Film

The Lodz Film School

by

Founded in 1948 under the Stalinist maxim “Film helps the working class and its Party breed socialism in the working soul,” Poland’s Lodz Film School became, by the mid 1950s, the unlikely center of a Polish cultural renaissance. A whole generation of postwar filmmakers got their start here, including Wajda, Polanski, Zanussi, and Kieslowski. To mark the school’s 50th
anniversary, MOMA has
assembled a program of 128 student films, many of which have never been screened
outside of Poland.

The series’s centerpiece, End of the Night, is a 1956 collaboration between eight student
writers and directors that dared to tackle teenage sex, jazz parties, and criminal
activity at a time when the
Polish government denied the existence of juvenile delinquency and decried jazz as a form of enemy propaganda. A sort of Polish Mean Streets, with
Polanski as a boyish thug scalping movie tickets, the film— in its depiction of violence and gloom— was a particular thrill for Polish filmmakers
eager to buck the edicts of
socialist realism.

Among scores of shorts, Polanski’s Break Up the Party (1957) and Marek Piwowski’s Fly Catcher (1966) are most true to their school. For Break Up the Party, Polanski apparently hired a street gang to crash
a dance he had organized on the school grounds so he could film a brawl with a swing
soundtrack. Piwowski’s film, meanwhile, is a seamless
combination of fact and
fiction, a staged conversation piece in which eccentric
nonactors carry on inside a café until things reach a
fever pitch. On a more somber note, Kieslowski’s The Office offers a glimpse of hell in the form of Soviet bureaucracy that seems lifted straight from Kafka’s The Trial.