Filmmaker, inventor and composer Julian Antoniszczak made 36 films, including animated and experimental pieces. His works are characterised by the "non-camera films" technique, with which he explored transience and fallibility by doing away with the camera in favour of applying animations directly onto film
Fascinated by kinetic toys, optical machines and the variety of effects attained by experimenting with film tape, Antonisz strove to uncover the roots of cinema and created his own devices for producing films using a non-camera technique. Many of his findings were published in his 1977 Artistic Non-Camera Manifesto. In formulating his vision for producing works directly on film tape, he surmised that "Only films made with the Non Camera technique can be called authentic works of visual, painting, graphic and musical art". Among his main priorities was the visual effects and authenticity of his practice, and above all its effect on the viewer, while reducing the time and machinery required.
After receiving a musical background as a high school student, he studied in the Painting and Graphic Arts Department of the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków. After graduating he started making independent films that he directed and animated, composing his own music and engineering the sound - all using equipment of his own devising. He received awards and film at home and abroad.
In 1968 he cofounded the Kraków branch of the Studio of Film Miniatures, which six years later became the legendary Animated Film Studio. The themes of his films are full of thoughtful reflection and humour. The combination of raw animation and dynamic colours gave them an original aesthetic expression. Sun was the first film fully produced without a camera, applying drawings directly to film tape using the "pantograf-animograf". The motion effects of the device created the impression of pulsating rays of sunshine. At the premiere of the film, the artist presented his manifesto, which also encouraged other artists and non-artists to to create their own non-camera works and inventions.
Julian Józef Antoniszczak - he came to be known simply as Antonisz - was born in 1941 and died 1987. He was the older brother of animated film director and writer Ryszard Antonius Antoniszczak. After graduating from a music high school, he studied physics at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków for 2 years. In 1965 he studied painting and graphics in Kraków's Academy of Fine Arts. He attended the Drawing Film Studio under the direction of Kazimierz Urbański, the renowned director of animated films. In 1968, he, Urbański and several colleagues cofounded the Miniature Film Studio in Warsaw, re-named six years later the Animated Film Studio.
He made his debut as a director in 1967. From 1977 onwards, he solely made non-camera films. His films were awarded during national and international festivals, including the Golden Hobby-Horse in 1980 in Kraków for his film Ostry film zaangażowany / A Highly Committed Film and the Grand Prix Festival in Oberhausen in 1984 for Polish Non Camera Chronicle No. 6.
He is a creator of film animation who is difficult to confuse with any other filmmaker from the genre. Vibrating, pulsating, full of motion and the ineptitude of some plasticity that hides the fact that it is intended, his films teem with an ingenious, surprising, absurd, and illogical sense. They are grotesque and ripe with satirical commentary, full of rough sounds as the narrations are rough, read mostly by amateurs, full of mistakes and language screw-ups. Antonisz's films, more than 20 years since the director's death - and about the same period since the fall of the communist regime - still arouse great audience interest. It is an audience that includes young viewers who may never have heard of the filmmaker, who makes the realities of communist Poland seem like a fairy tale.
The popularity of Antonisz's art was indicated at the summer festival Era New Horizons in 2007, when a review dedicated to the art of the director enjoyed the highest viewer interest. This was not the first show which was warmly greeted by audiences. At the 3rd Etiuda International Film Festival in Kraków in 2006, profile retrospectives presented acclaimed filmmakers such as Marcel Łoziński and Jan Svankmayer, and it was Antonisz who received the most recognition. Jerzy Armata noted (Video Club 12/1996) during the screening there were whispers such as "This Antonisz is a cult artist, a pure buzz".
He belonged to the artists concentrated around Kazimierz Urbański - with his colleagues who made their debuts in the late 1960s and 70s, it was referred to as the Urbański School. Jan Janik, Ryszard Czekała, Jerzy Kucia, Krzysztof Raynoch, Andrzej Warchał and Krzysztof Kiwerski were among the group members, as was Ryszard Antoniszczak - Julian Antonisz's younger brother.
Marcin Giżycki, in his book (Not Just Disney. The thing about animated film, Warsaw 2000), believes that the most important phenomenon in the Polish animated film around 1970 was the emergence of a group of young filmmakers associated with the Kraków branch of the Warsaw Miniature Film Studio, founded in 1968 and later the independent Animated Film Studio. Giżycki writes,
Their films, characterised by easily recognisable visual features, allowing to categorise the work almost at first glance, if not to a particular author, then at least to the studio in which it arose.
Kazimierz Urbański rejected traditional techniques and materials, mixing and combining with photo-cutting and drawings of actors, as well as the effects obtained by filming a chemical reaction. However, the most consistent person in the use of these techniques was Julian Antonisz. Starting with his debut film, Fobia / Phobia (1967), created in part without the use of a camera. He said about the technique he used in his debut, "I scratched the film, painted it, even burned it"(in conversation with Bogdan Zagroba, Film 32/1977).
He used this technique in parallel with many others (actors, drawing, paper-cutting) in subsequent films - including Jak to się dzieje (1970), Jak nauka wyszła z lasu (1970), Jak działa jamniczek (1971) - then began making films without the use of a camera from 1977. Using diverse, elaborate methods, beginning with scratching the film - in some films, Antonisz also scratched out sound, such as Ludzie więdną jak liście (1978) and Co widzimy po zamknięciu oczu i zatkaniu sobie uszu (1978) - to techniques including lubricating film using shoe polish, making stamps using graphical methods, painting, writing with a marker, ink and burning. This was all done in his home studio, using equipment that was at hand (a sewing machine, the coffee grinder) to come up with his own ideas, according to a formula known during the communist era as "do it yourself".
Several dozen films were composed this way, including 12 installments of the Polish Non-Camera Chronicle (1981-86), films that will remain permanently in the heritage of Polish animation.
Andrzej Urbański (Polish Film Animation 1945-1974, Warsaw 1977) wrote about the work of Kazimierz Urbański,
The starting point is the material, technique and workshop; the dramatic content and the topic is only matched to specific formal means.
This cannot be said about the work of Antonisz, who considered the formal and thematic layers of film equal. That which appears to be for formal fun or a prank always carries a goal, due not only to the nature of the film material but also to the matter of reality of which he speaks in his work. In an interview with Bogdan Zagroba, he said,
Technique, to me is a kind of art. It gives me an almost aesthetic experience. [...] Man is the most advanced machine, an example of both mechanics and technology.
As Armata wrote (Video Club 12/96):
Non-camera for Antonisz was not a goal in itself, but rather a means to achieve other important objectives. It's not fun in the cinema, an experiment, but real cinema, trying to provide, with just this extremely difficult method, specific, often complex and important content.
Giżycki wrote similarly,
Antonisz learned to take interest in unusual materials and experiments from Urbański [...] but created his own world populated with characters spilling over, pulsating shapes, moving among the real cogs, screws and other waste from the technical "garbage" [...] There is as much reminiscence of pop art in these films, as the comic distance towards it (Office Art Movie, 1975).
And he summarised,
Activities of the prematurely deceased, extremely versatile artist, not only an artist and filmmaker, but also musician and the inventor, demonstrated (which previously probably only Witold Giersz had done) that the traditional divisions of movies for adults, children and experimentation (in other words, according to popular opinion, for no one) do not need to apply.
Jerzy Armata (Film 25/1988) separated Józef Antonisz films into three groups. The first group included educational films for children: Jak to sie dzieje (1970), Jak działa jamniczek (1971) and Bajeczka międzyplanetarna / The Interplanetary Tale (1976). Films from this group, as quoted by Armata
served with a large dose of humour (...) they stimulate children's imagination, sensitivity and intelligence, proposing a new form of animated film for the youngest.
The second group included works with films using various techniques, saturated with absurd spoof humour of species, genres, or fashions prevailing film in the film industry. Educational spoof films usually administered in the form of pseudo-scholarly lectures: ...Te wspaniałe bąbelki w tych pulsujących limfocytach / Marvellous Bubbles In the Throbbing Lymphocytes (1973), or Kilka praktycznych sposobów na przedłużenie sobie życia / Practical Advice on how to Prolong Your Life (1974). Films about art include Film o sztuce biurowej / Office Art Movie (1976) and Dokument animowany non-camera czyli reżyser Krzysztof Gradowski o sobie / Non camera animated documentary, thus, director Krzysztof Gradowski about himself (1980). Horror films include Horror Film (1976), erotic films include W szponach seksu (1969) and the film chronicles are Polish Non Camera Chronicles 1-12.
This last series is at the same time, according to Armata, the third group, most likely the most important group of films made by Antonisz. He calls them his "ownly" animated documents. In addition to the series chronicles, he mentioned here Ludzie więdną jak liście / People Wither Like Leaves (1978), Dziadowski blues non camera, czyli nogami do przodu / Beggar's Blues Non Camera or the Bucket Kicked (1978), Ostry film zaangażowany (1979). It may be worth adding Dodatkowe wole trawienne magistra Kizioła / Additional Digestive Goitre of Magister Kizioł (1983), Czyżby wolny rynek w organizmie biologicznym / Would It Be Free Trade in a Biological Organism? (1984) or Oberhausen, Duisburg, Düsseldorf, Dortmund, Hannover, czyli non-camerowy reportaż po Republice Federalnej Niemiec / Oberhausen, Duisburg, Düsseldorf, Dortmund, Hannover, a non camera report on the Federal Republic of Germany (1985). It is in this group of films primarily, that the image of a paranoid communist world appears, a world in which the artist lived.
One more group could be added. Movies about the insignificance of human life, such as Słońce - film bez kamery / The Sun - A Non-Camera Film (1977), Katastrofa / Catatrophy (1977), Ludzie więdną jak liście (1978) or one of his last films Światło w tunelu / Light at the End of the Tunnel (1986), which added drama before the death of the filmmaker.
Antonisz was aware of what are non camera produced in his seemingly messy, irregular, lopsided, and often quite unsightly films. To better reflect the rough reality of the communist regime, the narration in his films was read by a grandmother named Jaskólska, a cleaning lady at the Animation Film Studio, its director, Andrzej Olszański, or, as in the movie Jak działa jamniczek, by a 90-year-old nursing home resident. The image played a similar role in his films. Jerzy Armata wrote (Film, 25/1988) that Antonisz said, "A non camera pulsating land is the only antidote to the paranoid reality existing alongside".
He passed away on the 31st of January 1987 in Lubien near Myślenice.
Julian Józef Antonisz is also the author of the non-camera brand logo for the Film Group Silesia. In 1980, Krzysztof Gradowski made an animated film dedicated to Julian Józef Antonisz, titled Non Camera.
Author: Jan Strękowski, September 2007. Updated by Agnieszka Le Nart, March 2013