Tadeuss or Katyń not knowing Polish history becuse you may find that you just dont get the move for example Pan Tadeuss or Katyn for a Polish person are understandable but New Yorker may not have the knowledge to properly Interpredite the movie....The Polish film industry isnt global its market is oriented only on Polish audience and on thoose People who understand Polish Culture and Poles as a Nation
isthatu 3 | 1,164  
3 Apr 2008 /  #7
wow,this thread got dragged up outa nowhere..
heres my 2 pence worth,Change Pole and Polish to British in the opening post and no one would notice...seems the same the world over,souless pseudo american "culture" dominating the market.
Lori 4 | 118  
9 Apr 2008 /  #8
I recently viewed Mis, Teddy Bear. I can understand it's a great film, but as a person in the States, I had hard time following it. I belive the humor has to be viewed within the context of the culture and I simply don't have the cultural history of Polish person.

I tried Fire and Sword, too. Had a hard time with it. Well, I get lost in the books, too, and have to read some parts over and over.

However, I did get a good laugh from Fire and Sword. It opens with a person being attacked. He is rescued and what does he say to the man who rescues him -- Dzjiki. (Sorry if I spelled it wrong.) I think if someone saved my life the word Bardzo might be part of what I said.
krysia 23 | 3,058  
9 Apr 2008 /  #9
I recently viewed Mis, Teddy Bear. I can understand it's a great film, but as a person in the States, I had hard time following it. I belive the humor has to be viewed within the context of the culture and I simply don't have the cultural history of Polish person.

That's true. You would have to grow up in the communist era to understand it.
King Sobieski 2 | 714  
9 Apr 2008 /  #10
really, i would have thought the dry sarcastic wit was present in all poles.
mafketis 37 | 10,908  
10 Apr 2008 /  #11
"Ogniem i Mieczem (translaited as With Fire and Sword)"

Pet peeve, I think "By fire and sword" both sounds better and is maybe even more accurate than the traditional translation, which is accurate enough but lacks oomph.

I used to really enjoy the smaller neighborhood movie theaters but I really don't enjoy the multiplex "experience". I remember when they first started appearing some idiotic journalists were oohing about how this would mean more and different kinds of movies were being shown. Fat chance.
Lori 4 | 118  
23 Apr 2008 /  #12
I found another film with a Polish relationship. The name of it is Ladies in Lavender. It features Maggie Smith and Judy Dench as 60+year sisters living in the Cornwall area of England sometime between the two world wars. After a storm they find a young man washed up on their beach and find he's alive. They take him into their home to nurse him back to health. He doesn't speak English and they can't figure out where he's from. Well, I figured it out when he says Dziękuye (sorry if I spelled this wrong) and kisses their hand. It is a wonderful film.
King Sobieski 2 | 714  
14 May 2008 /  #13
can anyone recommend "my nikifor"??

it is on the tellingvision and may record it if it is worthwhile.
Lori 4 | 118  
16 May 2008 /  #14
I found another Polish DVD in the public library. It is VaBank. It is set is £ódz in 1934. This story could take place anywhere; it's not culturally specific. However it was such fun to see real Polish buildings -- litttle things like the flat stone that is often by the door, the way particularly public buildings are signed. I enjoyed it.
Easy_Terran 3 | 312  
16 May 2008 /  #15
Oh, my God, VaBank is hilarious, both movies :)) I bought them both some time ago from e-bay :))
31 May 2008 /  #16

the new rejs and mis.
Don Pedro  
26 Jun 2008 /  #17
My Nikifor is a biography film never seen it it werent shown on our television yet however the main actress who plays Nikifor (Krystyna Feldman) Died couple days after the movie was finished so it was her last movie role !!!
VaFunkoolo 6 | 654  
26 Jun 2008 /  #18
Don Pedro


Oi, thats my name!

Don Pedro de la Callejuelas
Don Pedro  
26 Jun 2008 /  #19
Apr 9, 08, 21:10 #8

I recently viewed Mis, Teddy Bear. I can understand it's a great film, but as a person in the States, I had hard time following it. I belive the humor has to be viewed within the context of the culture and I simply don't have the cultural history of Polish person.

I tried Fire and Sword, too. Had a hard time with it. Well, I get lost in the books, too, and have to read some parts over and over.

However, I did get a good laugh from Fire and Sword. It opens with a person being attacked. He is rescued and what does he say to the man who rescues him -- Dzjiki. (Sorry if I spelled it wrong.) I think if someone saved my life the word Bardzo might be part of what I said.

Oh Lori you watched Teddy bear hmm For a person from the states I would rather show you Nie Lubie Poniedziałku (I hate Monday) It much simpler to understand than Teddy bear even I had dificulties with Mis ....Nie lubie Poniedziałku is much lightier toned comedy it shows a day of existence of Warsaw during Comunist Era !!

And its really fun to watch !! I think Nie Lubie Poniedziałku is a briliant comedy the main Plot is that that Italian comes to Poland for a Buisness trip and thats all. .................................................................. ...................................................................... ..................... ............... Nothing else however you soon see that in Poland nothing is that simple becuse In Warsaw things happen that appear not to be conected however !! Those thing (normal for a Pole ) really are interfering with our poor Italian friend who dosent know Polish !!well let me give you an example !!! When a Buisnessman arives ussualy there were suppose to be a welcome comitet on the airport however the welcome comitet was traped in the elevator in the firm and the Italian had to come to the firm on his own !!! Well you really need to see it its hard to explain its incredible what happens in a NORMAL DAY IN WARSAW
Tamara 9 | 202  
26 Jun 2008 /  #20
I recently discovered that you can rent Polish movies from Netflix. I am American and my husband is from Poland and has been here 16 years. For me, watching a Polish film is fun and I helps with my learning the language. However, my husband HATES Polish films! We've recently seen 3 so far and he says he won't watch anymore with me!!! He loves the classics, Sexmisa (sp) Znachor, Janoszik (sp again :) but the newer movies he doesn't like at all.
SeanBM 35 | 5,806  
26 Jun 2008 /  #21
Mis/Teddy Bear
Great films for many reasons.
I like these films for there historical value aswell. These three films are satires of the times, funny as hell on the surface level and disturbing the deeper you go into them. I think it is difficult (if not impossible) for people who did not live in a communist country to understand what it was really like but I think these films are little insights. But if that is all too much they are also just good fun.

I will look out for the others offered on this thread, I do not remember all the names of the Polish films I have seen.
Sophia - | 99  
26 Jun 2008 /  #22
Sztuczki... Worth watching?
SeanBM 35 | 5,806  
26 Jun 2008 /  #23

Is it an old film? Just so I know where to look.

oh you are asking, sorry
Krzysztof 2 | 973  
26 Jun 2008 /  #24
Sztuczki... Worth watching?

Is it an old film? Just so I know where to look.


Sztuczki on IMDB

(And no, I haven't seen it yet, so can't comment)

Plot Synopsis on All Movie Guide
Jakimowski's previous movie's review on All Movie Guide
Marek 4 | 867  
27 Jun 2008 /  #25
Early Wajda and Andrzejewski, from the fifties up until the early to mid-sixties, really do it for me. I find they reflect the 'Polish soul' (dusza Polskiej) more than other directors from a later era. Perhaps though, later films show the state of turmoil in which Poland has found itself post-Solidariność.

'Popiół i Diamanty' or 'Kanał' though, are, for me, the most riveting post-war Polish films. Are you familiar with an old wartime film from the fourties, 'Zakazane Piosenki', featuring many resistance songs, among them, the 'Warszawianka'?
Switezianka - | 463  
28 Jun 2008 /  #26
I don't like contemporary Polish movies. I like older stuff like "The short film about killing", "Żywot Mateusza", and the classic comedies (Seksmisja, Rejs, Miś etc.).

Some exception are Dzień Świra or Kiler, a very depressing drama called Nic (Nothing) (about a woman who killed her baby) and a little known comedy called Pół Serio. It's a film about two guys trying to find an idea for a film script and the film is composed of 'productions' of those ideas. The ideas include: the beginning of Kafka's Trial, where it comes out that Mr. K is charged with not liking sitcoms, TV quizzes and commercials; a blend of Star Wars and Ingmar Bergman style; 3 or 4 versions of one scene from Romeo and Juliet (mixed with various cinematic conventions); or a story about medicine students who hire a male to study anatomy before an exam. I think this film is absolutely brilliant but it didn't gain popularity because most Polish viewers would not understand the references.

Adaptations of school setbooks are a good business because no matter how much the film sucks, the kids will always go and watch it not to have to read the books. The bottom of the bottoms is, IMO, "Zemsta" by Wajda. This is a classic comedy play written in verse. Although I've seen and read Zemsta many times, I still find it hilarious, even in print, but Wajda's version was deadly boring and not funny at all. If I hadn't seen this movie, I wouldn't believe that Zemsta can be not funny.
tmridan - | 1  
18 Oct 2008 /  #27
Thread attached on merging:
polish movies

I leave in israel and my grandmother was burn in polish.
I have no idea about polish movies but i want to find some to my grandmo.I will be happy to have some details and recomandation about good polish movies for an old lady.

Do someone know some good web site where i can i find in it a good stuff a bout polish movies ?

WhiteChocolate 2 | 12  
18 Oct 2008 /  #28
Well nowadays polish movies are just comedies...bad copy of americans:-)nothing more, because they don't have money...that's all.
shopgirl 6 | 928  
18 Oct 2008 /  #29
Do someone know some good web site where i can i find in it a good stuff a bout polish movies ?

They are a kind of Polish and you will find many films there.
Krzysztof 2 | 973  
18 Oct 2008 /  #30
i want to find some to my grandmo

It depends on when she left Poland.
If she knows only Poland till 1939 or 1945, she won't recognize it in most movies made later (that were dealing with the post-war communist Poland), because everything changed after the war, the borders, the society (from multiethnical to 97% Polish), the politics, everyday life.

I found a collection of 4 pre-war comedies: 4 DVD box on

it costs only about 25$ (and probably 10-15$ for a shipping to Israel), but that's all that I could find in Polish online shops, and those films probably have only Polish audio version, without alternate audio/subtitles, I'm not sure if your grandmother understands Polish?

There are of course more post-war movies that deal with the pre-war themes, often based on literary works from that period.
If you want to know more, I'll to do some search later, but the problem of the language will remain the same, most of DVDs don't have foreign audio/subtitles, so it's better to look for foreign editions, released in USA or somewhere else, especially for the foreign audience.

I know there were several films made in the Yiddish language (which was more popular than Hebrew among Polish Jews), some of the movies are available, but hard to find, maybe will have them:

Yidl mitn fidl (1936)
Freylikhe kabtsonim (1937)
Tkies khaf (1937)
Der Purimshpiler (1937)
Der Dibuk (1937)
A Brivele der mamen (1938)
Mamele (1938)

And watching the singing and laughing world (most of those Yiddish movies are comedies and musicals) that few years later ceased to exist may be very painful for someone who lived through that period. I know many Poles who survived war or concentration camps didn't want to talk for many years about those experiences, because it hurt too much.

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