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Filip Bajon


Filip Bajon, photo: Włodzimierz WasylukFilip Bajon, photo: Włodzimierz Wasyluk

Film director, script writer, prose writer. Born on the 25th of August 1947 in Poznań.

Filip Bajon obtained a degree in law in 1970. Before submitting his thesis, he attended a course in directing at the National Film, Television and Theatre School (PWSFTviT) in Łódź. In 1971 he published the novel Białe niedźwiedzie nie lubią słonecznej pogody / Polar Bears do not like sunny weather. Subsequent publications include the short stories Proszę ze mną na górę / Come Upstairs with me (1979), and novels Serial pod tytułem / A Series Entitled and Podsłuch / Tapped (1994). He completed the directing course in 1974. His graduation project Sadze / Soot from 1973, a story of a hero forced to suppress a workers protest in December 1970 but failed.

He took his first career steps after leaving film school at the Tor Film Studio, initially making short and medium-length documentaries and feature films. He sporadically directed documentaries as well as television theatre productions and stage plays. He headed the now-defunct Dom Film Studio for a few years.

Filip Bajon's first full-length film was Aria dla atlety / Aria for an Athlete. The director's style was surprisingly different and fresh compared to the slightly journalistic trend of the cinema of moral anxiety that dominated in the Polish cinema at the time. Some critics tried to present Bajon's work as an opposite creative trend. In an interview granted to M. Kornatowska, the director himself admitted that he saw a conflict in cinema between pragmatic immediacy and aesthetics. He said, "In cinema I am fascinated with creating the world from scratch, inventing it, in other words - a demiurgic function. All this, of course, can be brought under the notion of creativity". The formal means used in Aria for an Athlete were characterised expressively by cinematographer Jerzy Zieliński, who said that his task during the making of the film was to visually enrich each scene from the script. The instructions he followed could be summarised in the words extreme in every scene. The director also used this expression in a long interview (Szczun, W. Braniecki, 1998), saying he believed "a film has to be blown up, it has to show a world that never existed", and to achieve this "you have to show extreme situations". These words can be treated as his artistic credo.

Bajon even created a world that never existed in biographical pictures. A. Kołodyński wrote in 1980 that in the case of Bajon's films, a biography is only "the starting point for the vivid imagination", noticing a resemblance to the style of Russell and Fellini. In Fellini's case, this even involved quotes from his films, testifying to a fascination with the Italian filmmaker's work. Others (Lewandowski, Kałużynski and Gorzański) also noticed this, and the label "the Fellini from Poznań" stuck to Bajon, though some used it with tongue in cheek.

Building his film shots, Bajon also turned to visual arts (e.g. Aria for an Athlete features shots stylised to look like Toulouse-Lautrec's paintings and Beardsley's drawings). Kolodynski found that Bajon's film language contained "youthful intoxication with the art of the cinema spectacle, which sponges off painting, theatre and the reality of other people's lives, but uses this to build a world we yearn for".

Wizja lokalna 1901 / Inspection of the Crime Scene 1901 marked the start of a new perception of the director's work. The critics appreciated the film's visual value, but another important element was the treatment of a patriotic theme with cool rationalism, showing the school strikes against the Germanisation of Polish children in a way that was devoid of emotion. This did not preclude image creativity, and the combination of these two seemingly contradictory styles of speaking was a great value of the film. This picture and subsequent ones provided a basis for defining the topics on which the director focused. J. Lewandowski wrote, "Bajon is not interested in the mechanisms or tragedies of history, but in unique breakthrough moments that he presents as unusual visions of the end of the world", pointing out that in almost every film, and in his prose as well, Bajon is interested in the moment when "one era gives way to another", creating a "model situation of disintegration in which one can sense a mood of decadence".

It is hard not to agree with this, as in a way, the end of a stable world is portrayed in Aria for an Athlete, Inspection of the Crime Scene 1901, Limuzyna Daimler-Benz / The Consul, but also - now seen in a different context - an earlier film mentioned by the critic, Zielona Ziemia / Green Land, set at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. The director also touched on the theme of breakthrough moments in later films, to mention Magnat / The Magnate and Lepiej być piekną i bogatą / It is Better to be Beautiful and Rich, and in a sense also in Poznań 56 and Przedwiośnie / The Spring to Come.

Filip Bajon has directed more modest films, such as Wahadelko / Shilly-Shally, Sauna, and Engagement, in which he used means more akin to television theatre. There is no question, though, that each time the ascetic quality of these pictures was the result of economic or political necessity.

For many years the film language of the director of Aria for an Athlete did not change much; his youthful intoxication with film art did not wane, not even in later years. Bajon likes to take on historical themes but, to use the words of Lewandowski from the text quoted earlier, he prefers to remain a creationist than a philosopher of history. His most recent films, however, met with greater resistance from critics and viewers alike, not because they were less interestingly directed, but because they touched on issues which audiences disagreed with, and the discrepancy between the director's vision and what the average Pole expected to see, for instance in an adaptation of The Spring to come, was too great.

Similarly, in the case of Poznań 56 the important thing for most viewers was the sense of the displayed events, whereas Filip Bajon's cinema places the sense and logic of the story in the background, focusing on individual scenes instead. This is sometimes the strength of his original work, but also, as the failures have shown, its drawback. Undoubtedly the director is aware of this. In the interview granted to W. Braniecki he says, "What irritates me the most is a certain obligation towards the story I have to tell. On the other hand, what I like most about each of my films is when I experience that genuine joy from making a brilliant shot".

In Bajon's feature film Fundacja / Foundation (2006), despite the fact that the political breakthrough in Poland took place in 1989 and a considerable amount of time has elapsed, you can almost sense an analysis of the model situation, when one era gives way to another. Once again this is evident in Bajon's film Lepiej byc piekna i bogata / Better to be Pretty and Rich. When one era gives way to another, reads as: when one political system gives way to the next, experiencing these changes may give rise to inner demons. There is no lack of ghosts or vampires, such as the clever characters in Bajon's Fundacja / Foundation who cynically prey on the misfortunes of others.

In Filip Bajon's screen adaptation of Śluby panieńskie / Maiden Vows (2010) written by Aleksander Fredro, surprisingly the director is looking for what he has repeatedly sought, taking on a variety of themes in his films.

In an interview the director told Gazeta Wyborcza,

For me, in Fredro's pieces there is something else, a goodbye to the old world, an indigent world. There is a new era at brink, the capitalist era. While writing the script to Śluby panieńskie / Maiden Vows I surrounded myself with diaries from that era. It turned out, that what was contemporary in the past is not very different from the present, except for habits, which are slightly different. Interestingly enough, in these memoirs, there is no mention of any uprising. If Poland had not recently lost its independence and if in five years the November Uprising would not break out. I decided on this film precisely because I had not seen a film about emigration of the Polish nobility in 1825. This adaptation has gone towards a mural style. I was enchanted once by a Zeffirelli film The Taming of the Shrew with Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, a Renaissance fresco. Here I found similar material. (Interview, Jacek Szczerba, Gazeta Wyborcza, 10.09.2008)

The film version of Fredro's play is set in the XIX century, but it has been enriched by modern elements such as rock music, a truck or cellphones owned by most of the protagonists. The film received mixed reviews (Łukasz Muszyński wrote for Filmweb that it is "old-fashioned, both emotionally and comically, and not a sensual social satire"), but the idea itself has been praised as well as costumes and set design - both nominated for the Polish Film Awards Orły. 

The film that followed - Damaged (2015) - was also inspired by a XIX-century drama - Gabriela Zapolska's The Morality of Mrs Dulska. It is not a classic adaptation though, but a variation on the theme, in which the granddaughter of Aniela Dulska, a director planning to make a film about her family, discovers her mother's and grandmother's secrets. Three dames of Polish cinema play the main roles - Krystyna Janda, Katarzyna Figura and Maja Ostaszewska

Damaged is a universal, timeless story, which makes the modern viewer realize, that we don't only live in a here and now, but also a hundred years ago, because everything that happened then affects us, affects our story. The human being is more connected to the past than he think - said Filip Bajon about the film. 

Presently the director works on the film Kamerdyner / Butler - an epic story taking place in Kaszuby region in the first half of the XX century. 


Filmography

Etudes and school films:

  • 1972 Przyczynek do teorii językoznawstwa / Contribution to linguistic Theory (documentary)
     
  • 1973 I inni / And Others (feature)
     
  • 1973 Sadze / Soot (20-minute graduation feature film, never copied)
     
  • 1976 Wideokaseta / Video Cassette (short, with animation by Zbigniew Rybczyński)


Feature films:

  • 1977 Powrót / The Return (1-hour TV film). The story of the comeback of boxer Jan Szczepański, featuring real boxers - apart from Szczepanski also Zbigniew Pietrzykowski. (Awards: 1978 - Golden Camera - award from Film magazine for a feature directing debut)
     
  • 1977 Rekord świata / World Record (1-hour TV film). The tragedy of a young swimmer, partly based on the life of the well-known athlete Petrusewicz. A story from Stalinist times, about a hero of socialist labour in sport, as the director put it. (Awards: 1978 - journalists' prize at the Youth and Film Festival in Koszalin)
     
  • 1978 Zielona ziemia / Green Land (1-hour TV film). About Henryk Jordan, founder of children's playgrounds. A far from typically biographical story about Krakow at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, in a grotesque and joking style. Because it features satirist Jan Pietrzak as well as Jacek Kleyff who was linked to the 1970's opposition, the film waited a long time before it was broadcast.
     
  • 1979 Aria dla atlety / Aria for an Athlete. A story from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. The director loosely based it on the life and profile of a well-known wrestler, Zbigniew Cyganiewicz, modelling the protagonist Władysław Goralewicz on him (a great role by Krzysztof Majchrzak). The story of a man fascinated with opera who himself represents physical strength, and his inability to understand the world of art. (Awards: 1979 - Gdansk, Polish Feature Film Festival - for directing debut, and for Jerzy Zielinski for cinematography; Koszalin, Youth and Film Festival - the Amber prize and the journalists' prize for Polish directing debut; 1980 - San Remo, International Film Festival - for directing debut; Zbyszek Cybulski Prize from Ekran weekly for Krzysztof Majchrzak; San Sebastian, special mention in the new directors section)
     
  • 1980 Wizja lokalna 1901 / Inspection of the Crime Scene 1901. The story of a Polish children's protest against Germanization. Based on real events in the town of Wrzesnia. (Awards: 1980 - Gdansk, Polish Feature Film Festival - Golden Lions and the Journalists' Prize)
     
  • 1981 Limuzyna Daimler-Benz / The Consul. Set just before Germany's invasion of Poland in 1939, the film is about the developing attitudes of two brothers in secondary school. One of them will succumb to the charms of fascism, the other will try to escape from reality by becoming an artist. (Awards: 1982 - Koszalin, Youth and Film Festival - Great Amber Grand Prix)
     
  • 1981 Wahadełko / Shilly-Shally (1-hour TV film based on an earlier radio drama). A small-scale psychological drama about an epileptic whose whole life has been affected by a youth spent in Stalinist times and his mother's ideological commitment to Stalinism. (Awards: 1981 - Gdansk, Polish Feature Film Festival - Jury's Main Prize and prize for the script, also for Janusz Gajos for best leading actor; Koszalin, Great Amber Grand Prix)
     
  • 1984 Engagement (1-hour TV film). A small-scale drama verging on a psychological horror film. An analysis of the relations between a lady and her maid, with surprising twists.
     
  • 1986 Magnat / The Magnate. A grand-scale production telling the story of the von Pless aristocratic family of Silesia, from 1900 to the rise of fascism when the family disintegrated as its members made very different life choices. (Awards: 1987 - Gdańsk, Polish Feature Film Festival - Jury's Special Prize, Cinematography Committee Chairman's Prize)
     
  • 1986 Biała wizytówka / White Visiting Card. A TV series version of The Magnate.
     
  • 1989 Bal na dworcu w Koluszkach / The Ball at the Koluszki Junction. According to the director's words, "a collective portrait of Polish society with a locomotive in the background, the story of the night when socialism froze over". A grotesque review of attitudes and behaviour in the crisis situation of the 1978/79 winter of the century. The characters are forced to spend New Year's Eve at a railway station.
     
  • 1990 Pension Sonnenschein / Pensjonat Słoneczko / Pension Sunshine (Polish-German TV film). A well-known Berlin architect returns to his birthplace in Poland after many years.
     
  • 1991 Une petite vie tranquille / Spokojny Żywot (as Philippe Bayon, Polish-French production). An adaptation of the prose of André Lay. A film with a crime plot.
     
  • 1992 Sauna. A small-scale television film limited by its setting, based on an idea from a series of jokes about how a Pole, a Russki and a German meet... The title sauna brings together other nationalities as well, but everyone perceives everyone else just as stereotypically as the jokes do. Determined politically, they do not understand one another. (Awards: 1992 - Cinematography Committee Chairman's Prize)
     
  • 1993 Lepiej być piękną i bogatą / It is better to be Beautiful and Rich. The story of Cinderella who becomes rich, set in Poland at the start of the road to capitalism. Cinderella is a poor weaver who inherits a factory and fights for its survival. Very little realism involved.
     
  • 1996 Poznań 56 (script with Andrzej Górny). About the worker protest in Poznań in June 1956, as seen through the eyes of children. This perspective naturally hampered the synthetic overview that was expected of an anniversary film. Pressured by public opinion, the director changed the title from Szczuny (a derogatory name for teenage boys) to a neutral one. (Awards: 1996 - Gdynia, Polish Feature Film Festival - Jury's Special Prize; 1997 - for best director at the Slavic and Orthodox Film Festival in Moscow; Tarnow, Tarnow Film Prize - youth jury's award)
     
  • 2001 Przedwiośnie / The Spring to come (adaptation of the novel by Stefan Żeromski). The director broke with the original in many places, adding scenes and changing the ending. He limited the plot to the story of a young man's maturing, the press hailing him as a rebel without a cause. The director's typical aesthetics was criticized. (Awards: 2001 - Tarnow, youth jury's award; award of the Polish Cinemas Association - Diamond Ticket for audience size)
     
  • 2002 The Spring to come. The TV series version of the earlier cinema picture.
     
  • 2005 Benzyna / Petrol in Solidarność, solidarność... / Solidarity, Solidarity... One of thirteen short films as an answer to a question, "What does 'Solidarity' mean today?".
     
  • 2006 Fundacja / Foundation.
     
  • 2010 Śluby panieńskie / Maiden Vows (the script). Adapted from the comedy by Aleksander Fredro. The story of two girls, Aniela and Klara, who decide that they will never marry but instead tease and harass men with their indifference. Klara does not give Albin any chance, while Aniela is doing the same with Gustaw. Finally, the latter comes up with a plan to win the woman of his heart and incidentally helps Albin who is in despair.

 

  • 2015 Panie Dulskie / Damaged. A variation on the theme of Gabriela Zapolska's The Morality of Mrs Dulska set both in the XIX century and in contemporary Poland. 


Documentaries:

  • 1991 Powtórka z Conrada / The Repetition from Conrad
  • 1998 Poszukiwany Ryszard Kapuściński / In search of Ryszard Kapuściński - about the famous Polish reportage writer.
  • 1999 Portret męski we wnętrzu / Male Portrait in an Interior - a film about a few men on a yacht during a sea voyage, including the director himself.

    He was featured as the hero of Marek Nowakowski's film Bajon 56.


Television theatre productions:

  • 1994 Le Vampire / Upiór by Charles Nodier
  • 1997 Zagłada ludu, albo moja wątroba jest bez sensu / People Annihilation or my Liver is Sick by Werner Schwab
  • 1998 Hrabia / The Count by Maryna Miklaszewska
  • 1999 Stara kobieta wysiaduje / The Old Woman Broods by Tadeusz Rożewicz
  • 2002 Dogrywka / Play-Off by Georgy Spiro
  • 2003 Śmiech w Ciemności / Laughter in the Dark (also adaptation). Tv adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's novel.


Theatre:

He has also directed stage productions, including Enquist's Z życia glist / Rainsnakes at the Scena na Piętrze theatre in Poznań, Platonov in Krakow, and Bennett's The Madness of George III in Warsaw.

Author: Ewa Nawoj, July 2003; updated: November 2006.
 

Culture.pl's picture
Culture.pl
2006/11/23
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Filip Bajon

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Filip Bajon

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24feb'16

BAMcinématek, the Polish Cultural Institute New York and the Polish Film Institute present Kino Polska: New Polish Cinema, a four-day showcasing of best new films from Poland. The project presents six productions featured during last year's Gdynia Film Festival, with a special spotlight on the new generation of filmmakers. Read more about: New Polish Cinema in Brooklyn

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