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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Niewinni Czarodjeje (Innocent Sorcerers)

Mędrce dawnych wieków
Zamykali się szukać skarbów albo leków
I trucizn - my niewinni młodzi czarodzieje
Szukajmy ich, by otruć własne swe nadzieje.

(click here for the Romanian version)

Niewinni Czarodzieje (Innocent Sorcerers), a movie made in 1960, gathering some of the greatest names of Polish cinema: director was Andrzej Wajda; Jerzy Andrzejewski (the author of Ashes and Diamonds, the novel on which the homonym film was based) created here the screenplay, together with Jerzy Skolimowski (who also had a cameo); the music was composed by Krzysztof Komeda (who also scored some of the first movies of Polanski); you will recognize in the cast Zbigniew Cybulski and Roman Polanski; the lead characters were played by Tadeusz Lomnicki and Krystyna Stypulkowska. It's a feast to see them all, time will go and each one will follow a different path, here they are together, in their young years, these legends of the film universe.

I saw the movie for the first time by the end of the sixties. I was very young, and I liked Polish movies very much. This one took me totally by surprise, as I was expecting something different. I realized it was a movie with heroes of my generation, people in their twenties (now we are the baby-boomers of late sixties). However, the plot came to me as a non-issue. A young physician, kind of a playboy, kind of tired of his sexual successes, meets one evening a young woman who comes to his apartment. What follows is a night of discussions. The atmosphere is tensioned, we expect the obvious outcome (and they expect this outcome as well), their talk is endless. Next morning he goes out, has a brief discussion with some guy on the street after which he probably realizes he loves her, so he comes back, she is no more. Or is she still there? Maybe. That's all.

I was a fan of Polish movies, and I loved the films of Wajda and Kawalerowicz. This one was not that kind. And it was directed by Wajda!

Actually this movie is stamped Skolimowski! The director was indeed Wajda, but he played faithfully the hand of his scriptwriter. Michael Open (who reviewed the movie for imdb) says it bluntly: the creative force is here Skolimowski, not Wajda. Innocent Sorcerers is hundred percent New Wave, and by that time I wasn't familiarized at all with this current.

It looks quirky and it looks cynical, because that's the way New Wave looks like. Quirky because it throws away some respected cinematic conventions (and not only cinematic), and cynical, because it doesn't believe in the system, be it political system, be it any other blah-blah system.

I watched again Innocent Sorcerers recently, on youTube. Years have passed and I saw many great movies of the New Wave. This time I understood it, and I had a feeling of nostalgia, just because of that. A movie made when my generation was in the twenties, with heroes of that age, with mentalities of that age, speaking to the person I was at that age, no more to the person I am now.

So the movie made me a bit nostalgic. In the same time, I was charmed. I had been hundred percent wrong when watching it first time. It's far from being a non-issue. This film is perfect, and watching it brings something like organic satisfaction: such an artwork comes as naturally as air or water.

Maybe the title was translated in Romanian more appropriately than it was in English: Inocentii fermecatori, it could mean Innocent Charmers, also Charming Innocents. Charmers is more fit than Sorcerers: this movie is superbly ambiguous beginning with its title. It also is ambiguous beginning with the beginning: the very first scene shows a woman passing the street and leaving behind huge posters of this movie! So, is Niewinni Czarodzieje (Innocent Sorcerers, or Innocent Charmers, whatever) a movie about itself?

For Krystyna Stypulkowska, the female lead, it was her first movie. She would play only in two more films. I looked for further information, without success. Well, she played here amazingly, the perfect charmer who never let you tell what's behind the charm, the good and the evil, who never let you know where she came from and where will she go.

The title of the movie comes from a masterpiece of Polish literature: Dziady (Forefathers'Eve), the poetic drama created by Adam Mickiewicz. It's a line in the first part of Dziady that names the niewinni młodzi czarodzieje (innocent young charmers) who własne swe nadzieje (poison their own hopes).

Dziady has four parts, very loosely related, each one created by Mickiewicz in a different period of life. The first part follows the sentimental tribulations of a young couple, confused about the path to take in their relationship: the innocent charmers who burn their own hopes. But it's not only the first part: love comes as an important theme in the whole poem. Dziady is about Polish ethos, both individual and collective. Giving and returning love is viewed by Mickiewicz as essential for the salvation of that ethos: individual and national. While keeping on the innocent charm level will poison hope and ultimately life: personal life and national life.

Coming back to the movie, there is a scene by the end in which the main hero asks someone on the street what is over Faith and Hope. Love, comes the answer. It's a quote from I Corinthians 13, and it gives us the clue: this movie is a replica to the first part of Dziady, played in our epoch. The innocent young charmers must recognize and assume their love, to not burn hope.

The movie was made in 1960. In 1968 Dziady will come once again in the picture: a representation of the poem will be forbidden, which will bring the Polish students on the streets, against the Communist regime.


Here is the movie as I found it on youTube, in two versions: six successive videos and also the whole movie in one long video. None of the versions came with subtitles, but I think the images communicate the whole tension between the two protagonists.

Niewinni Czarodzieje: Part 1/6
(video by elmarcin11)

A young doctor is tired of being sought by women. One night he meets a young girl who all but forces herself into his room where they talk of morals and love. But he loses her when he goes out to see some friends and then rushes madly around the city after her.

Niewinni Czarodzieje: Part 2/6
(video by elmarcin11)

This wry, cynical tale of attraction, desire, and disaffected youth marked the only time that these giants of the Polish School worked together, and the result is this re-discovered masterpiece of Polish Cinema.A handsome but insensitive young doctor spends his evenings playing jazz in a small club, and enjoying the attention of numerous female admirers. Tired of one-night-stands, he is still intrigued by a young girl and invites her to his room. They spend the night together, but do nothing but talk. He looks for her the following day, but she has disappeared—or so it seems.

Niewinni Czarodzieje: Part 3/6
(video by elmarcin11)

This was the first mainland European film I saw as a teenager in the early 60s. I saw it on late-night television and it knocked me out. Later on I saw Wajda's Generation trilogy and could barely believe that this was the same director. I have subsequently seen it on the big screen a couple of times and it remains a favorite from its era. The reason was simply that the creative force behind Innocent Sorcerers is not Wajda but Jerzy Skolimowski.
You only need to take a look at Walkover to see the same callous and alienated attitude of the central character. However, for me, Innocent Sorcerers is a superior film to Skolimowski's earliest directorial works as, through the character of Pelagia, a much greater warmth and meaning is expressed.
Krystyna Stypulkowska
makes a perfect Pelagia - coquettish and flirtatious, but still innocent. The exquisite scene of tossing the matchbox is more erotic than all but a handful of explicit sex scenes from modern cinema.
There are few films from Eastern Europe in the Soviet era that ever make you really care about the characters - this is definitely one.

Niewinni Czarodzieje: Part 4/6
(video by elmarcin11)

In this cynical masterpiece of disaffected Polish youth, a world-weary playboy doctor (Tadeusz Lomnicki) tires of his endless parade of one-night stands and seeks more substance in his life. His wish just may come true in the form of Pelagia (Krystyna Stypulkowska), a spirited young girl who challenges his mind and soul. A young Roman Polanski makes an appearance in this wry and witty romance from director Andrzej Wajda.

Niewinni Czarodzieje: Part 5/6
(video by elmarcin11)

This is a small gem from Andrzej Wajda, whose production boasts of Polish film legends Zbigniew Cybulski and Tadeusz Lomnicki, supporting players Roman Polanski, Jerzy Skolimowski, and soundtrack composer Krzysztof Komeda. The story of a young doctor and one-night encounter with a beautiful girl is told in a witty, stream-of-consciousness style whose story flows along like a meandering, medium-tempo jazz riff. While the film is reminiscent of other classic Polish films of the day like Wajda's Ashes & Diamonds and Polanski's Knife in the Water, it also has an uncanny similarity to films of the French New Wave; interesting that Innocent Sourcerers was made at exactly the same time as Godard's Breathless, because it shares much the same attitude and feel. Fans of groundbreaking classic European film from the 50s and 60s will probably enjoy this one.
(review in Netflix)

Niewinni Czarodzieje: Part 6/6
(video by elmarcin11)

Part I of Dziady, published after Mickiewicz’s emigration to France, was probably written in the early 1820s, although never finished. Meant to be a picture of emotion of the 19th century people, it was immediately given up by the author. It shows a young couple, feeling confused and trying to choose between the sentimental idea of love, adjustment to the society and respect to own nature.

the whole movie:

Niewinni Czarodzieje: the whole movie
(video by Tolek81)


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