The Path On Which You Are Walking Alone by Pär Lagerkvist

The lonely man is the weakest one.

Not because he is alone but because

He is denying what he is carrying

within himself.

 

Our soul, getting deeper, is the broad

river of life.

 

The path on which you are walking alone,

is leading away from yourself.

 

by Pär Fabian Lagerkvist (1891 – 1974), Sweden

Advertisements

Wałęsa. Człowiek z nadziei [Walesa, Man of Hope] 2013 film

A 2013 Polish biopic film about the leader of the trade union Solidarity movement (and later president of Poland) Lech Walesa by Andrzej Wajda. The film was selected as the Polish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards, but was not nominated. Recently, on 10/01/2017, this film was shown on BBC4.

Synopsis:

Lech Wałęsa, an electrician at the Gdańsk Shipyards, participated in local demonstrations during the 1970s which became violent and left their mark on him after he returned to his daily routine. Ten years later, a new uprising occurred and unexpectedly became a charismatic leader of the Polish dockworkers.

Wałęsa’s leadership role signifies the beginning of a new movement that successfully overcomes the country’s Communist regime, and Wałęsa is pushed into representing the majority of Poland’s population. The Soviet Union authorities, previously regarded as too powerful to be confronted, eventually tolerate existence of the movement a degree. However he is at one point taken from his home in the middle of the night by Soviet officials to an unknown location. On their journey there they pass a road and Lech declares that the people will support him but his escort laugh at this and tell him to open his window and ask the people themselves. On the roadside are some poor farmers who tell him they hate him and he has done nothing to help them. At the interrogation location he is fed and openly shows defiance to the authorities before being eventually released when it’s clear they will get nothing from him. Later we see his wife accepting the Nobel peace prize on his behalf in 1983 as he believed if he left the country he would not be allowed back in.

The film ends on a note of Soviet members saying they will get him and Wałęsa being left unchallenged by opponents. The Polish example of the group Solidarity causes a domino effect throughout Eastern Europe. People in Eastern Germany follow the Polish example, starting demonstrations for freedom which achieves a peaceful reunification of Germany. The Soviet Union then dissolved alongside Yugoslavia.

In the epilogue we are told that while Europe is reshaped, Poland remains stable and peaceful. Yet a huge variety of political parties unfold and Poland is on the brink of becoming as ungovernable as the late Weimar Republic. Wałęsa is subsequently elected as the first president of the new Polish democracy; but, this is followed by feelings of resentment among the Polish people who start to think that Wałęsa is becoming overly privileged. Consequently, the Polish people start to seek out ways to diminish Wałęsa’s significance, until they finally accomplish their goal through uncovering actions from a past period.

Cast:
Robert Więckiewicz as Lech Wałęsa
Agnieszka Grochowska as Danuta Wałęsa
Zbigniew Zamachowski as Nawiślak
Maria Rosaria Omaggio as Oriana Fallaci
Cezary Kosiński as Majchrzak
Mirosław Baka as Klemens Gniech
Iwona Bielska as Ilona, Wałęsa’s neighbour
Maciej Stuhr as Priest
Małgorzata Zajączkowska as Shop assistant
Marcin Hycnar as KOR member Rysiek
Dorota Wellman as Henryka Krzywonos
Adam Woronowicz as Tadeusz Fiszbach
Marcin Perchuć as Instruktor
Ewa Kuryło as Anna Walentynowicz
Arkadiusz Detmer as Malinowski
Mateusz Kościukiewicz as Krzysiek
Piotr Probosz as Mijak
Ewa Kolasińska as Shipyard worker
Michał Czernecki
Remigiusz Jankowski as Shipyard worker
Wojciech Kalarus as Chairman
Maciej Marczewski as KOR member
Maciej Konopiński as SB agent
Marcel Głogowski as Bogdan Wałęsa (aged 8–10)
Wiktor Malinowski as Jarosław Wałęsa (aged 3–5)
Kamil Jaworski as Przemysław Wałęsa (aged 5–7)
Jakub Świderski as Ludwik Prądzyński
Bogusław Kudłek as Bogdan Borusewicz
Michał Meyer as Jerzy Borowczak
Grzegorz Małecki as UB agent
Ewa Konstancja Bułhak as Customs official
Damian Jagusz as soldier

Review:
Be honest – if you read that synopsis and didn’t think ‘this is propaganda’ then your not being critical. This is a view you must take with any biographical works as inevitably there will be a bias present no matter the intent. Either the subject themselves, in the case of autobiographies, is editting the truth in order to better fit their personal self image or intentionally presenting an image they wish to be accepted as true or, in third party works, you are viewing the events through the perception of someone interpreting their subject for better or worse. It reminds me about someone who once told me they only read biographies because they deal in reality while fiction is just make believe. For such people this film will be accepted at face value.

Andrzej Wajda is a freind of Lech Wałęsa and so there is inevitably a bias. This film romanticises events in favour of depicting Lech Walesa as a man of the people who never did anything questionable. It is a love letter to him displaying his defiant, outspoken behaviour and being seen to be rarely challenged successfully in his opposition to the Soviet era establishment. It is highly romanticised not in it’s imagery, as Wadja’s style is distinctly realist and unsensational (barring a few concessions to cinematic flare), but in how we are presented Lech’s personality, showing him often making political statements and being in control of any enviroment he is in – even when he is taken by the secret police from his family to be interrogated.

Many scenes of the film include achive footage in which the faces of the actors are superimposed onto the footage of the person they are playing. Due to the low quality of the footage in compariosn to modern high definition imagery this is done quite effectively although I would wonder if it feels jarring for those familiar with the real life individuals and this footage in its original form. Apart from this we have dramatisations of Lech’s personal life which presumably has been sourced from multiple accounts to create as close to the actual events as possible – or maybe it’s just from Lech’s perspective and therefore favours his interpretation of events.

In the final third of the film, once he is held by the Soviet authorities, all we have is speculation based on his personal accounts of events. My issue with this? In most of this film we have the intergration of modern and contemporary footage (with the actor’s faces placed over those of the actual historical figures they play) which lends itself to making us unable to distinguish which parts are fact and which parts are further along the sliding scale of fact towards we accept as ‘historical fact’.

What I mean by this is we can only base our knowledge on the accounts given by people of the time and any evidence we are able to establish. History is only what we are told happened and which re-enforces the oft cited cliche ‘the victor writes history’ as we are discovering, time and time again, when historians go back to events long ago and uncover new evidence that the previously accepted ‘truth’ is not what actually happened but was a biased interpretations of events from the perspective of one side.

Why note this distinction between fact and historical fact? This film is doing its best to establish Wałęsa’s legacy as an unquestionably noble figure who did no wrong in his lifetime to achieve his goals and yet there is a challenge to such a perception of him nowadays. Recently Wałęsa has faced accussations of colluding with the Soviet government which he vehemently denies despite growing evidence to the contrary. In the closing minutes of the film we see his interrorgaters comment, to almost cartoonish effect, they will ‘get him later’. This moment works to make the audience also refute any later accusations of collusion they will hear including those currently being discussed in light of new evidence. After all who do we believe – the Soviet authorities who are well known to have used certain methods and obscured the reality of events often or this idealised man of the people?

Further to the cartoonishly villainous declaration of revenge we are given a brief summary, via text on the screen, relaying what occurred after the events depicted. One of these asserts that because of Wałęsa’s actions, and the rise of the Solidarity group, Poland led other Eastern Bloc nations towards rebelling against Soviet control and thus were key in the fall of the Berlin Wall.

This film presented an oversimplification of historical events regarding the downfall of the Soviet Union in it’s closing moments by suggesting Wałęsa’s actions, singlehandedly, began the sequence of events that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. There were a great many other world events and internal problems within the Soviet union which led to its downfall so this film, as I have already mentioned, acts as propaganda attempting to secure the legacy of Wałęsa as one of the great historical figures in the history not just of Poland, which has been so hard fought for throughout the centuries by its citizens, but of the world.

He comes across as a historical figure not a man in this film. An image not a living person similar to how canonised saints are depicted. We have seen this time and time again in biopics which cherrypick what is depicted, how it is depicted and perhaps this is why I tend to avoid watching them because ultimately what we are watching is personality propaganda and not a fair account of the individual’s life. Rarely are such films a fair representation of what actually occurred let alone the unblemished, and sometimes unpalatable, truth. Often they instead iconise their subject either as hero or villain.

A caricature who is defined as representing some noble cause and whose example (of their mythos, not their reality) we should follow, is presented to the audience and we are asked to accept it blindly. There are too many examples of biopics being more fiction than fact but that is something to discuss another day. What is safe to say is that the actions of characters in the film must fit the narrative even if it warps the character of the real life person. Examples I can give off the top of my head are First Officer William Murdoch’s depiction in the 1997 film Titanic and of Vivian Liberto Cash in 2005’s Walk The Line both of whom were depicted negatively to enhance the focus narrative without thought to real world events.

Secondary to depictions of Wałęsa are those of the Italian reporter Oriana Fallaci, who is interviewing him as part of the film’s framing device. She is also somewhat of a caricature of the real life person and the choice for her to be used is itself indicative of Wadja’s intentions. Here she is depicted as the classic image all journalists wish to be seen as. Partisan yet invested. Distant yet intimate with their subject. Taking a stand against perceived injustices in the world yet never personally being involved (or indeed effected by it save, as journalist’s often do to create repore in hopes of exposing weakness in their subject, to express a few half hearted suggestions of sympathy – but never empathy). To be objective though they edit what they write and thus can never truly ignore their own experiences in life thus fostering an image which often overshadows the subject they cover. A journalist’s journalist.

The real life Fallaci often came into conflict with Muslims regarding her outspoken criticism of communities both in the East and West while she maintained an aloof air of superiority over them both. During her 1972 interview with Henry Kissinger, Kissinger stated that the Vietnam War was a “useless war” and compared himself to “the cowboy who leads the wagon train by riding ahead alone on his horse”. Kissinger later claimed that it was “the single most disastrous conversation I have ever had with any member of the press”. In 1973, she interviewed Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. She later stated, “He considers women simply as graceful ornaments, incapable of thinking like a man, and then strives to give them complete equality of rights and duties”.

It is hard to suggest that this image isn’t based on one Oriana herself made every effort to enforce during her life through her actions, often intended to incite reaction, and not just Wadja trying to lend further credence to his biopic by using a respected real life journalist in the framing device. She, like any others, was more a journalist seeking glory and building her reputation through conflict than making a difference in the world through her work and reporting things people do not want to accept as reality. Despite the heavily doctored image she seemed to wish to portray of herself fault always lay outside the individual as was the case when she blamed her lung cancer on her stay in Kuwait in 1991 after Saddam Hussein had ordered troops to burn hundreds of oil well alone and not that she had been, by choice, a lifelong heavy smoker. And in this film the fault lay exclusively with the Soviets never with how people did not rise up and challenge them before Wałęsa ascension to, what this film is mythologising as, a figurehead.

Summary:
On many aspects of the film I can find no fault. The acting is impactful, the cinematography up to the standard you would expect of a world class director such as Andrzej Wajda (who sadly passed away 9 October 2016) and it really has the sense, if not the most accurate depiction, of the 1980s in Poland. It is solidly built but the message it wishes to express seems, as with any biographical work, to have a desire to frame events in a certain light and omit anything unseemly in order to create a streamlined mythological narrative about its subject – to create an icon rather than relate a flawed, but inspirational, subject.

My greatest critcism is that Andrzej Wajda considered Lech a personal friend and I feel that this caused him to not cast a critical eye upon his subject. This has led, in this love letter of a film to his freind, to the embellishment of a historical figure and securing of his legacy. It deminishes the moments of true opposition faced in order to secure the heroic, incontestable, historical mythos of Wałęsa. The reason people watch a biopic or read an (auto)biography is to see the person behind the facade but sadly, as is often the case, all we get is a re-enforcement of what was already presented to us elsewhere. If you want an introduction to the life and times of Wałęsa then this is good enough as a biased crib notes like starting point but don’t expect any insight into him or how the Soviet era effected Poland beyond trade union strikes.

If you are interested in the works of Andrzej Wajda, or depictions of Poland under Communist rule, I strongly recommend you go watch Wadja’s Man of Marble (Polish: Człowiek z marmuru) or its sequel Man of Iron (Polish: Człowiek z żelaza) which depict fictionalised characters’ experiences covering the events of the Solidarity movement. In these Wajda is less sentimental about his subject and can better present the moral ‘truth’ of events without concern for offending a friend as has sadly occurred with this biopic made far later in his career.

Blog Update, the BBC’s War and Peace Adaption and a Polish Charity Page

Hi,

I had to take a break the past few months to recuperate. Updates will be sporadic for a while.

Forthcoming posts in the next few weeks will be:

  • Netochka Nezvarovna by Dostoyevsky
  • South of Hell: episode/series synopsis and review
  • A few film reviews.

Maybe a series review of BBC’s recent adaption of War and Peace. In brief: It has good, if anachronistic in its gowns, costume design and well framed scenes but the overall series feels as if it proceeds at a break neck pace. It has pointless nudity for the most part (including showing Natalia full frontal nude in the first episode when she is meant to be only 13 years old which is morally awkward even if the actress is obviously in her twenties) and inevitably, as with other productions, has to skip over all of Tolstoy’s social commentary. My favourite character in the end was Marya Bolkonskaya (loyal and moral to a fault) although I felt that the treatment of Sonya Rostova who is considered a ‘sterile flower’ feels tragic considering how others get a happy ending while she is expected to be satisfied with self-sacrifice. On the whole there is great scenery to entertain the eyes but it works better as a ‘dramatic highlights’ version of the story, useful for focused discussions about particular scenes, than a satisfying dramatic adaption of the novel. A good modern style adaption of the overarching narrative ,where everything has been sexed up to appeal to a younger audience, but may leave those more familiar with the novel, or seeking its social commentary on Tsarist Russian society, unfulfilled.

Tom Burke, as Fedya Dolokhov, stole every scene he was in and reminded me of Rik Mayall’s portrayl of Lord Flashheart in BlackAdder II. Due to how fast the narrative proceeds from his introduction to his seduction of Helena and the inevitable duel with Pierre it feels as if they were intentionally trying to portray Dolokhov as the Russian Flashheart.

… actually maybe I won’t cover War and Peace as that is a concise enough summary. We will see. Tell me if you would be interested in a longer commentary.

In other news: I received this link asking for donations towards the upkeep of a Polish girl called Laura who suffers from congenital bone fragility. The site shows photos of her performances, diplomas of her achievements, a blog, etc. They are appealing for donations as the costs of her treatment and rehabilitation exceed the financial ability of her parents to support her on their own. Contact details are on the ‘Jak pomóc’ (How to help) page

http://www.pomozlaurze.org/

Check it out if you want. There is no obligation.


 

I don’t have access to Word at the moment so WordPress saving a draft every minute or so is a nice feature though I prefer to type it out first then copy/paste into the post drafting part.

Ptasie Mleczko – Waniliowe

Dark Chocolate Covered Vanilla Marshmallow Confectionaries

380g (13.4 oz) Produced by E.Wedel

Available at Tesco and other retailers. The price I am not certain of as it was a gift. (approximately £4-7?)

Oryginalna wedlowska czekolada – Original wedlowska chocolate.

Gwarancje smaku [Translation: Taste guaranteed]
Otwórz i poczuj niebiański smak [Translation: Open and feel the heavenly taste]

DSC_0006bbbbbbbb

Ptasie Mleczko: to niebiańsko lekka i puszysta pianka ukryta pod warstwą kruchej czekolady. Nowy sposób zamknięcia chroni jego wyjątkowy aromat i najwyższą jakość na jeszcze dłużej. Odkrywaj więc warstwy niebiańskiego smaku kiedy chcesz i tak, jak lubisz.

[Translation: Ptasie Mleczko: A heavenly light and fluffy mousse hidden beneath a crisp chocolate coating. Our new method of closure protects its unique flavour and ensures the highest quality for even longer. Discover the layers of immense heavenly taste when you want and the way you want.]

DSC_0013aaaaaa

Background information: Ptasie Mleczko is a soft chocolate-covered Polish confectionary filled with soft meringue (or milk soufflé). In Russian it is called ptichye moloko (птичье молоко) and in Romanian lapte de pasăre. All these names literally mean “bird’s milk” or crop milk, a substance somewhat resembling milk, produced by certain birds to feed their young. However, this is not origin of the name; rather, ptasie mleczko is also a Polish idiom meaning “an unobtainable delicacy” (compare English: “hen’s teeth”; also, a similar idiom can be found in Bulgarian – тук/там и от пиле мляко има, meaning “even bird milk can be found here/there”).

In Poland, Jan Wedel, owner of the E. Wedel Company, developed the first Ptasie mleczko in 1936. Wedel’s inspiration for the name of the confectionery came from his voyages to France, when he asked himself: “What could bring greater happiness to a man who already has everything?” Then he thought: “Maybe only bird milk.”

In Poland it is one of the most recognized chocolate confectionery having exclusive rights in Poland for the name — other confectionery producers also make similar candies but named differently e.g. Alpejskie mleczko, “Alpine milk”.

In Russia ptichye moloko is both a popular candy and a famous soufflé cake. The brand was introduced in the Soviet times and is nowadays used by the companies operating the factories which produced these candies and cakes since that time. The candies are also produced in other post-Soviet states, in particular in Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova.

Review: Very light confectionaries you will likely eat a few of before realising how many you consumed as they are so tasty but not feel the impact of. You will eat more than you intend because of the nice taste and texture. There is the distinct flavour of vanilla which was surprising as ‘vanilla’ has become a byword for ‘bland’ as things claiming to be vanilla flavoured often have no real taste at all. The chocolate coating is thin and crisp but still enough you can taste the chocolate rather than it being like a brittle, tasteless, sugar coating as is the case with many other confectionaries. The chocolate melts in the mouth so I do wonder what condition these would be in if you left them in a hot environment. The texture of the marshmallow is quite dense when compared to the sort of marshmallows you buy in a bag (usually coloured pastel pink and white) but is still quite springy in texture. Even though the marshmallow is dense the confectionaries themselves are exceptionally light so you will not feel burdened by the consumption of them. It is all about the flavour with them, as it should be with all confectionaries, not about a short lived sense of a full stomach or having a sugar rush as a substitute for eating a proper meal as is often the case when people snack instead of dine during the day.

There are 3 columns of 6 making for 18 pieces on each of the tray adding up to a total of 36 pieces all together in the box. The ‘new method’ they brag of that preserves the taste is basically cling film over a plastic carton within the cardboard casing. They are kept ‘fresh’ and in excellent condition by this but it seems odd to brag about it… that is probably why the inside of the lid is not translated into English as it is such a ludicrous boast to make.

I find Polish chocolates to be of a high quality, having often bought jeżyki chocolate bars in the past, and there is a certain sense of nostalgia in the taste of them as they no doubt use ingredient choices and techniques which have gone from the Western confectionary production industry for one reason or another. I highly recommend them as a fantastic alternative to the over saturated and growingly homogenised main brand chocolates we are growing all too willing to impulse buy due to brand recognition alone.

They don’t translate everything on the packaging but the few bits I had to attempt a translation of, so they sounded similar in tone to the English language equivalents by their competitors, are just the generic packaging boasts you will find on any number of products and all the key important information is printed clearly in English.

DSC_0004bbbbb

Nutritional information: Wiesz co jesz – sprawdż GDA*:

Wartość odżywcza/Nutrition Information \ %GDA* w/per 10,6g \GDA* \ 100g \ 1 ostka/cube ~10,6g
Wartość energetycczna / Energy 2,4% 8400kJ 1842kJ 195kJ
2000kcal 440kcal 47kcal
Tłuszcz / Fat 3,3% 70g 22g 2,3g
W tym kwasy tłuszczowe nasycone / of which saturates 7,5% 20g 14g 1,5g
Weglowodany / Carbohydrates 2,3% 260g 58g 6,1g
W tym cukry / of which sugars 5,7% 90g 48g 5,1g
Białko / Protein 0,6% 50g 2,6g 0,3g
Sól / Salt <0,2% 6g 0,06g 0,01g
Produkt zaweira 36 x ~ 10,6g. / Product contains 36 x ~ 10,6g.

*GDA – Referencyjna wartość spożycia dla przeciętnej osoby dorosłej (8 400 kJ / 2 000kcal). Indywidualne zapotrzebowanie na energię i skladniki odżywcze może być wżsże lub niższe w zależności od płci, weiku, wysiłku fizycznego i innych czynników.

*Reference intake of an average adult (8 400 kJ / 2 000 kcal). Personal requirements for energy and nutrients may vary depending on age, sex, physical activity and other factors.

Ptasie Mleczko Waniliowe. Delikatna Pianka w Czekoldzie.

Skałdniki: Czekdolada deserowa 28% (Cukier, Miazga kakaowa, Tłuszcz kakaowy, Tłuszcz mleczny, Emulgatory: lectyna sojowa i E 476, Aromat), Cukier, Syrop glukozowy, Masło, Mieko zagęszczone słodzone, Roztwór cukru inwertowanego, Białko jaja w proszku, Substancja zelująca (agar), Regulator kwasowości (kwas cytrynowy), Substancja konserwująca (E202), Aromat, Naturalny aromat waniliowy. Czekolada deserowa: masa kakaowa minimum 47%

Ingredients: Dark chocolate 28% (Sugar, Cocoa mass, Cocoa butter, Milk fat,

Emulsifiers: soya lecithin and E476, Flavouring), Sugar, Glucose syrup, Butter, Sweetened condensed milk, Invert sugar solution, Dried egg white, Gelling agent, (agar), Acidity regulator (citric acid), Perservative (E202), Flavouring, Natural vanilla flavouring.Dark chocolate: cocoa solids 47% minimum.

CONTAINS MILK, EGG, SOYA. MAY CONTAIN PEANUTS, NUTS, CEREALS.

ZAWIERA MLEKO, JAJA, SOJĘ, MOŻE ZAWIERAĆ ORZECHY ARACHIDOWE, ORZECHY, ZBOŻA.

marka ptasie mleczko została stworzona w latach 30 tych xx wieku przez Jana Wedla i obecnie jest chroniona na terytorium Unii Europejskiej na rzecz LOTTE Wedel sp. z o.o. jako słowny znak towarowy
[Translation: The Ptasie mleczko brand was created in the 1930s, by John Wedel, and is now protected in the European Union for Lotte Wedel Sp. z oo as a trademark.]

Najlepiej spożyć przed: data na boku kartonika./ Best before: See side of box
LOTTE Wedel sp. z o.o.
Ul. Zamoyskiego 28/30
03-801 Warszawa
Polska/Poland
http://www.wedel.pl;
http://www.czekolada.pl
http://www.ptasiemleczko.pl/site/

Warto porozmawiać – Infolinia konsumencka [Translation: Customer Hotline]: 801 811 011 **
**Opłata według tary lokalnej. Only for Poland


I received these as a gift from a colleague a while ago but only now got around to reviewing finally. They are very good, give them a go. Many thanks Anna! 🙂

As a sign of my appreciation, and support of her work, I ask you to please visit the following site she has recently launched. It contains a number of venues to visit around Wales, and other parts of Britain, so even if you don’t speak Polish at least you can see the pictures, click on the links (which go to English language pages), stick the information in a translator and get some ideas of places to visit:

Polski? Proszę odwiedź:

Smok Walijski

Also here are some other links to other blogs that might be of interest:

[Polish language]: https://annawwalii.wordpress.com/
[English language]: https://annainwales.wordpress.com/


… and one day there will be reviews of some Jeżyki chocolate bars or selected works of Dorota Masłowska. But that will be a long time from now. One post a week is the standard for now although it would have been a good idea to prepare a number of posts so I could have done a ‘Polish Week’ of a post per day and got them all out of the way. Then I could do a Russian Week! Welsh Week! French Week! American Week! etc, etc and so on… but its just a lot of effort for one person unlike teams that run websites and can combine their efforts.

Comment, like or follow me – all are welcome 🙂

Eurovision Song Contest 2015

I have posted videos of each entrant, in order of performance, during the grand finale with my own comments as I was watching the programme live. In the end it seemed far more earnest this year and therefore less fun. It comes across as if the acts are trying to promote their own career to a wider international audience, which would happen anyway, than providing an enjoyable performance. There were far less ‘fun’ acts than in any previous years I can remember – perhaps because with the advent of the internet and digital downloads having an international career is far more possible compared to previous generations.

1-Slovenia: Maraaya: Here For You: Good upbeat song but the wind machine blowing her overly stiff hair and the unintentionally sinister diamond armed dancer were not necessary.

2 France – Lisa Angell: N’oubliez Pas: Bleak. Reminded me of ‘downer’ bad ending credits for some computer games if you made bad choices or even ones where it’s a sad end as the hero died but the future now holds hope thanks to their noble sacrifice. A good song but not something that will do well at Eurovision.

3 Israel: Nadav Guedj: Golden Boy: It sounded like an out of tune 90s boy band and although the production was good it fell flat for me.

4 Estonia: Elina Born & Stig Rästa: Goodbye To Yesterday: The singing was really good and I liked it immensely. I noted she even shed a tear while singing. Staged or not that was a nice detail. I would actually like to hear more from them.

5 UK: Electro Velvet: Still In Love With You: Nice upbeat 1920s style electro-swing piece and the neon clothing light effects in the ultraviolet light went really well. We are not going to win but at least we are showing we can be original and give people something to remember without being ridiculous. Ironically considering how often Terry Wogan complained about the cheesiness in the past we are the cheesy novelty entry this year it feels like in retrospect. But it was fun and we are improving year on year since the disapproval after the Middle East conflict…


6 Armenia: Genealogy: Face The Shadow: an awkward mix of voices with a clock theme throughout the performance. They didn’t seem to harmonise and it seems like a catastrophe for them on the night and rather awkward from an audience perspective as they didn’t gel as a group. I think one of them was from Wales as it was made up from people of Armenian ancestry from around Europe internally selected by the Public Television of Armenia to sing Face The Shadow, a “powerful anthem about peace, unity, and love”

7 Lithuania: Monika Linkytė and Vaidas Baumila: This Time: Good fun and energy. Potential winner? A good duet nonetheless. Lithuania initially wanted a solo entry to represent them in the contest, but double act Monika Linkytė and Vaidas Baumila won over both TV viewers and the professional jury with their duet.

8 Serbia : Bojana Stamenov: Beauty Never Lies: Good song. Very fat girl. Can tell from her face she would be very attractive if she got her weight under control. Sadly she starts screaming and there is a euro electro-disco part towards the end which ruins it. One male dancer has the beard and topknot look which is popular amongst hipsters right now. She beat two other candidates in the Serbian national selection, but Bojana Stamenov isn’t just a powerful voice – she’s also deft hand at knitting and cooking… She ate them and will become a crazy cat lady after the show.

9 Norway: Mørland & Debrah Scarlett: A Monster Like Me: Good mellow toned song however the singers seem to be off key at the start possibly. He warbles while she croons. It’s a very nice song and the further they go the better it gets but those opening moments…

10 Sweden: Måns Zelmerlöw: Heroes: Pop with electro folk: Very nice front projection effects. The bookies favourite and to be honest mine too at this stage in the contest it blows everything else out of the water.

11 Cyprus: John Karriyannis: One Thing I Should Have Done: Classic pop love song effort. The sort of thing you wouldn’t mind on the radio on a Sunday afternoon but nothing that stands out.

12 Australia: Guy Sabastian: Tonight Again: Upbeat modern pop song clearly having fun and unpressured. Obviously not going to win but hopefully they have enjoyed the event.

13 Belgium: Loïc Nottet: Rhythm Inside: slow, hipster influenced, modern pop song: I like it but many people probably won’t remember it tomorrow.

14 Austria: The Makemakes: I Am Yours: Slow start but a classic song you could imagine from previous years of Eurovision and you would want to know the name of. Setting the inside of the Piano on fire adds nothing to the perfornance as its not as if he is playing it so frantically the strings sponaniously ignite in a cartoonish style. The host nation always hobbles themselves however as I doubt anyone wants to host it a few years on the trot.. It became dull towards the end.

15 Greece: Maria Elena Ktriakou: One Last Breathe: classic Eurovision song style of grandiose pop music. Not much to say really. Good effort but nothing to grab peoples votes.

16 Montenegro: Knez: Adio: enjoyable. At least they are not singing in English… it has an element of Montenegro’s musical culture in it. This is how it should be i.e. representing your nation not trying to be all things to all people. Not going to win but respectable.

17 Germany: Ann Sophie: Black Smoke: R&B influenced as many seem to be this year in tone. Good but no doubt forgettable. She stepped in at the last moment as the one who was going to do it decided not to in the end. Good on her for doing this and you wouldn’t know about the change.

18 Poland: Monika Kuszyńska: In The Name Of Love: Last year it was Donatan & Cleo – ‘My Słowianie – We Are Slavic’ giving us the message hot blooded Slavic girls are the best in every way and do everything the best (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, get the dirty old man vote) with busty ‘milk churning’ milkmaid for those who don’t understand the lyrics to get the message of what they are saying. This year they have a singer in a wheelchair…Poland must love making everyone feel awkward. They are trolling the contest. There is no other explaination for these acts. I wonder how they will upstage this entry – a choir of children with learning difficulties, a quadriplegic playing the mouth organ and a dance troop of Alzheimer’s afflicted old age octogenarians next year? I really want to believe Poland, like Britain, don’t take the contest seriously, but they actually actually send in entries to mess with voters rather than just moan in the commentary. Last year it was the ‘dad’ vote, this year the ‘if you don’t vote for us its discrimination against the diabled’ moral guilt vote. That aside it is a good song with the uprising anthemic quality you expect of Eurovision entries. “Monika Kuszyńska brings with her a strong Eurovision message: she wants to “to build the bridge of tolerance in the name of love” with her performance” – i.e. Poland want to see how far they can push it before being kicked out by pretending they don’t know its trolling.

19 Latvia: Aminata: Love Injected: the classic Eurovision singer with an ‘overly extravagant dress’. Nice designs flashing in the background. Generic Eurovision entry. A wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen. One of the definitive ‘also ran’ entries of this year. The song title is indeed either poor english or a very dark suggestion of what the song is really about.

20 Romania: Voltaj: De La Capat/ All Over Again: A lot of the songs have this echoing anthemic thing going on this year. Again credit due to them as they don’t sing in English. Don’t know about the monochrome look… Has a sort of ‘song you hear on an advert’ quality meant to be inspirational in those 30 seconds they play it’s chorus but you get sick of it after a while and people still remember the song years later with distain. Oh there is a bit of English… well that’s okay I guess thoguh everyone singing in English seems disingenuous.

21 Spain: Edurne: Amanecer: She is Manchester United’s Goalkeeper’s girlfriend apparently – Nice visuals. Sung in Spanish. I could see this winning. The dancer/stagehand in the dark holding her cloak, pretending to be the wind and pull the cloak off, is obviously there despite their staging efforts. Then there is the reveal of the ‘classic leg revealing’ dress. Then there is a bit of dancing in an instrumental part just to keep the energy going which is a good mix between static and dynamic aspects to give a rounded performance. Spain are obviously going all out to win this year. Really working the crowd well and got a good reception.

22 Hungary: Boggie: Wars For Nothing: Serious message time. This will be sung over a video of starving war torn communities during a charity video. It’s a really sharp change in tone from the Spanish song entry. Its good but would have been better placed after one of the more subdued earlier entries. Austria decided the running order and no doubt knew the reaction this would get after the previous song. I’m not saying anything suspicious was happening just that you would never put these songs together if you had any sense… also to English speakers Boggie is just a hilarious name in contrast to the song’s serious message sadly. A moral victor raising issues but will go nowhere in the votes.

23 Georgia: Nina Sublatti: Warrior: Rock chick entry. Smoke screen and the heavy flashing effects are obscuring her on stage. Gothy warrior look – 🙂 phwoar! (I’ve been watching a lot of early 90s music videos so this look is kind of fixed in my head at the moment as a very appealing look) This more energetic song could have done with backing dancers as the staging seems a bit too bare with just her there obscured by the dry ice smoke. If not for that then this would have been the song and performance I would personally consider song of the night though it wouldn’t win (I mean it’s not as impressive as when Lordi entered and won – which makes me think they may have been a quasi-joke entry except they really went for it and won everyone over which they richly deserved). Warrior is the sort of energetic song I can imagine being the theme song to an action adventure series. Another person whose works I will be checking out. Actually singing in English which I didn’t realise initially.

24 Azerbaijan: Elnur Huseynov: Hour Of The Wolf: A very nice slower song and the ballet dancers were very good. It will be forgotten as its very ‘now’ however. A very ‘American pop singer going solo’ style song.

25 Russia: Polina Gagarina: A Million Voices: Going for the victory hard. Anthemic drum beat call to alms (yes not ‘arms’ – its wordsplay… I have explained the joke and it now lies dead like a dissected frog on a lab table), with a refrain and choral section. The drummer does look like Andrew WK pre-nosebleed however. Excellent song. No one stands a chance. If it doesn’t win it will be top three at the very least. They definitely put a lot of work into it although people like a bit of a show too so the all-white look might not work too well to get everyone’s votes). It’ll be interesting to see how Ukraine votes in regards to them considering they were always [12 points] block voting for each other in the past. Russia women always seem to have a lot of beauty marks on their skin in contrast to other countries – maybe its just they don’t cover them up with foundation, etc, makeup… She looks a bit like a more ‘Welsh’ version of Katherine Jenkins (who of course is Welsh but not ethnically ‘crab face’ Welsh i.e. small, squared, jawline and chin).

26 Albania: Elhaida Dani: I’m Alive: Already screwed before they began due to Russia’s absolute winning over of the audience. It’s very nice with a slower lead in. Absolute cleavage with a masking screen. It’s a very good song and if the running order was different it would have stood a better chance but it seems Austria has made the running order bottom heavy with all the impressive ones towards the end.

27 Italy: Il Volo: Grande Amore: Boy band look – apparently pop opera band. Ladykillers. Was a very good song I would like to hear again. Being the last probably means they are dead in the water sadly. They could easily win it though as they were very distinct should people not overlook them.

‘Voting time’ entertainment: Orchestras, male voice and female voice choirs, people whose heads were bridges (as if someone played Silent Hill 2 and got ideas…). The venue was ‘green’ i.e. in a big tent. Actually went really well on the night although if it rained it would go down in the history of the contest as one of the bad venues. I wonder if they destroyed the rain clouds by scattering silver into them as you can do if need be. Then they have a thirteen year old boy sing acapella. The traditional visit to the greenroom where you just know some acts have gone back and drunk as much as they can with some assurance they won’t have to perform, in the unlikely event they win, because there is no chance. Conchita Wurst featured far more this year than past winners were featured previously. Yes you have bearded woman Austria, yes she won the contest but she isn’t a great presenter so stop milking her.

Votes: Always the slow bit where the commentators complain about the block voting… I can’t be bothered to edit this bit so it may come across as quite cruel but then if you haven’t ever heard the British commentaries by Terry Wogan (who once called two presenters Dr Death and his assistant) or Graham Norton then I assure you I am being nice. HA ha ha one of them disappeared from technical faults so the presenters had to come back to them later. Russia are getting a lot of cheers until they are in the lead then there’s the drone of boos. (To be honest at least it’s not automatically boos like leaving housemates get on the British edition of Big Brother…) Moldova score giver has a very 1970s star trek parody porn star look… Russia/Italy/Sweden are in a three horse race for victory when we are only 8 of 40 countries into the running… the hosts remind everyone that tonight is about the music not politics regarding Russia being booed – which would have been nice if the hosts years ago said that in defence of the UK when there was the Middle East Conflict but then we didn’t get one vote and as Oscar Wilde once said “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about”. Estonia vote announcer phwoar extravagant necklace but link went down. Wow Austria’s technical side is terrible with all these connection issues… Armenia vote announcer phwoar… Sweden Announcer looked like she escaped from a 1970s sci-fi series… Germany’s vote announcer looks like the opera diva from the adventures of Tintin… I notice Conchita Wurst is sat with the Russian group to ensure getting more screen time… Australia announcer is an anorexic lady of East Asian descent… COVER YOUR ARMS… Oh, Wurst is there to do the midway interview… Polina speaks very good English (I mean I assume she is Russian and not just representing them as other countries have done in the past coughEnglbertHumperdickcoughCelineDioncough)… Spain phwoar nice dress with Moroccan kind of panel patterning… Austria cutesy dorky face… Macedonia gave Albania 12 points and they didn’t cheer or thank them which is poor sportsmanship (althoguh they may not have known the cameras were on them admittedly)… Slovenia votes announcer loos like if Celine Dion dressed up as 1970-80s Cher … Hungary’s vote announcer has the loo of a middle aged mother of two ‘on a night out with her girlfriends and has done her hair and makeup’… UK announcer Nigella Lawson looks like a privileged twit with a broach over her major selling points but does the votes in foreign languages which was nice gesture. She still just seems to ‘be there’ and do very little nowadays… Georgia’s vote announcer has a 1980s lead vocalist look – AND THEY LOST HER… Lithuania’s vote announcer is mid-twenties to early thirties but styling herself as a cutesy tween and looks a little creepy with the clawed hands… Netherlands’ vote announcer dress looks bad with ultra-ultimate cleavage down to crotch with exposed spanks on the lower half as if she had the same dress as Albania’s singer and had to adjust it quickly… Poland’s vote announcer phwoar flower ring crown and showing the cleavage – Graham Norton noted she was the milkmaid from last year’s Polish entry so apparently he can recognise that cleavage anywhere (he is gay for those who don’t know who he is and does the commentary for Eurovision now Terry Wogan retired a few years ago)… She’s obviously making sure people don’t forget about last year’s entry although her face is a bit sharply featured it seems due to how she did her makeup or she had a really disturbingly severe face lift… Sweden now pull ahead of Russia and look like they may become runaway leaders… Russia announcer is Dmitri Shepelev with Action Man Eagle Eyes feature tries to joke about giving Russia 12 points and it didn’t go down well though he seemed nice… San Marino vote announcer showing the cleavage off with a low neckline lace dress and low hanging necklace… At this point it is clear Sweden has won but we still have a countries left… Iceland vote announcer her arms look as thick as her waist which is really disturbing though it’s because of dark panels on the sides of her dress… then the German commentator invades Graham Norton’s coverage and he doesn’t know why… Sweden is announced the winners though there were a few more countries left and ones they had skipped… Norway vote announcer has liquorice sweets patterned shoulder pads tried to joke falling off screen but fails and told to hurry up since the results are obvious and everyone wants to go home now… Portugal vote announcer phwoar though shiny skin and pastel pink dotted dress make her look like a Barbie wannabee… Estonia vote announcer Tanja phwoar with nice necklace most women would want… Georgia vote announcer Natia Bunturi phwoar with the 1980s band lead vocalist look… Yes these vote announcing bits are boring and have bad attempts at humour…

TL;DR: Sweden won with 300+ points though it was a close run thing with Russia up until the end and Italy just behind them. United Kingdom got 5 points ultimately. This year’s winner is given a crystal microphone.

The entrants have been taking it far too seriously the past couple of years and the show is no longer fun, the spectacle of the extravagantly staged performances isn’t as wonderful and eclectic as it once was in past years. Either you have the classic songs, the modern songs or the ‘sod it its not like we will win’ songs nowadays. Austria really messed up the international connections repeatedly and it really won’t be forgotten by the organisers in future so hopefully they will review what happened and ensure it doesn’t occur again as such faults should be a thing of the past.


Comment, Like, Follow – All are Welcome 🙂

I will tidy this entry up when the chance arises in the next few days but thought it best to just put the initial version up now. (Did that and can’t be bothered to alter it any further now)… Yes I use phwoar alot recently… I did a lot in the ‘Far From The Madding Crowd’ review too… Go read more of my stuff if you like.

Zubrowka – Bison Grass Vodka

£18 from Marks and Spencer

Vodka of Poland

Bisongrass Vodka

Flavoured with an extract of the Bison grass blade, the fragrant herb beloved by the European Bison

40% vol

0,5l

Bisongrass vodka Premium Zubrovka Vodka of Poland

DSC_0009ccccccccccccc

In Polish it is called Zubrowka but on the bottle its spelt zubrokva. The Polish ‘w’ is pronounced like a ‘v’ so it’s probably just a translation convention as it s bottled in Germany and for the British market so foreigners don’t look like idiots when talking about it and get flak from some pretentious bigot who learnt how to pronounce it just so they could rub it in people’s faces and act as if they are more learned (pronounced learn’ed of course to confirm their pretentiousness). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%BBubr%C3%B3wka

DSC_0013cccccccccccccccccc

What is bison grass? Is it actually grass? No. It’s a herb. Hierochloe odorata or Anthoxanthum nitens, also known as sweet grass, holy grass (UK), manna grass, Mary’s grass, seneca grass or vanilla grass, is an aromatic herb native to northern Eurasia and North America. In Poland it is known as bison grass. It is used in herbal medicine and in the production of distilled beverages(e.g., Żubrówka, Wisent). It owes its distinctive sweet scent to the presence of coumarin. This variety of buffalo is different from the species of grass commonly known as ‘buffalo’ ( ’Stenotaphrum Secundatum ’) in Australia.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hierochloe_odorata

On the side of the bottle is a measure of how much is left as if there is some need to be certain of how much you have left. Consumption of another person’s alcohol is a serious matter though I think due to the pale yellow colouration of the fluid and the clear glass of the bottle most people prone to marking the content levels would be satisfied using a marker on the bottle. The bottle is quite unique and no doubt drove up the production costs needlessly compared to other bottles of zubrowka I’ve seen online afterwards.

DSC_0019ccccccccccccccc

It has a nice spicy aroma but quite a kick. However I haven’t drunk spirits for a while so my palate may have gone cold turkey in the passage of time. Due to the burning effect I cannot really comment on the taste right now. Its umami. It smells like paint thinner. (At which point I was beginning to come down with a cold and so my taste buds went into ‘closed for the season’ mode.)

DSC_0028uuuuuuuuuuuu

… Okay so I return to it after a week with a cold and so give reviewing it another go. Swill it around my mouth. Much nicer. Stings the tip of my tongue. Maybe I have been biting the tip of my tongue recently. I accidentally bit the inside of my cheek a few days ago… I take another break before continuing.

I am later reliably informed by a Polish associate that to truly drink this it is essential to drink it with apple juice:

“Zubrowka MUST be drank with apple juice. These two were meant to be together forever and every Pole knows it, and some Brits know it too now, and you’ve just joined the company. They are like yin&yang, Wales&sheep…”

So using some Tesco 100% pressed apple juice I shall try it this cocktail of flavours to experience zubrowka in it’s truest form!

WOOHOO good stuff! Not in the way that alco-pop and WKD try to completely eliminate the taste of the alcohol but instead this cocktail leaves a remaining ‘sense’ of the wodka’s taste and instead, acceptably, takes away the edge of the ‘burning’ effect when it was served neat. Need to be careful of how much to drink as it is 40% proof. ‘But it goes down so easy?’ you say. No, no, you must temper yourself young stallion for this is the way of the dark side and the first step in becoming a stereotype like the ‘tired and emotional’ Boris Yeltsin who could not get off a plane when stopping over in Ireland in September 1994. Get the buzz, maintain the buzz, but do not give into the temptation of thinking drinking more immediately will indefinitely increase the buzz! Resist becoming so numb you forget yourself.

Of course at this point it is important to note Polish wódka, Russian vodka and Ukrainian horilka are not ‘all interchangeable and basically the same apart from where they were made’. Oh no, no, no… never say that… Not unless you want a lecture about who came up with it first and how the others are just inferior versions of one another (and even then not accounting for the Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian and Czech variants)! That is like saying all Whiskey is the same… well except Jack Daniels which is actually bourbon but got around to being called a whiskey for one reason or another due to Tennessee laws definitions of what whiskey is.

Good stuff but the price is higher than many of the other vodkas on the shelves locally… Likely because it is a ‘premium zubrowka’, the cost of export and it’s unique selling point as ‘bison grass flavoured’ as there are not many other bison grass flavoured vodkas, if any, available at local British supermarkets. Unfortunately this makes it too big an investment for casual consumers, used to paying about half that for vodkas, to risk trying it straight off the shelf without prior knowledge (Unless they are prone to wanting to try random things like myself). It was good to try but there are other things to taste so I shall just chalk it up with the following summary: An interesting taste and worth trying but the next time I go to M&S I won’t be rushing to see if they have it in stock unfortunately (unlike the plum flavoured sake I adored and bought two bottles at a time until they stopped stocking it!). I would definitely try it again though given a chance and if offered it would be very glad to taste it once more… preferably with a good apple juice of course.

On a side note I know that the Oddka brand vodka do a ‘grass flavour’ of their range and had looked at the bottle previously to see if that was bison grass flavour but I don’t remember there being any information regarding it except it was ‘grass flavour’ which was overly vague. Perhaps somewhere down the line I shall try that one and review it as I believe it is only about £8 a bottle since it is British produce.

DSC_0017ccccccccccccccccccc

Vodka of Poland
GRASOVKA
Bisongrass Vodka
The Original Polish Vodka-Speciality

Flavoured with the extract of the Bison grass blade, a grass which is particularly valued by the bisons living in the forest of Eastern Poland.

Only genuine with the blade of Bison grass in every bottle, giving Grasovka its unique and spicy aroma.

DSC_0020cccccccccccccccccc

http://www.grasovka.com
Produced in Poand.
Bottled in Germany.
Diversa Spezialitäten GmbH, D-47493 Rheinberg


Well I was away for a few days, weeks, whatever… had a cold and work things that needed to be prioritised.

The whole ‘list the information off the packaging’ thing I usually do has been intergrated a bit better in this post, I think, but then many of the past few posts were just to keep the blog going. It seems to be becoming a food and drink review blog unintentionally. Well you know what they say ‘life is what happens while you’re making plans’ and I guess the same applies to blogging too…

An interesting fact I discovered was that Żubrówka is the name of the fictional country in The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Next time hopefully some theatre reviews.

Pociąg / Night Train / Baltic Express (1959 Polish Film): Commentary and Review

Night Train, also known as Baltic Express, is the English title for Pociąg, a 1959 Polish language film directed by Jerzy Kawalerowicz.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_Train_%281959_film%29

The jazz leifmotif theme throughout the film is haunting. I want it as my phone’s ringtone!

Directed by Jerzy Kawalerowicz
Written by Jerzy Kawalerowicz and Jerzy Lutowski
Starring: Lucyna Winnicka, Leon Niemczyk
Music by: Andrzej Trzaskowski
Cinematography by Jan Laskowski
Edited by Wieslawa Otocka
Distributed by Telepix
Release dates: September 6, 1959 (Venice)
Running time: 93 minutes
Country of Origin: Poland
Language: Polish

Overview of the plot: Two strangers, Jerzy (played by Leon Niemczyk) and Marta (played by Lucyna Winnicka), accidentally end up holding tickets for the same sleeping chamber on an overnight train to the Baltic Sea coast. People on the train representing various parts of society populate the train during the journey including priests, a writer, youths and people on a pilgrimage. Also on board is Marta’s spurned lover, who will not leave her alone. When the police enter the train in search of a murderer on the lam, rumours fly and everything seems to point toward one of the main characters as the culprit.

night train

The cinematography in the cabin scenes sometimes uses the bunk bed to obscure parts of the screen, giving a point-of-view angle focused on the speaker’s mouth forcing the audience to not see Jerzy’s eyes as if he is in confessional as an untrustworthy figure and informing the audience to question what he is saying as after all ‘the eyes are the windows to the soul’. In mirroring this scene later we have Marta hiding the lower half of her face as she watches the men of the train who have given chase and caught the murderer who had hidden aboard the train earlier. The claustrophobic experience for the characters is reinforced, yet at the same time contrasted in tone, with the overly crowded scenes in the other passenger’s cabins and the corridor of the train where we follow the characters, face on, moving through the crowded corridors of the train as it is in motion and when the passengers are off the train at a stop.

Michael Brooke sums up the underlying sentiment of the film in his essay included with the booklet included with the Second Run DVD:

“Truly, all human life is here, and much turns out to be deeply disconsolate, involuntarily single, unhappily married, desperately lonely.”

Jerzy Kawalerowicz, best known for his film “Mother Joan of the Angels” (1961), is one of Polish cinema’s supreme craftsmen and secular moralists. Often he discusses the existence of a Post-World War 2 Poland where religion is no longer capable of guiding people towards individual happiness, and “Night Train” is no different. It presents us with a large set of characters, all traveling to the Polish seaside for a pilgrimage, and all lacking a sense of purpose. The main narrative focus is on Jerzy (Leon Niemczyk), who boards the train without a booked ticket, expecting to be able to buy from the conductor although this means he has to book an entire cabin to himself. By behaving aloofly, while wearing sunglasses to obscure his eyes/identity, it is almost as if the audience is being challenged not to immediately assume that the gossip we overhear from the other passenger’s at the beginning doesn’t in some way refer to him. The other central character is Marta (Lucyna Winnicka), who unintentionally invades Jerzy’s sleeping compartment and goes from being an unwanted presence to an indispensable, and ultimately almost healing, one though in the end this is cruelly subverted when Jerzy reveals his reasons for boarding the train and his destination which cannot include Marta who is searching for a place in the world for herself after jilting her lover.

pociag kawalerowicz1_6328318

Jerzy and Marta’s strange tryst aboard the train, both occasionally bold and yet furtive, is contrasted and compared with those of the other passengers around them. : With Staszek (Zbigniew Cybulski) who has chased Marta aboard the train in turns begging and demanding her affection; the overt flirtations of a wife (Teresa Szmigielówna) dissatisfied with her marriage who has a lover aboard the train while she flirts with Jerzy and another already existing younger lover; the non-verbal obsession of a young sailor and the girl he sits with and also to an almost folksy budding romantic sense the interactions between the pair of ticket controllers past their prime who patrol the train’s corridors (he’s balding and jovial, she’s plump and officious offering light relief to the more intense interactions between the leads).

Kawalerowicz’s way of presenting the emotional intensity is far from explicit but portrayed via moments as such as Marta’s hair being unexpectedly mussed by a breeze from another train passing, to repeatedly framing Jerzy’s mouth when he speaks to Marta in the cabin so we are forced to focus, as Marta no doubt is doing, on his lips when he speaks to her. The director may be interested in morality and its failings, but he’s by no means blind to his actors’ bodies and the power of body language portraying succinctly what dialogue cannot.

In the beginning, as part of the passenger’s gossip we learn of a recent event: a man who has murdered his wife the previous day and has not been apprehended. This slowly builds into being the core driving motive behind this film’s central theme, echoing Hitchcock’s motif of an unjustly accused man who is forced to prove his innocence. Here we have Jerzy fulfilling this protagonist role. In the isolated yet heavily populated community of the commuters he endures the complete violation of his desire for peace and quiet – first by Marta’s unintentional intrusion and then later when he is exposed to everyone’s judgment, ranging from being called a killer, assumed because he wore sunglasses to hide his identity, to being hailed as the hero of the hour during the film’s denouement.

No sooner is the actual murderer identified than a makeshift posse forms and a chase begins, thus opening what I find the movie’s most stunning sequence. Starting in the train itself and guiding us through all its length (with an eye keen on class and social detail of varying compartments), Kawalerowicz suddenly yanks us outside the vehicle, and the shock is comparable to this experienced by the passengers after one of them pulls the emergency break. The murderer runs through an open field – still covered in early-morning fog – in a hopeless attempt to escape justice. It’s impossible not to perceive him as a victim: when the posse finally gets to him, the confrontation is fierce and Kawalerowicz once again uses the microscopic-overhead camera set-up from the beginning of the film. We see the human dots unified in a centripetal race towards the lying man, and as they cover him with a multitude of blows, the message of the film emerges. Administering someone else’s comeuppance has provided these people with a momentary moral focus, so acutely lacking from their everyday life. For a couple of breathless minutes, good was clearly discernible and evil easy to point out and destroy. But as soon as the moment is over the assembly listlessly return to the confines and structured progress of the train journey.

the seemingly mysterious and evasive passengers, each hoping to find privacy for the duration of their trip, cannot escape the claustrophobia of the environment around them, as Marta’s obsessed, rejected lover, Straszek (Zbigniew Cybulski) follows her aboard the train, and Jerzy’s enigmatic behavior draws the flirtatious attention of a lawyer’s neglected wife (Teresa Szmigielówna) along with the scrutiny of other passengers who begin to who begin to speculate on the identity of the elusive murderer profiled in the late edition newspaper.

Throughout the film, Marta finds herself torn between varying loyalties both to herself and others. The most prominent and undesired one is by her abandoned lover the train-hopping Staszek. Her confusion of her feelings towards him goes hand in hand with her readiness, if not subconscious willingness, to hurt him. She also finds herself drawn towards Jerzy and yet it is only a tentative and ultimately ephemeral infatuation wherein she is discarded as she had once discarded leading her to have an epiphany. She is now in the position she had placed Staszek previously. At the end, she nails it by saying: “Everyone wants to be loved, yet no one’s ready to love.” In realising this she has two choices: either she does as Staszek did and pursue something that doesn’t exist or she lets go and continues her search for something which she has been unable to identify previously and indeed may never realise afterwards.

Ultimately things have happened and people have acted on their beliefs but nothing has changed in the reality of the people’s lives after they leave the train. They return to the rails of their own lives, those of routine, of following order and not finding their own personal morality but conforming to that they find endorsed by the society around them whether it be police boarding the train or a mob chasing a lone man across fields.

The closing pan across the now vacated train as Martha walks towards the beach and many of the passengers either begin their pilgrimage or walk away to their destinations shows us that, even if now messy from its occupants, the train remains to be entered again and these people will eventually find themselves taking this same journey again stuck on the rails of a destiny they feel it is part of their part in society as the pilgrimage is to the religious travellers and the priests. A sense of fatalistic futility, even after capturing the murderer, is all pervasive and nothing has changed outside the enclosed intensified moment in their lives.

9

The director uses acute angle shots, high contrast lighting (to the point I recalled the introduction of Morticia in ‘The Addams Family’ due to the lighting across Marta’s eyes to accentuate them in contrast to the dark framing Jerzy’s mouth gets in contrasting scenes), and narrow, claustrophobic framing within the train carriages. Jerzy Kawalerowicz produces an unnaturally heightened sense of environment and perceptional acuity that reflect the passengers’ subconscious duress and sublimated emotions: the visually occluded, odd angle shot as Jerzy enters the compartment; the birds-eye view of the opening sequence is mirrored by that of the passengers encircling a suspect by an open field graveyard. Here rather than the faceless dots being people choosing to ignore each other as individuals in the transitions they take during their daily lives now find themselves all to willing to wordlessly enter into collusion and act as both judge and executioner of the murderer who tired to escape the consequences of his actions. the successive repeating imagery of mirrored reflections cast against the train carriage’s window, first of the lawyer’s flirtatious wife, then of Marta, which reveal their innate loneliness, confusion, and feelings of abandonment; Straszek’s anxious and rash attempts to gain Marta’s attention and sympathy as though confusion compassion for love. By modulating the innocuous and lighthearted tone of the holiday-bound train trip to show a dark portrayal of base human instincts and the undesirable, selfish, dark aspects of humanity which many choose to ignore. Kawalerowicz further illustrates the often disparaging moral myopia of people, their discrimination, and skewed viewpoints all occurring due to adhering to a collective mentality without question. In the film’s haunting and visually metaphorical denouement, a priest replaces a fallen graveyard cross that had been used as a weapon of violence: a solemn reminder of the human need for compassion and atonement in an environment of fear and vengeance.


So now I will recount the events of the film as i have done before because… who knows what i have noticed but wouldnt have included in a more structured review. As I have to watch it with subtitles on the Second Run DVD it is inevitable the audience is at the whim of the translator’s decisions and if they feel it’s obvious what the character’s names are you don’t get told them when first mentioned but only much later in dramatic moments. That is how it feels watching some foreign films sometimes. In fact I have seen films where the translator gives a nickname to characters instead of their actual name which is just weird and I wish I was joking. I assumed the characters don’t say their names until later in keeping with how secretive they are about their personal lives and reasons for being on the train. It is meant to be a major moment in the film when they share their names with strangers… or I fear the translator think you will have looked through the supplemental material and already be familiar with who is who. I hope not as that has annoyed me with other films as it leads the subtitle viewing audience to assume certain things that don’t exist. Hence during this account everyone is addressed as ‘main guy’, ‘young priest’ and so on.

Of course this is just going to read like rambling but whatever… it gives you my first impression of the film before I watched it again to clarify things.

Conclusions about the film at the bottom.


Opening scene: A crowded train station shot from bird’s eye view. The haunting jazz theme song. The first part is repeated during the film. I want it as a ringtone. This or the whistling tune from the film ‘Twisted Nerve’ (as also heard in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill). The imagery is cold and impersonal but with the jazz theme it becomes sad, the passing of so many lives and yet none of them mean anything more than ants in a colony struggling to survive.

Train sequence 1
Intro of characters
Separate cars for men and women but the main girl is allowed to stay due to a jobs-worth conductor. He lets the main girl stay due to main guys very abrupt asking to drop it.
Train one a young priest and an older one who uses the phrase ‘pro salute animae’ – discuss immorality and punishment. A bit heavy handed a way to introduce the themes of the film so early on…

Young man has history with girl and is chasing her.

Train sequence two – mixed company sailor and a young girl.

Main girl cut her wrists in the past the main guy sees due to her scars. This doesn’t become a point ever again…

The flirting woman. Bullet bra. Very 1950s. Poke someone’s eyes out with those…

Main girl has the haunting theme play when she is alone. Seems to be a one woman wail with no lyrics.

Young guy is hanging off the outside of the train! Keeps threating to derail train/bangs her wrist/threatened to throw himself off the train… (Ironic tragically as the actor would one day die going between moving trains I later found out)

Multiple slaps to the main guy’s face. That is such an old staple of movies. Women slapping men and men standing there stoically allow them to because they are the fairer sex.
Light in main girls face… older films do this but not nowadays. I remember them doing it with Morticia Addams in The Addams Family to emphasise ‘this woman is sexy and had an alluring look’…

Flirt reflects face on night time window. Flirt has a guy so main isn’t her only objective!

Main also reflects face on window.

Young guy has no ticket. Young guy gets to stay on and consider getting a ticket.

A male conductor appears. Again gives a character time to ‘think’ when they are clearly not meant to be on the train. The female conductor returns. They flirt and comment on main and flirt girl being the sort who always holiday in the right season while he has to wait until august (when is the film set during the year? The last scene suggests Summer but this is more of a Spring or an Autumnal scene to me…)

Mirroring seems to be a theme in the film. Main girl/flirt girl. Main/young guy chasing main girl.

The young and the old priest. 83 year old on his last pilgrimage in his own opinion. End of the old ways.

Flirt girl has wordy nerdy guy reciting his speech for the legal court. Is he her husband? Seems so.

Meteorologist/clairvoyant she claims. Men are logical while women enjoy frivolous things. Common theme during this period of history. In fact you could see such a clear gender based contrast present in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Men of logic versus the Queen of the Night and her magics.

Train Stop: An inspection by authorities. They go straight to the main characters’ one. Why? What made it so obviously them? He is taken into custody. Conductor comes along saying he is a murderer. Young guy calls on a sleeping guy called Marek… has no one said names yet? Lead main guy away. Is he murderer or was it just malicious gossip (deadly in this period with paranoid state interests). Passengers chat. Flirt girl says he was odd for not making eye contact. Flighty sort of person the society frowns on. Main guy has no papers. Who is the woman?
Solider, also named, corporal Rosolowski, didn’t check her papers as he wasn’t ordered to. Sailor staring, point blank, at the traveling girl who looks away from him. Is this flirtation or is her intimidating her? They never exchange any words as far as I know.

Main girl goes to young man didn’t want cigarette earlier when offered. Asks for one now and is denied. She goes to holding ca and speaks in his defence. Traveling girl looks at sailor and he smiles. But always main girl passes by distracting him. They go to find the man who sold her the ticket. Everyone crowds the corridors oddly as if aware an even is about to occur. In reality they would have been told to stay in their cabins. Then cars off various people, normal, mixed, young music players and old women on a pilgrimage with a sculpture. Young men all seem to be drifting forward.

The man running away covers a woman’s mouth and smothers her as he climbs to the outside of the train. Her name was Hania we are told. Train is stopped. He runs off the train. The young men give chase. All the men give chase. Flirt comes out of the train in negligee. Suddenly dogs are barking in the distance as if they knew he was going to elope at this point. Swings a branch around and hits a cross when cornered. Young guy tackles his to the ground, then overhead shot of all piling on, then finally drawing back from him remembering he has killed before and even with numbers they’re still individuals who happen to be on the same journey but are not united together. Bald guy kicks him but young guy stops him. Then bald man tears up and walks away. The running away man is dead? Main guy breaks ranks and walks to the corpse. He’s fainted not dead. Police cuff him as he comes back around. Sees cross in the distance. Young guy walks over to it. The main girl is there looking over it as the camera focuses on her fear filled eyes. Flirt insists on drawing closer. Looks at him. He is pitifully looking up and we cut to the main girl’s upper face obscured by the cross before she runs away. Mirroring and contrasting of the main guy earlier where we could only see him mouth. Police lead him away. Everyone goes back. Flirt keeps on at main guy then shifts to another. Last to go is the young priest placing the cross upright again.

Men walk back across the hay bale filled field. Conductor woman didn’t see blonde enter train nor leave it. Let’s blonde on but not young guy as compartments are not locked… so why let her? MARTA he calls. So she finally is named on the subtitles. Were the names of the characters not meant to be known up until now? It would make sense considering the themes and such of the film but I wonder… Flirt’s husband complains and she snaps back. Young priest returns her other shoe. Baldy returns with the bruise to his face and female conductor says nearly left him behind. Young guy is almost left behind as sailor and girl leans out window, writer says would have been good story if the main guy innocent caught the murderer. Flirt flirts.

Then a guy comes out of his cabin making weird sounds shouting ‘you won’t get me’ waving his arms then goes back and bald one enters his too. Random moment in the film making no sense…

Back to cabin 15/16: main is a doctor whose 18 year old suicide girl died on operating table. Had 3 operations and that last one was a failure. Washing his face and hands. Main girl draws close and embraces him with a towel in her hands.

Flirt and her boy toy arrange to meet 5pm tomorrow. Writer sits in the corridor reading again. Female conductor is dozing off. Baldy leaves his cabin. Wont show on wedding day. Will remain batchelor. Flirty flirty flirty. Song plays again as the scenery outside the window blows by. Conductor goes to cabin of white haired guy waking him. And then the others. The writer is slumped over sat in the corridor. Writer can’t believe he fell asleep. The scenery outside the window.

Main girl explains why she got the train. They are both adjusting their clothes. Marta is in focus taking up most of the screen in portrait while main guy is out of focus with his back to the screen in the background. Is it implied they had sex? Having a cigarette always seemed to be the code in black and white films for ‘there was sex but we can’t say that’. Young guy is searching for something. So he isn’t anonymous. ‘The disease of our times’. Used her emotions like a mirror. Searching for a reflection of himself, confirmation of his self esteem.

Marta declares to Jerzy:

‘Nobody wants to love. Everybody wants to be loved’.

People don’t want to expose themselves and risk being hurt but all they desire is to be accepted. So many conform while some take a risk for better or worse. She was happy to be chased by her ex but now finds herself as the one who loves and it pains her to admit this not only to Jerzy but moreso to herself.

The young guy is stood off the train with a backpack of his belongings on. Knows the window of her cabin somehow. Is surprised when the main guy answers. No words are exchanged as the train pulls away. She had moved on. The young girls has also disembarked along with the old women and the priests who lead them in a pilgrimage journey.

It doesn’t matter if ‘he’ will be at the station anymore. She no longer feels she needs to contrast or mirror herself with another in order to have a sense of self.

‘I’m quite alone now but really happy. Very happy’

Marta says this but with a sense of melancholy clear on her features.

Her hair though pinned back is down unlike the central part of the film. The open back of her top… visual language that she is hiding something but in past tense is open. The main guy says his wife is waiting for him on the platform as the train draws into the station.

Someone calls the name Barbara we then see Marta holding onto the top bunk from behind. On her left hand is a wedding ring. Is this intentional? So many revelations and yet no definitive answers. All we have a myriad truths and the final decision of what is true of these events to conclude for ourselves.

The conductor woman says goodbye doctor… they young guys disembark and then the older gentlemen including the bald on eand the writer and grey hair discuss if they had seen yesterday’s paper. They shake the conductor man’s hand. The female conductor looks pensive and goes along the carriage.

Marta is still there. Looking like she had been crying but says she lost her bracelet. Conductor helps her pack. Conductor says ‘what a night. Not one you will forget quickly. At this Marta leans in hugs her and kisses her then leaves. Conductor lets her out on the beach side though others got off the other side. ‘Have a good holiday’ she says but Marta doesn’t reply. She left something on the train. Conductor picks the parcel up and sees Marta walking across the shoreline as a fog horn blows. She walks off screen and we never see her again…

Cabin 18/19 – a young couple, the girl answering the door dishevelled as if only now having woken up. Answers. Janusz, her partner, she wakes up.

Then the camera pans across all the empty cabins. And we see a train pass by 16/17 as the song again repeats and the screen goes black.


Conclusion: You like Hitchcock and European cinema? This is for you. You like the French New Waves? Well apparently the Polish got there first. It’s a taut, compelling, and insightful psychological portrait of emotional need, hysteria, and mob mentality. It is a visually stunning film with great cinematography and really forces the audience to be absorbed into the claustrophobic close quarter environment of the train’s interior and the emotionally invasive intensity of the character’s interactions.

Extras: A short documentary about the film saying that the Polish proto-New Wave preceded the more renowned French New Wave and how it influenced Czech cinema. All the more impressive for being during the socialist realism period as the film never really addresses the reality of the time and so in many ways it quite escapist.

An interview with leading man Leon Niemczyktalk about the technical tricks that were used in the filming process e.g. a train car was purchased and the windows each had a back projected 7 inch screens so that there was the illusion of the windows showing passing scenery outside as the characters walked down the corridor.

It is only a few minute long and an excerpt from ‘my seventeen lives’ but very interesting compared to the sort of ‘trailer’ extras you usually get with older films.

The included essay booklet also helps you better understand the context of the film and its place in the history of European cinema.

I enjoyed it and certainly the theme is truly memorable. I would definitely recommend checking it out and could have easily done a more thorough analysis of the film but I think this is enough for now.

I also found this ’40 years later’ documentary but obviously haven’t a clue what they are saying…


Somehow I have both written far too much and yet not really addressed this film’s true philosophy at the same time…. On the weekend I will finally post the movie review of O slavnosti a hostech a.k.a The Party and The Guests. A 1966 Czech film which was permanantly banned in its country of origin for challenging the existing political system at the time. I may post some more light hearted stuff between now and then… but maybe not… we will see.

Comments, etc, are all welcome.