A film director, screenwriter and actor, author of documentaries and feature films. Born March 31, 1973 in Krakow.
He was brought up in Kraków in an educated family. When he was nine years old a team of filmmakers came to his school looking for a boy to play in a film series titled 6 milionów sekund" / "6 Million Seconds, about a spoilt boy raised by a single mother, whose illness forces her to leave her son to tend to her health at a home for convalescents. Lankosz won the casting and, together with his mother, spent almost a year in a hotel in Katowice while filming was underway. Unlike many child actors bitten by the film bug, Lankosz remembered the production as one of the most difficult childhood experiences he'd endured. He still thinks acting is one of the worst jobs in the world, although he does have several minor roles under his belt aside from 6 Million Seconds.
Lankosz's parents aroused an interest in music within the young man, first with piano lessons. For a time he even considered a music career. He was drawn to jazz and piano improvisation which he practiced with his schoolmate Adam (Abel) Korzeniowski, now a highly regarded composer of contemporary and film music - his sound-track for Jerzy Stuhrs Big Animal was awarded in Gdynia. All the same, fourteen-year-old Lankosz watched a series of Roman Polański's films on television and made a major decision: he dropped the piano and took up instead aVHS camera. shooting several short films. After graduating from high school he decided to study film direction at The Polish National Film, Television and Theatre School in Łódź. Lankosz was admitted on his third attempt and ended up studying in the same class with future directors Małgorzata Szumowska and Łukasz Barczyk. While the two quickly made their debuts in feature films, after receiving his degree in 1999, Lankosz turned his focus onto documentaries.
Lankosz drew the attention of film critics already with his graduate film, Rozwój" / "Evolution. It was inspired by a work by Marcin Koszałka cinematography on Takiego pięknego syna urodziłam" / "I Gave Birth to Such a Beautiful Son. It was Koszałka who took Lankosz to the Albertine Brothers' Nursing Home in Ojców, suggesting the film's topic and offering a particular narrative perspective – that of his own camera. Tadeusz Lubelski wrote about the fruit of these efforts in Kino magazine (no. 5/2002):
At the very beginning the authors make a radical decision, contrary to the one made by Krzysztof Kieślowski when he was filming The Hospital. Kieślowski chose to show only the doctors, avoiding the patients. Lankosz and Koszałka focus solely on the residents, disabled people who are unable to cope without care. This choice of subject firstly has aesthetic consequences. The picture, and the sound even more so, make us aware of that we accept someone else's perspective in the most literal way. We, the audience, are placed at an intersection of different voices: breaths, growls, the patients' 'personal languages', merged with Abel Korzeniowski's own composition. Moreover, the camera placed at the residents' eye level does not make us outsiders, inquisitive voyeurs, but, rather, turns into one of them. Hence comes the second, ethical consequence of the authors' choice. The inner perspective picked by the film-makers persuades the audience to make the effort of understanding otherness, becoming friends with the residents as a result - at least with those who get most of the attention from the director.
Already a graduation film Evolution stirred up considerable emotions: Lankosz received his diploma in spite of the opinion of the eminent documentalist and Łódź Film School Professor Kazimierz Karabasz's opinion that the film was unethical. The documentary went on to make its appearance at numerous festivals, winning Lankosz international recognition. The film director began his international travels which resulted in new pictures: Kurc (2005), a portrayal of a traveller from Szczecin who got as far as China, wandering around without any money and treating his journey as a remedy for his looming social and moral decay. Rekord Errola" / "Errol's Record (2008), on the other hand, was a story about a man from Zimbabwe who wanted to have his name entered in the Guinness World Records as a record holder for the longest speech without breaks. His topic of choice was democracy (in a country governed by a dictator!). Lankosz's other travels: into the depths of Polish history, were no less popular. For example Radegast (2008) was a shocking documentary based on a screenplay about the Łódź ghetto, written by the writer Andrzej Bart, a friend of Lankosz's. Bart who knew the subject well - he had collected records for his novel Fabryka muchołapek" / "The Flypaper Factory and these writings inspired Lankosz take a good look at that unique place. Radegast was once the name of the train station through which Jews from all around Europe were transported, and later it became the station from which the residents of the ghetto would be transported to the Chełmno and Auschwitz death camps.
Tadeusz Sobolewski wrote about the film in Gazeta Wyborcza on April 10, 2009 while reporting from the "Humanity in the World" festival in Stockholm:
Lankosz wanders with his camera around Bałuty. He looks through the eyes of Lucille Eichengreen who survived the Łódź ghetto and many years later published outstanding memoirs in the U.S.", wrote. Lucille enters the tenement house in which she lived, goes up the stairs. Everything looks like it did then, or even worse. The First Lady had a go at Lankosz in Stockholm for showing this. But it was precisely thanks to this that he managed to achieve the extraordinary link between two periods, a journey into the past. Young Swedes could watch people from the generation of their grandparents. Transports with intellectuals from Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Luxembourg arrived at the Radegast station. Lawyers, scientists, musicians and assimilated Europeans were confronted with an alien world of Eastern European Jews. Franz Kafka's two sisters also came in those transports. "When I learned about this as a young boy' says Andrzej Bart, 'I realised that Kafka could have come from Łódź, that the cream of the European intelligentsia lived in my city, in the Bałuty hovels. In my mind I began to move into that time, I considered it my own".
The subject of Polish-Jewish relations also dominates Obcy VI" / "Alien VI (2008), Borys Lankosz's first feature film, produced as part of the "30 minute" programme coordinated by the Polish Filmmakers Association. It is a story about the visit of a young Orthodox Jew in the Polish countryside, and about the reaction of the people to his presence.
Błażej Hrapkowicz wrote in "Kino" magazine (no. 9/2008):
Everything in "Alien VI" seems made to measure. It also arrives at the right conclusion, known from the very beginning. It is emphasised by the ending sequence in which a group of men chases the Jew who allegedly "kidnapped a child" (when in fact the boy quite voluntarily strolled with him around the neighbourhood). They only manage to wave at him from the station - together with children standing on the platform. The young man departs, having learnt the history of his displaced fellow countrymen. The priest, rushing to his aid, waves goodbye on his bicycle, and when the camera goes back to show the main character for the last time, he is already wearing a regular sweatshirt and listening to music. He gives a provocative look at the camera, breaking the film's structure. He reveals the set-up, the hoax - Borat-style - as a show of national vices, this time not American but Polish. The film-makers perverse gesture is more spectacular than necessary.
Perhaps Lankosz was already signalling that provocation is one of his favourite means of expression. For what, if not provocation, is the black-comedy take on the Stalinist period skyrocketed Lankosz to fame? Reverse (2009), Lankosz's feature-length debut, once again based on a screenplay written by Andrzej Bart, is not a dark story about the times of oppression but well-nigh a pastiche thriller in the style of film noir. First the main character kills her lover (and the father of her baby), and then, to make her revenge complete, raises the boy in total contradiction to his father's ideals. All this is set in the 1950s at the peak of Stalinist terror, and the paradox of the situation shown on screen is mixed up with the tragedy of the events the authors hint at - the somber reality of the times.
Bożena Janicka reviews the daring film in Kino (no. 11/2009):
"Reverse" becomes part of our culture's tradition which is the very opposite of that principled, solemn, not to say pompous version. It seems as if the ghosts of extraordinary artists whose works escape narrow definitions - Witkacy, as a playwright, and Andrzej Munk, as a director - provide patronage from afar, or rather from above. Nonetheless "Reverse" is also a debut, and the character of the screenplay shapes the tone of the film. In his next picture the director might follow a completely different path. Still, there is nothing wrong in dreaming that someone two generations younger could fill the still empty spot left by Andrzej Munk.
Reverse won as many as 11 awards at the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia, including the first-prize "Golden Lions". But Borys Lankosz does not rest on his laurels. In an interview given to the Polish Press Agency (October 12, 2009) he announced he would be producing his next film no less provoking than Reverse:
It is going to be an adaptation of Andrzej Bart's novel about Mordechaj Chaim Rumkowski (The Flypaper Factory). The "king" of the Łódź ghetto was a controversial figure, still a subject of debate among historians. He exercised absolute power, he was his brothers' and sisters' lord and master, and he also made life easier for the Germans as the ghetto brought significant profit. At the same time Rumkowski managed to keep tens of thousands Jews alive when other ghettos in Poland were being crushed. He was a vain, stuck-up fool; an old man for whom the power he got from the Germans worked like an aphrodisiac. The main subject of Andrzej's novel is Rumkowski's fictitious trial. The action takes place in contemporary Łódź, but it seems as if it was a different part of reality. In the novel other fictional characters and ghosts of the dead appear before the judge to testify (among others, Hannah Arendt), aside from Rumkowski himself. It is an exceptional novel: postmodernism meets the Holocaust for the first time. No one has written like this before. I think it is a unique, creative project.
Additional sources: Barbara Hollender's article "Mnie też się uda" / "I, Too, Will Make It", published in "Plus Minus" supplement to the Rzeczpospolita daily (September 25, 2009).
In 2009 Borys Lankosz received "Polityka" Passport for the film Reverse, together with Xavery Żuławski who received the award for his film Snow White and Russian Red.
Author: Konrad J. Zarębski, October 2009. Translated by: Helena Chmielewska-Szlajfer, November 2010.
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