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Magdalena Cielecka

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Magdalena Cielecka, Photo: Wojciech Wieteska / TR Warszawa
Magdalena Cielecka, Photo: Wojciech Wieteska / TR Warszawa

Film and theatre actress. Born February 20, 1972 in Myszków.

Cielecka graduated from the Academy for the Dramatic Arts in Krakow. As a student she made her debut in the role of the Child in Gabriela Zapolska's Ich czworo / The Four of Them on the stage of Stary Teatr in Kraków. For her first film role, she played a nun Anna in Barbara Sass's Pokuszenie / Temptation (1995), she received the top Polish prize for Best Actress at the 20th Polish Film Festival in Gdansk. During the years 1995-2001, she performed on the stage of Stary Teatr. From 2001 - 2007 she performed at the Rozmaitości Theatre (named TR Warszawa from 2003 onwards). She is now part of the prestigious Nowy Teatr company in Warsaw, led by Krzysztof Warlikowski.

Already at the entrance exams to drama school she impressed her professors. "There's no point in testing her, she's a born actress", averred Marta Stebnicka, one of the more experienced instructors. From her first professional appearance, in the role of Albertynka in a very musical adaptation of Witold Gombrowicz's Operetka / Operette (1995), she proved herself a talented actress, a clear-cut personality with a liking for artistic risk.

Her first challenge was the vulgar Pam in Edward Bond's Saved (1996), directed by the Israeli Gadi Roll. Exciting television parts followed: Judyta in Juliusz Słowacki's Ksiądz Marek / The Priest Marek (1998); Krysia in Witold Gombrowicz's Historia / History (1999); Violetta in Gustaw Herling-Grudziński's Gorący oddech pustyni / The Hot Breath of the Desert (1999); anorectic Sandra in Manuela Gretkowska's Sandra K. (2000); and the Lady in Sławomir Mrożek's Letni dzień / A Summer Day (2001).

Nevertheless, true success, both in Poland and abroad, came with Cielecka's roles in the stage productions of Grzegorz Jarzyna. The title Yvonne in Gombrowicz's play (1997); Candy in Brad Fraser's Niezidentyfikowane szczątki ludzkie / Unidentified Human Remains (1998); Klara in Magnetyzm serca / Magnetism of the Heart based on Aleksander Fredro's Śluby panieńskie / Maiden Vows (1999); Nastasya Filippovna in Książę Myszkin / Prince Myshkin based on The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (2000); Pia in Thomas Vinterberg's and Mogens Rukov's Festen (2001). Each one distinct and deserving of its own detailed account. Each one formally flawless yet still filled with emotion.

Cielecka created an incredibly piercing role in 4.48 Psychosis, a play by Sarah Kane directed by Grzegorz Jarzyna, co-produced by Rozmaitości Theatre in Warsaw and Teatr Polski in Poznan (2002). She gave a perfect study of self-destruction, a slow journey towards death. The play has been staged in Poland and abroad for years, and Cielecka's performance continues to receive rave reviews.  In 2014, after the play premiered in St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, Ben Brantley wrote for The New York Times: 

As adapted and directed by Grzegorz Jarzyna, this Polish-language (and language-transcending) production ropes its audience into unconditional engagement with a baleful, private spectacle of self-destruction. “See me,” says its unnamed heroine, fully and unflinchingly embodied by the brilliant Magdalena Cielecka. “Touch me.” The words are a taunt, since she is so far beyond our reach (New York Times, 20.10.2014).

She continued her collaboration with Krzysztof Warlikowski on the stage of Rozmaitości Theatre in Warsaw, where in 1999 she played Ophelia in Shakespeare's Hamlet. In 2003 she performed the role of Ariel, the tragic rebel in Shakespeare's The Tempest. In Szymon Anski's and Hanna Krall's The Dybbuk (2003) Cielecka played Lea and the wife of Adam S., and showed a deep, spiritual dimension of love. Recently you could see her at the Television Theatre starring in such roles as Elmire in Molière's Tartuffe, or the Impostor directed by Andrzej Seweryn (2002) and Michelle in Samuel Benchetrit's Comedy on a Railway Platform, directed by Witold Adamek (2004). She also played in Michał Walczak's Piaskownica / Sand-pit directed by Dariusz Gajewski (2005), and brilliantly portrayed Stella in Harold Pinter's The Collection, a television play directed by Marcin Wrona (2006).

After the success of Temptation, she waited some time for another interesting film role. In Natalia Koryncka-Gruz's Amok (1998) she played a femme fatale set in the newly-emerged world of stockbrokers in Poland. In a subsequent film by Barbara Sass Jak narkotyk / Like a Drug (1999) she scored the part of a fatally ill, sensitive poet. She starred in Zakochani / In Love as a self-serving, man-eating beauty, living at other people's emotional expense a romantic comedy by Piotr Wereśniak (2000); an eccentric and hysterical failed suicide in Mariusz Treliński's Egoists (2000); and an emotionally lost woman her own age in Leszek Wosiewicz's Listy miłosne / Love Letters (2001). In Jerzy Hryniak's Trzeci / Third (2004), a film a bout a young marriage trying to rebuild their relationship, she played Ewa opposite Jacek Poniedziałek cast in the role of her husband, Paweł. She starred as another thirty-something wife, a seemingly fulfilled woman who comes close to infidelity in her search for emotions, in [email protected]ść w sieci / Loneliness on the Net by Witold Adamczyk (2006). You could also see her in the roles of Hanna von Bronheim in Xawery Żuławski's Chaos (2005), Emilia in Janusz Majewski's Po sezonie / After the Season (2006), Hanna in Konrad Niewolski's Palimpsest (2006), Agnieszka, the sister of lieutenant Baszkowski in Andrzej Wajda's Katyń (2007) and Joanna i Jan Jakub Kolski's Wenecja / Venice (2010). 

In 2015 Agnieszka Smoczyńska's The Lure premiered. Cielecka played the part of a stage artist nicknamed 'Godly Fur'. She also played Iza, one of the protagonists of Tomasz Wasilewski's United States of Love, awarded with Silver Bear at the 66. Berlin Film Festival.

Jury was most impressed by this story about four women who believed in the idea of a better life in a country undergoing a great change. A story which, at the same time, is a great display of the actresses' force and hope - said critic Nick James, awarding the director. 

Cielecka's following theatre roles include Natasha in Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters directed by Natasha Parry and Krystyna Janda at Teatr Polonia in Warsaw (2006), along with Emily and Angel in Tony Kushner's Angels in America directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski at TR Warszawa (2007). She appears in almost all Warlikowski's plays, including (A)pollonia (2009), The End (2010) and The French (2015). 

She's also created interesting roles on the TV screen. She played an over-achieving lawyer in the Polish version of the series In Treatment - Bez tajemnic, communist Ada Lewińska in the World War II drama series Days of Honor and chain-smoking pathologist in the crime series Prokurator / Prosecutor created by Zygmunt Miłoszewski and his brother Wojciech. 

In 2008 Magdalena Cielecka received the Herald Angel Award at the Edinburgh Festival. She was honoured for her roles in 4.48 Psychosis and The Dybbuk.

Directors point at her "unusual skill to transform", the complete "submergence into the character" she plays, as well as her openness and diligence.

"She always surprised us by her ability to focus", Barbara Sass confessed. "She doesn't just enter a part. She enters into the truth of her character. She can say the most difficult line, have the most improbable dialogue regardless of whether she is playing a princess or an ugly duckling." ("Marie Claire", no. 8/1999)

Major awards:

  • 1995: Individual award for Best Actress in Temptation; 20th Polish Film Festival in Gdansk;
  • 1996: First Prize for Best Actress in Temptation; "Stars of Tomorrow" International Film Festival in Geneva;
  • 1999: Aleksander Zelwerowicz Award for title role in Yvonne, princess of Burgundy staged at Stary Teatr in Krakow, Candy in Unidentified Human Remains staged at Teatr Dramatyczny in Warsaw, and Judyta in The Priest Marek staged at the Television Theatre;
  • 2000: Award for Best Act for title role in Yvonne, princess of Burgundy staged at Stary Teatr in Krakow; 25th Opole Theatre Festival;
  • 2002: Jańcio Wodnik award for the role of Teresa in Sławomir Kryński's Love Letters; 9th Prowincjonalia Festival in Słupca;
  • 2003: Warsaw Feliks for Best Supporting Actress for the role of Ariel in William Shakespeare's The Tempest directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski at Teatr Rozmaitości in Warsaw;
  • 2007: Best Actress Award for the role of Stella in Harold Pinter's The Collection directed by Marcin Wrona; 7th "Two Theatres" Polish Radio Theatre and Polish Television Theatre Festival in Sopot;
  • 2008: Herald Angel Award for the role of Ariel in Szymon Anski's and Hanna Krall's The Dybbuk and for the main part in 4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane, directed by Grzegorz Jarzyna;
  • 2009: The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage Award;
  • 2009: Kraków – Second International Divine Comedy Theatre Festival – Divine Comedian Prize for the best female character – in (A)pollonia in Nowy Teatr in Warsaw – ‘for the courage of showing a commitment that transgresses the role of a victim’;
  • 2011: L’Oreal Paris Prize for the most stylish actress – given at the 36th Gdynia Film Festival;
  • 2013: Wdecha in the category of Man of The Year – Gazeta Co Jest Grane award for her role in ‘Kabaret Warszawski';
  • 2015: Silver Medal for Merit to Culture – Gloria Artis awarded by The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage;

Original Polish text: published 2002; English translation: July 2010, last update August 2016's picture
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