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November 1994, Week 1


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Monika and Christopher Garbowski/a <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 4 Nov 1994 11:05:08 CST
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----------------------------Original message----------------------------
I do not have access to many American or European reviews of
Kieslowski's "White" (I am writing from Poland) and I wonder if any
of the reviewers picked up on what I believe to be a fairly strong
reference to Wajda's "Ashes and Diamonds" in that film. I am
referring to the garbage dump scene in "White". For those of you that
did not see Wajda's "Ashes", the film ends with Maciek, the hero from
the Polish Home Army (the underground army that resisted first the
Nazi occupation, and then the Communist take over), dying on a
garbage heap. This had the "politically correct" connotation for the
Communists of the Polish Romantic hero dying on the garbage heap of
history. Wajda managed to give an additional symbolic level to this
death by having Maciek die in the fetus position, i.e. implying his
story may not be over yet.
    In Kieslowski's "White", the garbage heap of history is much
higher, as the Socialist State has been added to it. And it seems to
me Maciek is indeed reborn as Karol. Karol arrives on the garbage heap
scrunched up in a suitcase, thus in the fetus position. His
romanticism has also been killed in France. The whole French episode
seems symbolic of the fruitless attraction Poles have had with that
country since the late Middle Ages when they elected a prince of the
Angevin dynasty to the Polish throne who ended up fleeing the
country as soon as there was a royal vacancy at home (Nor should we
forget that Polish troops first landed in Haiti at Napoleon's
behest to put down a slave revolt).
    The question of course is what direction does the new Polish hero
take upon leaving the garbage heap of history? One Polish critic
noted a semblence between Karol and Charlie Chaplin. It so happens
Karol is Polish for Charles. The Poland depicted in "White" that this
rather humorless Charlie Chaplin comes to, however, seems quite a lot
like something out of "The Gold Rush", with its rabid capitalism.
A pessimist would say this means Poland has taken a reverse course
from the garbage heap. An optimist would conclude that sometimes you
have to take a step backwards in order to leap ahead. Certainly
Poland is a much more colorful place now even if its citizens do ache
under the strain of the changes.