University of Pittsburgh

Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures

Polish 1450 - Contemporary Polish Cinema (Spring Term)

Instructor: Jolanta Lapot (visiting from Lodz Film School of Poland, 1999-2000)
Course Meets: W CL249 5:45-10:00
Office Hours: Th, Fr 11:00-2:00
Office:1417 Cathedral of Learning
Phone: 624-5707

General Course Description

The course presents contemporary Polish cinema from 1945 to the present. Concepts will be studied in their historical, political, philosophical, and aesthetic perspective. We will examine the important national themes in modern Polish cinema, relating them to the history of Poland and Eastern Europe. The main trends (schools, movements) in Polish cinema will be examined such as the so-called PolishSchool and the Cinema of Moral Concern. The works of most important modern Polish film-makers will be examined, including the works of Andrzej Wajda, Andrzej Munk, Agnieszka Holland, Roman Polanski, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Wladyslaw Pasikowski, Leszek Wosiewicz, and Ryszard Bugajski.

Films to be examined may be divided into three general groups

  1. Films representing post-war history and, more specifically, films covering important social and political transformations, but made after the fact. These are sometimes called revisionist films in search of historical truth, previously distorted by political ideology.
  2. Films dealing with World War II. We will look at different ways in which the war is treated by film-makers over the course of the post-war period.
  3. The final group of films is chosen purely on the basis of artistic merit. The role of film as an art form will be examined during the different periods of the post-World-War-Two era.

By the end of the course students will be familiar with the major Polish film-makers and their best works. They will be able to understand the complex ethical issues raised in these movies as well as have a better understanding of the historical-didactic role these movies have played in Polish culture. Students will also be able to analzye better the context in which the contemporary Polish world-view has been formed.

Required Textbooks

  1. Boleslaw Michalek, Frank Turaj (1988). Modern Cinema of Poland, Indiana University Press
  2. Frank Bren (1993). World Cinema: Poland, London

*Additional materials will be photocopied.

General instruction

Classes will consist of lectures, seminar discussion, and student oral presentations.

Method of Evaluation

Policies and Expectations

During the semster students will be required to write 5 brief essays in which they will reflect on the issues raised in the screened movies or touched on during class discussion.

In the final paper, students will be required to give a deeper analysis of a single chosen issue as it relates to modern Polish cinema.

A readiness to lead and participate in class discussion, and to give oral presentations, will required of all participants.

List of Films to be Screened

  1. Leon Buczkowski, Adventure in Mariensztat (1953)
  2. Andrzej Wajda, Man of Marble (1977)
  3. Ryszard Bugajski, Interrogation (1982/1990)
  4. Andrzej Wajda, Ashes and Diaamonds (1958)
  5. Roman Polanski, Knife in the Water (1962)
  6. Agnieszka Holland, A Lonely Woman (1981/1987)
  7. Krzysztof Kieslowski, Camera Buff (1979)
  8. Andrzej Wajda, Man of Iron (1981)
  9. Agnieszka Holland To Kill the Priest (1984)
  10. Juliusz Machulski, Sexmission (1984)
  11. Krzysztof Kieslowski, White (1993)
  12. Leszek Wosiewicz, Kornblumenblau (1996)
  13. Wladyslaw Pasikowski, Pigs (1992)

Supplementary Films

  1. Jerzy Skolimowski, Hands Up (1967)
  2. Barbara Sass, Without Love (1980)
  3. Krzysztof Kieslowski, Blind Chance (1982)
  4. Krzysztof Zanussi, Camouflage (1976)

Tentative Course Schedule


Introduction. The Period of Socialist Realism (1949-1956)


Stalinist terror and the individual


The totalitarian system and Marxist ideology (continuation)


The "Polish School" (1953-1963)


The Polish School (continued). Perspectives on World War Two.


Films about the reality of the 1960s. Textbook 1, pp. 35-48.


The Cinema of Moral Concern.


The Cinema of Moral Concern (continuation)



The Stigma of Martial Law. Escape to freedom.


Escape to the Cinema of Genres


Polish Cinema after the 1989 Freedom Shock


Post-Modernist view of the role of cinematic art.

WEEK XIV. (continuation)