Visions of Avant-Garde Film: Polish Cinematic Experiments from Expressionism to Constructivism

By Kamila Kuc | Go to book overview

5
The Theoretical Apparatus
Polish Futurism and Avant-Garde Film

The apparatus itself is … in a way always theoretical—a concept as much as a
form, a machination as much as a machine.

—Philippe Dubois, “Photography Mise-en-Film”

IN ORDER TO FULLY ASSESS Polish avant-garde films of the 1930s, a look back to the first avant-garde movements that emerged in the late 1910s is necessary. In this chapter the main focus is the impact of Polish futurism (1919–1922) on Janusz Maria Brzeski and Kazimierz Podsadecki’s Concrete (1933) and Jalu Kurek’s Or (1934). Despite the fact that much has been written on the Themersons’ Europa (1932) and Calling Mr Smith (1943), they will be revisited here, as, in my opinion, the impact of Polish futurism on these works has been underrated.1

The general absence of critical discourse regarding Polish futurism’s involvement with film is striking. This is related to the fact that Polish futurism was primarily a literary movement, thus lacking a significant body of work in the visual arts. Because of this, numerous film historians see the Polish futurists’ involvement with film as limited. However, Polish futurists’ film scripts, cine-novels, cine-poems, and their critical writings on film contributed to the flourishing film discourse that took place in Poland in the 1920s. This input, I argue, cannot go unnoticed when evaluating the achievements of Polish avant-garde film of the 1930s.2 As the film historian Tadeusz Miczka points out, “Historians of the tenth Muse cannot ignore this area in which ‘cinema exists without film’ since it appears that the art of moving pictures also benefited from the relationship with futurism.”3

The earliest attempts at experimenting with film, those, already mentioned, by Léopold Survage, Victor Kasyanov, Wassily Kandinsky, and Arnold Schönberg, as well as Amor pedestre (Marcel Fabre, 1914), Vita futurista (Arnaldo Ginna, 1916), Il perfido incanto (Anton Giulio Bragaglia, 1918), and Aldo Modinari’s Mondo Baldina (1914), were influenced by futurism. The principle “Painting + sculpture + plastic dynamism + words-in-freedom + composed noises + architecture + synthetic theatre = Futurist cinema” from “The Futurist Cinema”

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