Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Agnieszka Holland

In theory term auteur describes a director as creator of his movie, which is his personal vision. ’Auteuris’ developed in the 1950s from the critical ideas of the French journal Cagiers di Cinéma… …the camera which Astruc identifies as write’s pen, or metaphorical penis, and as the mechanism with which directors inscribe their idea onto film” (Author/Auteur, 96). Many directors (and their films) can be seen as auteurs, especially in European cinema.

Agnieszka Holland, Polish women director, is a great example of these kinds of movie creators, who want to express some important (not only for them) ideas. Many of her movies are close to her heart and reflect on her own experience. Like many film directors in Europe, who want to amplify some important thoughts, not easy to talk about, Holland was rejected many times. She couldn’t get money for her production. “During the 1970's, she came to this building only to bang her head against bureaucratic walls. Her scripts were always rejected, generally without reason” (Times, 1).

Agnieszka Holland, born in 1948, is daughter, Irene Holland (mother), a Catholic journalist, who fought in Polish underground in the Warsaw uprising of 1944; and Henryk Holland, prominent Jewish journalist. (Times, 2). When she was 11, her parents get divorced and 2 years later her father felt from a window to his death. Official version is that he committed suicide, but some belief that he was pushed. Magdalena Lazarkiewicz, her five years younger sister said: “Like Agnieszka, he could be hater by somebody because he was very volatile, very dangerous” (Times, 2).

This incident played a big role in her art she confessed. She sought salvation through writing and film making. She couldn’t study in Lodz, Polish best film school, so she applied to Prague, where she was accepted (one of seven students of 220 applicants). (Times, 2)

Yet, from her first movie (“The Sin of God”) she created her trademark. Her movies merge “deep pessimism regarding the human condition, yes interlaced with dark humor” (Time, 3).

She had a lot of experience in her life. She Spent 6 weeks in jail in Prague after her underground activity, where 2 “prisoners [from left and right cell] could only exchange their erotic messages through Holland” (Times, 3). Also she had to leave Poland, where she left her 8 year old daughter, Kasia. When Kasia finally could get to France after 8 months, she didn’t want to talk to her mother.

Agnieszka Holland had a lot of (usually bad) experience in her life, but this helped her lot to see things different, more closely. All of her experience has expression in her movies.

In example her 1985 film “Angry Harvest” was story of love-hate bond between a Polish Catholic farmer and a Jewish woman. I’m sure she used a lot of her childhood memories to tell this story.

Her most famous film “Europa, Europa”, 1990 international co-production (Germany, France and Poland), is the greatest example of auteur’s work. The film is based on real story of Solomon Perel. He was a Jew, who on fall of World War II escaped with his family from Germany to Poland, then just with his brother to Russia. When Germans trespassed into Russia, Solek (that’s his short name) pretended to be German to save his life. He had to keep pretending till end of the war, which was very hard for him.

Even though the story is interesting and film was made after publishing by Salomon his autobiography, Holland made the movie as her own point of view. “Holland isn't a dour moral instructor; she's an ironist with a deft ability to capture the absurd aspects of her material and keep them in balance with the tragic. It's a sign of the Polish director's low-key humanism that she refuses to denounce Solek for seeking the approval of his instructor and with it the solid ground of normalcy by essentially joining the enemy.” (Washington Post)

After this movie she entered to Hollywood, where did a few great, no Hollywood style movies, like The Secret Garden (1993), Total Eclipse (1995) with Leonardo DiCaprio playing main role, or Copying Beethoven (2006).

There’s no doubt that Agnieszka Holland is auteur of her films. Asked about women issues, “in a 1988 interview, she said that although women were important in her films, feminism was not the central theme of her work. Rather she suggested that when she was making films in Poland under the communist regime, there was an atmosphere of cross-gender solidarity against censorship, which was seen as the main political issue.” (Wikipedia)

Work Cited:

Humm, Magie. “Chapter4: Author / Auteur: Feminist literary theory and feminist film.” Feminist and Film. Indiana University Press, April 1997.

Cohen, Roger. “Holland Without a Country.” New York Times. August 8, 1993. <>

Hinson, Hal. “Europa, Europa.” Washington Post. August 9, 1991. <>

Wikipedia. “Agnieszka Holland” <>

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