Exceptional film and theatre director, screenwriter. Born on the 16th of February 1929 in Szopienice, in the region of Silesia.
In 1953 he graduated from the State Higher School of Film, Television and Theatre in Łódź. Between 1979 and 1982 he was a lecturer in the Department of Radio and Television at the University of Silesia. In 1981 he became president of the Śląskie Towarzystwo Filmowe (Silesian Film Society), of which he was a co-founder. In the same year he was elected chairman of the Porozumienie Środowisk Twórczych Regionu Śląskiego Solidarności ("Solidarity" Alliance of Creative Communities of the Silesian Region). He was a participant of the "Solidarity" Trade Union sponsored Cultural Congress that was interrupted on the day Martial Law was introduced in Poland. Among those interned by the country's new military rulers, he was released after a few days. To protest the military attack on the "Wujek" Coal Mine, he resigned as the general director of Katowice Regional Television, a position he had held since 1976. In 1986 he began teaching in the Directing Department of the State Higher School of Theatre in Krakow, and in 1990 he was appointed managing director of Krakow Regional Television. He resigned from this post one year later after a series of attacks the Solidarity Trade Union chapter at the institution. In 1997 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Opole and during the same year was elected to the Polish Senate as a representative of the Unia Wolności (Freedom Union) party. He retains his parliamentary seat to this day and has been a deputy speaker of the Senate since 2001.
His debut film was Krzyż Walecznych / Cross of Valor (1959), based on three mutually unrelated short stories by Józef Hen. The film was a voice in the national discussion about the experience of World War II and gained Kutz the reputation of being an excellent realist capable of illuminating man's complex psyche in a warm and sympathetic manner. In 1960 his second film Nikt nie woła / Nobody's Calling, based on a Jozef Hen novel that was never published in Poland, described the fate of Poles on the Eastern Front. Kutz used the film to explore new formal solutions, collaborating closely with cinematographer Jerzy Wójcik to reveal the psychological landscape of a pair of lovers who are strongly affected by wartime events. The camera recorded the couple's inner experiences, contrasting their muted intimacy against the surrounding scenery of a ruined town. The film did not win over critics at the time of its release. It was not until later that critics recognized Kutz's effort to experiment with aesthetics in a manner akin to that pursued by filmmakers of the new wave. Nobody's Calling came to be compared with Michelangelo Antonioni's The Adventure, which was produced around the same time. Kutz's next film, Ludzie z pociągu / Night Train (1961), was based on a short story by Marian Brandys and once again featured a realistic stylistic. The film was effectively a portrait of a group of people who find themselves stuck in train station in German-occupied Poland. Each character reacts differently to the situation of horrific captivity that the group faces when the Germans threaten to execute every fifth traveler in the waiting room if a pistol stolen from a German railroad guard is not found. The observational realism of this film was in no way superficial and illustrated real moral dilemmas. Kutz's initial films contrasted with those of the famed "Polish School" of film of the time. In his works he observed everyday life, rendering it in a manner that was quite distant from grand ideas and Romantic martyrology.
Kutz attempted a final reckoning with the myth of the national hero in Tarpany / Wild Horses (1962). Based on the prose of Marian Brandys, the film is viewed as the weakest of the artist's works. Wiesław Zdort was the cinematographer on Wild Horses. Though the film was Zdort's debut, it would prove to be the beginning of an extended collaboration between himself and Kutz. Zdort was also the director of photography on Kutz's next film. Titled Milczenie / Silence (1963), it was based on the autobiographical novel of a blind writer named Jerzy Szczygieł. There was a strong existential dimension to this bleak story of the internal struggle between a boy who loses his sight and a priest. However, even in this film Kutz found a way to paint an interesting picture of a small town whose inhabitants are collectively convinced that the boy's accident was divine punishment.
Upał / Heat, which Kutz made in 1964 as a sequel to the Kabaret Starszych Panów / Old Gentleman's Cabaret, is practically a cult film today. At the time of its release, it met with strongly differing reactions. Some valued it for its surrealistic sense of humor, air of the grotesque and outright absurdity, while others criticized it for lacking cogency, calling it incoherent and an unfortunate coincidence in the director's career.
In his next two films, the director once more made an effort to create realistic portraits of provincial communities. Ktokolwiek wie... / Whoever May Know (1966) is based on a magazine feature by Krzysztof Kąkolewski, who also collaborated on the screenplay with Andrzej Mularczyk. The film's structure is quite similar to that of Orson Welles' Citizen Kane. The plot focuses on a missing girl who is never found and does not appear in the film a single time. A reporter gradually learns about her fate from the testimonies of a number of rural residents. It is they, uprooted and deprived of their homes, who become the film's collective protagonist. In making Whoever May Know, Kutz demonstrated a true passion for documentary filmmaking, something that would come through again in Skok / The Leap (1967), in which Kutz depicted the community of a PGR (collective farm) without a shade of sentimentality, indulgence or condescension. Based on a short story by writer and reporter Edmund Gluchowski, the film depicts Polish country life with a measure of subtle irony. Censors delayed the release of The Leap for a period of two years as part of the cultural repressions that followed the public protests of March 1968.
In 1970 Kutz made Sól ziemi czarnej / Salt of the Black Earth, which marked the beginning of a series of films (based on screenplays he would write himself) in which he would explore his native region of Silesia. This first film of what is now called Kutz's Silesian triptych recounts the story of the first, ultimately failed, Silesian uprising of 1920. The topic is explored through the story of the seven Basista brothers, all of who enlist with the rebel force and end up fighting in a single unit. Kutz avoided politics and Romantic sentimentality in the film. Rather, he created a suggestive film that explored the realities of life in Upper Silesia through mythological structures. The film was also perceived as formally interesting for its consistency in visual style and color.
Salt of the Black Earth emphasizes the plebeian nature of that uprising and the generally plebeian nature of the local culture in Upper Silesia. The story follows the Basista brothers, who join in the revolt as a matter of fact, in just as they would go work their shift in the coalmines. (Kino Kazimierza Kutza / The Cinema of Kazimierz Kutz, ed. by Jan Lewandowski, "Śląsk" Wydawnictwo Naukowe / "Silesia" Scientific Publishers, Katowice 1999).
In the film, Kutz mixes tragedy with comedic elements and the peculiar sense of humor characteristic of his native region. The film was received enthusiastically and prominent fellow filmmaker Krzysztof Zanussi stated that anyone who saw it or any of Kutz's subsequent films about Silesia would want to become a Silesian. Kutz himself declared:
With Salt of the Black Earth, I wanted to contribute to creating an artistic mythology about Silesia, a mythology that would ennoble this region (Kino Kazimierza Kutza, ed. by Jan Lewandowski, "Śląsk" Wydawnictwo Naukowe, Katowice 1999).
Perła w koronie / Pearl in the Crown (1972), the next part of Kutz's Silesian saga, was set in the 1930s. The film told the story of a strike organized in a coalmine to stop its German owner from closing it. The coalminers' defense of their jobs is simultaneously a struggle for their dignity, because work is basic component of their system of values. This was the background for Kutz's portrayal of the family life of Jas, his wife and their two sons. The director employed unusually beautiful means to tell a tale of hard work, the Silesian work ethic and family life, which acquired an almost Biblical dimension in the film. In depicting Silesians, Kutz repeatedly underlined their simple traditionalism, gawkiness and strong attachment to work.
Paciorki jednego różanca / The Beads of One Rosary (1980), the final segment of Kutz's Silesian triptych, was set contemporaneously, towards the end of the 1970s. Kutz cast amateur actors in the main roles, with retired miner Karol Habryka played by a real retired miner named Augustyn Hallota, and his wife portrayed by the folk storyteller Marta Straszna. In the film, Habryka is unwilling to vacate the apartment he (as a miner) received in a housing development, refuses to move to a tenement flat. He is ultimately forced to do so and dies soon afterwards. He is like an old tree that should not be transplanted. His passing denotes the passing of Upper Silesia's old history and tradition. In a final scene that is both symbolic and poignant, we observe the old miner's funeral.
In his Silesian films, Kutz invariably portrays people as members of a community; anything that could be construed as pertaining to the individual is translated into shared life, a shared system of values. His next film, a tragic epilogue to the Silesian saga, told of the events at the "Wujek" Coalmine in the days immediately following the imposition of Martial Law in Poland in 1981. The workers at the mine declared an occupational strike, and nine miners ultimately lost their lives as a result of the military crackdown. "Solidarity" Labor Union leaders from outside the mine first lead protesters against the riot police surrounding the complex and ultimately fought side by side with the coalminers. Far from being a simple reconstruction of the events that took place at the coalmine, Śmierć jak kromka chleba / Death Like a Slice of Bread (1994) is an elegy on the collective fate of a people.
Before returning to Silesian themes in The Beads of One Rosary, however, Kutz made two other films during the 1970s - the somewhat political Linia / The Line (1974), describing the life of a Communist party secretary in the provinces, and Znikąd Donikąd / From Nowhere to Nowhere (1975), which recounted the adventures of a group of Home Army soldiers. Neither film was well received. The Line was described as an ambitious failure, while From Nowhere to Nowhere was read as an unsuccessful response to Andrzej Wajda's Popiół i diament / Ashes and Diamonds. In the film, Kutz was accused of depicting Home Army soldiers as possessing no ideals and little rationale for their actions.
In the 1980s and at the beginning of the 1990s, before making his film about the events at the "Wujek" Coalmine, the director returned to the topic of World War II. In Na straży swej stać będę / I Shall Always Stand Guard (1983) he provided a picture of the Silesian resistance during the German occupation. Patriotic themes intertwined in the film with the love affair of Janek Klimza and a young female messenger who becomes a German collaborator. Kutz used the film to explore the ethical stances of humans, making a film about suffering and betrayal that was simultaneously full of erotic accents. His next project was a rather intimate piece titled Wkrótce nadejdą bracia / The Brothers Will Come Soon (1985). Based on a play by Janusz Krasiński, the film shared the poetic of the earlier Nobody's Calling and explored themes of reckoning with the past.
Pułkownik Kwiatkowski / Colonel Kwiatkowski, Kutz's film from 1995, depicted Poland during the Stalinist era and told the comedic and adventuresome story of the title character, who travels around the country masquerading as an officer of the secret police. In the film, Kutz produced a number of wonderful human portraits, including often grotesque portrayals of Communist Party apparatchiks and functionaries of the State Security Bureau.
During the 1990s Kutz also made three television films. Straszny sen Dzidziusia Górkiewicza / The Terrible Dream of Babyface Górkiewicz (1993) was a continuation of Andrzej Munk's Eroika / Eroica, with the character of Babyface Górkiewicz even played by the same actor, Edward Dziewoński. In the exceptional Zawrócony / The Convert (1994) on the other hand, Kutz provided an ironic and humorous tale of a simple factory supply man (Tomasz), who during the days of Martial Law accidentally and almost contrary to his own will becomes an oppositionist. Kutz's final television production of this period was the miniseries Sława i chwała / Fame and Glory (1997), based on a novel of the same title by Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz.
Kutz debuted as a theatre director shortly after completing his first film. In 1961 he staged Leon Kruczkowski's drama Śmierć gubernatora / Death of a Governor at the Teatr Rozmaitości (Variety Theatre) in Wroclaw. In what was a formally disciplined production, Kutz found a stage equivalent for the film close-up, using this to focus very closely on the main character. The production possessed the tone of a morality play, as was the case with his next premiere, Jerzy Broszkiewicz's Skandal w Hellbergu / Scandal at Hellberg, which Kutz also staged at the Variety Theatre in Wrocław (1962).
Kutz did not avoid tackling a lighter repertoire in his theatre projects. He directed two plays that enjoyed vast public popularity - the comedy of morals Billy kłamca / Billy Liar by Willis Hall and Keith Waterhouse, which he staged at the Teatr Komedia (Comedy Theatre) in Warsaw (1964), and Herman Bahr's Koncert / Concert, at the Teatr Klasyczny (Classical Theatre) in Warsaw (1965). In 1964 Kutz went on to direct the world premiere of Jarosław Abramow's Anioł na dworcu / Angel at the Train Station at the Teatr Kameralny (Chamber Theatre) in Warsaw. Kutz staged the drama as a provincial macabresque, playing with various film conventions on stage. His attempt at Jovan Histrič's Savonarola at the Stary Teatr (Old Theatre) in Krakow, however, ended in failure (1966). Following that unsuccessful premiere, the director parted with the theatre for a period that would span more than twelve years.
When in 1977 he began working on a production of Ivo Bresan's Przedstawienie 'Hamleta' we wsi Głucha Dolna / 'Hamlet' in the Village of Mrduša Donja at Warsaw's Teatr na Woli (Wola District Theatre), he was already a recognized film director, having completed the first two parts of what would ultimately be his Silesian saga. Elżbieta Baniewicz wrote,
The production featured a tremendous performance by Tadeusz Łomnicki, at the time a member of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers Party, who played the role of the Communist party fiend Bukara. The play thus came across not only as an act of artistic and political courage on the part of both artists, but even as a great blasphemy. In an era when success was decreed top-down, showing the mechanisms of corruption and hypocrisy, concealed under ideological phrases by Communist Party activists, was a cleansing blasphemy (Między ekranem a sceną. W teatrze Kutza / Between the Screen and the Stage - In Kutz's Theatre, in "Kutzowisko," (ed.) Andrzej Gwóźdź, "Książnica" Publishers, Katowice 2000).
Kutz went on to stage this play two more times, at the Teatr Wybrzeże (Coastal Theatre) in Gdańsk in 1978 and at the Thalia Theater in Hamburg in 1979. These productions marked his return to the theatre in grand fashion and resulted in invitations to stage other productions. Kutz used these opportunities almost invariably to explore the most essential contemporary issues. In these stagings the director examined the fate of people entangled in external circumstances who chose either to embark on a path of opportunism or attempt to stand up to their community as individuals. The first character type certainly appeared in Balalajkino i spółka / Balalaikin and Company, a play he staged in 1978 at the Teatr im. Wyspiańskiego (Wyspiański Theatre) in Katowice. Based on Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin's mischievous novel titled Idylla współczesna / A Modern Idyll, the play was adapted for the stage by Sergey Mikhalkov and told the story of the relations that reigned in Tsarist Russia. Kutz staged this play once again in 1984 at the Teatr Wybrzeże (Coastal Theatre) in Gdansk. As directed by him, it became an accurate, aggressive and derisive description of opportunism. By contrast, in his production of Henry Ibsen's An Enemy of the People (1979, Teatr Powszechny / Popular Theatre in Warsaw), Doctor Stockmann, portrayed exquisitely by Franciszek Pieczka, became a symbol of an individual who consciously takes a defiant and dignified stance.
One year after the premiere of the Ibsen play, Kutz staged Janusz Głowacki's contemporary drama Kopciuch / Cinders (1980) at the same theatre. In this production, he revealed the mechanisms of manipulation that rule the small community of a juvenile reform school. Kutz simultaneously used the play to caricature members of the film community, showing them as people who use their position and profession for not always honorable purposes. That same year and once again at the Wyspianski Theatre in Katowice, Kutz staged Ion Druce's Zapach dojrzałej pigwy / The Smell of Ripe Quinces, in which he combined realism with a fairly tale mood while simultaneously giving the production the tone of a morality play.
During Martial Law, Kutz began to explore the historiosophic issues in Georg Büchner's Romantic play Śmierć Dantona / Danton's Death, which he staged at the Teatr Ateneum (Athenaeum Theatre) in Warsaw (1982). As depicted by Kutz, revolution was a historical event ruled at least in part by coincidence and strong human passions.
Before making the film The Brothers Will Come Shortly, based on the play by Janusz Krasiński, he staged the work at Warsaw's Athenaeum Theatre (1984). Kutz's next project was the Polish premiere of Christopher Hampton's Opowieści Hollywoodu / Tales from Hollywood at the Coastal Theatre in Gdańsk (1986). In this production the director made full use of his filmmaking skills, something partly made possible by the subject of the play. Kutz effectively created a staged "documentary", in which rather than playing their characters, the actors spoke about them and presented their reasoning. Paradoxically, this distance provided a sense of naturalness and rendered the protagonists more believable.
Kutz also mounted productions which provided renowned actors with an opportunity to demonstrate their professional skills. In 1980 he staged Edward Albee's Już po wszystkim / All Over at the Coastal Theatre in Gdańsk. Grażyna Barszczewska and Roman Wilhelmi played the lead parts in William Gibson's Dwoje na huśtawce / Two for the Seesaw (Scena na piętrze / Upstairs Stage, Poznań, 1983), while Anna Seniuk and Jerzy Kamas appeared in Kutz's production titled Zwierzenia służki Zerliny / The Confessions of the Maid Zerline, based on of Herman Broch's novel The Guiltless, at the Athenaeum Theatre in Warsaw (1992). Kutz went on to work on Sami porządni ludzie / Only Decent People with the ensemble of Warsaw's Teatr Współczesny (Contemporary Theatre), though the troupe premiered and performed this play by Gratien Gelinas about Catholic conscience at the Teatr Mały (Little Theatre) in Warsaw (1992). Kutz's sole operatic production to date has been Stanisław Moniuszko's Halka, which he staged in 1990 at the Teatr Wielki (Grand Theatre) in Warsaw.
At the Stary Teatr (Old Theatre) in Krakow, Kutz directed Per Olov Enquist's Twórcy obrazów / The Image Makers (1999), a singular psychodrama about maturing artists that featured great performances by Anna Polony (Selma) and Sonia Bohosiewicz (Tora). At the same Krakow theatre, the director also staged the classical Polish play Damy i huzary / Ladies and Hussars by Aleksander Fredro (2001) and Sławomir Mrożek's Pieszo / On Foot (2003), demonstrating that the latter play had lost none of its power though it was written in 1980.
Kutz debuted in Polish Television Theatre in 1965 with a production of Żołnierze / Soldiers, based on a prose work by Ernest Bryll. He did not direct for television again until 1972, when he mounted a production titled Sceny z życia Holly Golightly / Scenes from the Life of Holly Golightly, based on Truman Capote's novel Breakfast at Tiffany's. Unfortunately, copies of these productions are currently considered lost. Another ten years would pass before Kutz would work for Polish Television Theatre again. In 1981 he directed two productions based on texts by Stanisław Bieniasz. These were Urlop zdrowotny / Health Leave and Stary portfel / The Old Wallet, productions in which he explored the lives of common people in Silesia. The Old Wallet, which centered on the specifically Silesian issue of families emigrating to West Germany, was censored immediately after being completed and shelved until 1989.
Kutz's repeated attempt at Christopher Hampton's Hollywood Stories (1986), a play he had previously done on stage, marked the advent of a new period in Television Theatre for him. He would go on to work regularly in the medium, directing many important productions. Spatial solutions were important in Hollywood Stories, which Kutz set up as "theatre in theatre." The studio in which Kutz shot the production simultaneously represented the Hollywood studio that was the setting of the play. Masterfully combining the aesthetics of theatre and film, the televised play, perhaps above all, featured strong acting. Commentators underlined that in this project, like in many future Television Theatre productions, Kutz showed tremendous respect for his actors, an ability to work with them on the delineated goal while leaving them the freedom and space to express their individuality. The case was similar with Feliks Falk's Węzeł / The Knot (1987), in which Ewa Dalkowska, Jerzy Bińczycki and Jan Nowicki masterfully portrayed three people entering the time of life when one takes stock of one's achievements and settles accounts with others. Kutz showed tremendous intuition granting this production an atmosphere that would become the lot of many in Poland with the advent of the Third Republic in 1989. His next television premiere was the aesthetically sophisticated Wygnańcy / Exiles of James Joyce (1988) - a very coherent production which showed humans in all the villainy that renders them capable of ruthlessly using others for their own aims. With Nikolai Erdman's Samobojca / The Suicide (1988), which featured a wonderful performance by Janusz Gajos as Podsekalnikov, Kutz remained faithful to a naturalist style and a literal approach to narration, but simultaneously granted the play a grotesque tone, coupling this with broad stokes of derisive satire.
His televised production of Anatoli Rybakov's novel Dzieci Arbatu / The Children of the Arbat (1989), adapted for the stage by Sergey Kokovin, was saturated with symbolism, sometimes gratuitously so. The characters and their dramatic choices were depicted against a background of the cult of the individual blown up to religious proportions. In 1990 Kutz directed a television production of Paul Barz's Kolacja na cztery ręce / Handel's Ghost, in which a meeting between two outstanding composers becomes a means for exploring the essence of creativity, the significance of genius in history and common human decency. Janusz Gajos and Roman Wilhelmi put in tremendous, virtuoso performances in this production as Bach and Handel, respectively. Kutz followed this in 1991 with Eustachy Rylski's comedy Zapach orchidei / The Scent of an Orchid (1991), which relates the story of a stable citizen who undergoes a reverse conversion in learning about the pleasures of life. In Venedikt Yerofeyev's Noc Walpurgii albo kroki komandora / Walpurgis Night, or the Commander's Footsteps (1991), the director provided a shocking and drastic picture of a man humiliated in telling the story of the alcoholic Gurewicz (Jerzy Trela) who is hospitalized and faces inhumane treatment from doctors and paramedics. Gaston Salvatore's Stalin (1992) proved an opportunity to build a tremendous, penetrating dialogue between two actors, with Jerzy Trela in the role of the dictator and Tadeusz Łomnicki appearing as his jester, Isaac Sager. In 1994 Kutz revisited issues related to World War II in a production of Jerzy Stefan Stawinski's Ziarno zroszone krwią / Grain Washed in Blood, a play about the preparations that preceded the Warsaw Uprising. The production proved to be a sober, objective outline of the factors that inspired the insurgents, showing how carefully the arguments for and against armed resistance were weighed. Kutz reverted to contemporary topics with Janusz Głowacki's Antygona w Nowym Jorku / Antigone in New York (1994) and Slawomir Mrozek's Emigranci / Emigrants (1995). Both productions explored the difficulties that Poles had in adjusting to freedom abroad and the latter featured outstanding performances by Marek Kondrat (as AA) and Zbigniew Zamachowski (as XX). After making Anton Chekhov's Wujaszek Wania / Uncle Vanya (1994), which he treated as a drama about powerful yet never completely expressed emotions and shot in beautiful interiors and outdoor settings, Kutz directed two comedies for Polish Television Theatre. Antoni Słonimski's subtly humorous Rodzina / Family (1995) and Alexander Ostrovsky's Nasz człowiek / Too Clever by Half or the Diary of a Scoundrel were purposely acted in broad strokes and given a farcical tone. With these productions, Kutz proved capable of speaking bluntly and mockingly of human simplicity and stupidity. In Eustachy Rylski's Netto / Net, which he directed in 1998, Kutz provided an image of the filmmaking community. In essence, the play's hero embodied money, whose dictate can prove to be very dangerous to art. Kutz's most recent Television Theatre project was Sławomir Mrożek's Wielebni / The Reverends (2001).
In 1989 Kazimierz Kutz directed what would prove one of Television Theatre's best and most controversial productions - Tadeusz Różewicz's Do piachu... / Six Feet Under... The play as mere text proved offensive to many in its treatment of Polish national myths. It was accused of being a variety of things, including anti-Home Army propaganda. As directed by Kutz, it proved even less comfortable to the national mindset. By illustrating the experiences of Walus, a simpleton who becomes a soldier of the Home Army (Polish: AK), Kutz bluntly attacked the national mindset characterized by zealous piety and patriotism. He demythologized the Polish view of the past but turned the tale of his protagonist into a contemporary, universal drama of suffering and salvation. Kutz attempted another drama by Tadeusz Różewicz in 1998 when he made a Television Theater production of the author's Kartoteka rozrzucona / The Scattered Card Index. The director rendered this as a contemporary morality play in which the Hero as played by two actors - Jerzy Trela (as the aged veteran) and Krzysztof Globisz (as the more contemporary Young One - attempts to work out and understand his situation. Kutz's theatrical version of The Scattered Card Index, staged in 1999 at the National Theatre in Warsaw, presented a Hero (Zbigniew Zamachowski) immersed in everyday concerns who finds it difficult to find order in the world that surrounds him. He is common yet at the same time tragic in the way he personally vies with reality. In 2000 at the Stary Teatr (Old Theatre) in Krakow, the director staged Tadeusz Różewicz's Spaghetti i miecz / Spaghetti and the Sword, which proved another reckoning with his generation, though this time a comedic one. Kutz granted the play a sentimental and ironic tone that nevertheless allowed for a measure of caricature in portraying veteran heroes. Prominent actor Ignacy Gogolewski provided an ironic performance as Laurenty in Kutz's most recent staging of a Rozewicz play, Na czworakach / On All Fours (National Theatre, 2001), in which the author strove to settle the score with the national myth of the poet laureate and his mission as messenger.
Author: Monika Mokrzycka-Pokora, March 2003.