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

By Kamila Kuc | Go to book overview

Conclusion

THE LIQUIDATION of the International League of Independent Film at its 1929 conference in La Sarraz, Switzerland, officially marked the end of the silent film avant-garde. No Polish representatives participated in the conference due to the lack of a single avant-garde film made in Poland.1 Even in 1935, Antoni Bohdziewicz, a leading Polish filmmaker and a member of the Society of the Lovers of Artistic Film (START), believed that the film avant-garde in Poland was nonexistent and suggested that the term “avant-garde” (awangarda) be banned from use in relation to film.2Awangarda was used primarily in relation to the newly emerging literary movements, and before the 1930s numerous Polish critics simply used the term “artistic film” (film artystyczny).3

The end of the avant-garde in Western Europe coincided with the introduction of sound, which threatened the avant-gardists with the need for more specialized technical knowledge and higher production costs. Sound also encouraged the creation of a more “real” and natural world within the film frame. The leftist politics of the 1930s avant-garde artists resulted in complex ties to communist and socialist organizations. These were strained by two “reciprocal policies”: Adolf Hitler’s nationalism and the Popular Front’s opposition to fascism, which “grew under Moscow’s lead in 1935.”4 These political factors, alongside the economic challenges of producing sound films, were behind the collapse of avant-garde film and caused the turn toward documentary filmmaking as an alternative way of filmmaking.5 Unlike in Western Europe, in Poland the introduction of sound coincided with the emergence of avant-garde filmmaking.

The primary aim of this book was to investigate the origins of Polish avantgarde film prior to the 1930s. Having reconstructed the cultural and political climate between 1896 and 1945, we are now more equipped to comprehend the meaning of the historical processes that took place almost a hundred years ago, which, in the words of Piotr Rypson, “can be now more distinctly heard from beneath the accumulations of both the intentional and auto-therapeutical falsehoods of our national mirages.”6 Although the actual films are crucial as primary evidence, when one is faced with their absence, their traces can be found in historical documents, memoirs, anecdotes, theoretical discourse, and unrealized projects. In the case of Poland, I have argued that these seemingly “noncinematic interventions” contributed to the development of theoretical discourses, which, in turn, influenced the acts of filmmaking. It is the inclusion of such interventions

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