ANGELUS

 (Lech Majewski, Poland, 2000) 103 minutes

ANGELUS

Director: Lech Majewski
Producer: Henryk Romanowski
Screenplay: Lech Majewski,
  Bronisław Maj, Ireneusz Siwiński
Production designers:
  Lech Majewski, Katarzyna Sobańska
Cinematography: Adam Sikora
Editor: Eliot Ems
Music: Lech Majewski, Józef Skrzek
Jan Siodlaczek (Teofil)
Paweł Steinert (Rudolf)
Jacenty Jędrusik (Helmut Hes)
Małgorzata Madejowska (Ewaldowa)
Marian Makula (Walter Goj)
Andrzej Mastalerz (Oswald Wróbel)
Elżbieta Okupska (Jadzka)
Andrzej Skupiński (Eryk Paw)
Grzegorz Stasiak (Ewald Sójka)

Reviews and notes

Awards:
Grand Prix, Camerimage, 2001
Audience Award, Miami Film Festival, 2002
Golden Grapes, Lagow, 2002
Prix Federico Fellini, 2002



An exceptionally original film, entirely in the spirit of the naif paintings. One thinks of Fellini.
- Michael Gibson, Herald Tribune


Angelus is a fascinating film that recalls the work of Tarkovsky, while standing alone as a unique expression of Majewski's creative impulse. It's an otherworldly film, its images meticulously composed in a vivid, painterly style… The result is a film of uncommon beauty, celebrating the pursuit of art and enlightenment in all its myriad forms.
- Darryl Macdonald, Seattle International Film Festival


Angelus is inspired by events that happened in Silesia, a part of Poland located near Oder and Vistula rivers. The Silesian tale is about a commune (of painters and artists) whose master, while dying, foretells three things - The Great war, The Great plague and The annihilation of earth by a mushroom shaped death ray from Saturn. The first two prophecies come true as World War and Communism, but the members of the commune, determined to save the earth, are worried more about the third prophecy. The most intelligent man of the commune, who likes to work in extreme cold (he even keeps his books in fridge, and sleeps with windows open on a snowy night), works out some calculations and finds out a way to save the world. They need to put a naked virgin boy as a sacrifice on the top is the communist head quarters. Need not to say about the fate of their plan.

The beauty of this tale is that it has a great historical resonance. It is as much a film about stupid but honest efforts of the unsung people, as it is a tableaux of history as done by a surreal painter with wry humor. In certain ways this film broke my biggest fears about non-narrative, experimental and avant garde cinema. Here the dissociated set pieces are somehow joined by the undercurrent of both, history (factual, narrative) and its mystery (artistic, irrational). The way it shows the historical figures like Hitler and Stalin are so loaded with irony and dark humor that they don't remain one person, but point to all idiotic rulers and dictators. The way it shows people dealing with censorship and repression is at once funny and filled with concern for them.

There are moments of pure pleasure like an old woman dancing and singing, and the sexually over-active couple which is the talk of the housing unit. One of the most beautiful examples of colored imagination is presented when Polish men fantasize of American beaches with nude women. Even in their fantasy on the beach, their imagination and women, with an exception of a black woman just for the exotic touch, remain essentially Polish. There is also a portrait of a guy who has just discovered the power of a gun, and in the most funny scenes he uses that power on his children and wife. And there is one person who is not yet convinced that the war has ended, lives in a trench and is building a bomb. An obvious cold war metaphor, but its done such an absurdist style that it looks very interesting, and it also doesn't go on to imitate the full cold war pattern, its just a metaphor that happens to fit. Also the mushroom shaped bomb metaphor has shadows of Hiroshima in it, but it is not played like a trump card. The guy who is chosen for the sacrifice is the narrator of the story and is a ghostly presence, a young, almost expressionless guy with a melancholy demeanor. His love story with a very beautiful girl is so downplayed that it almost hurts when we come to know he has to die a virgin, again a symbol of love sacrificed for "greater goods" of the world, and again quite understated.

The visually exquisite surreal set pieces work here because they are not forcibly serious and they doesn't impel us to "see". They don't take themselves too seriously, but the pain of people is not anyway belittled or undermined. As young Angelus walks towards his fate, it is a solemn moment that director understands. It is quite early to say the Majewski is a master on the same lines as Sergei Paradjanov or Fellini, but he is quite a discovery for me.
- Anurag Bansal, Look Who's Talking, 21 September 2007


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