Ryszard Lenczewski is a cinematographer and winner of the Golden Lion Award, the European Film Award and the BAFTA Award. He received an Oscar nomination for his work on Ida, and has worked with Bogdan Dziworski, Andrzej Barański, Jacek Bromski and Paweł Pawlikowski.
Lenczewski also lectures at the Faculty of Cinematography of Łódź Film School, and between 2008 and 2014 he served as its deputy dean. He is a member of the European Film Academy (EFA) and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA).
In 1975, Lenczewski graduated from the Faculty of Cinematography of Łódź Film School. The same year, he received the award for cinematography for the short film Evening Hours at the Łódź Film School Short Film Festival in Warsaw. One of his first works as a cinematographer was Contemporary Pentathlon (1975) by Bogdan Dziworski, an experimenter and one of the masters of Polish documentary films. Lenczewski’s camerawork received the Special Award for Best Cinematography at the International Short Film Festival in Linz.
Cooperation between Lenczewski and Dziworski began with Contemporary Pentathlon and Dwarves and a Little Orphan Girl Mary (1975). They also worked together on Hockey (1976), Olympic Games (1978) and Arena of Life (1979). The films directed by Dziworski, which are experimental, bold, and not very wordy, have won dozens of awards in Poland and foreign festivals. They opened the doors to a career in cinematography for Lenczewski.
Thus, in 1980, he was already working on Smaller Sky by Janusz Morgenstern, and received the award for Best Cinematographer at the Polish Film Festival in Gdańsk (transferred to Gdynia in 1986) for the film Palace by Tadeusz Junak.
Another important meeting in his professional life took place in 1984. This is when he began his work on Woman from the Provinces together with Andrzej Barański. This film marked the beginning of long years of cooperation. Lenczewski stood behind the camera of four more of Barański's films: By the River Nowhere (1991), Bachelor Life in a Foreign Country (1992), Two Moons (1993) and Photography is a Difficult Art (1998).
As a cameraman, Lenczewski was often involved with artistically risky projects – films that allowed him to search for a new form of filmmaking. His regular cooperation with Bogdan Dziworski, Andrzej Barański and Paweł Pawlikowski is not accidental, and filmography includes titles such as The Beautiful Life of Bronek Pekosiński by Grzegorz Królikiewicz. In 1997, Lenczewski was the cinematographer of three films by Krzysztof Zanussi: Our God’s Brother, the television series Delay Line, and The Last Circle.
Three years later, he began his cooperation with Paweł Pawlikowski. Together they created Last Resort, Pawlikowski’s first feature film, for which he received the Best British Newcomer Award and the Critics’ Award at the London Film Festival.
In the same year (2000) Lenczewski was involved in the BBC series Anna Karenina and his work was nominated for an award by the Royal Film Television Society.
The main sponsor was Prince Charles. Everyone was saying that we would surely win. I was nominated for cinematography. Well, none of that! Later, I still had to pretend that I was terribly glad I did not get this award, and I’m not an actor.
– recalls Lenczewski.
Three years later the cinematographer was once more given recognition by the British. In 2003 he received a BAFTA Award nomination for the film Charles II: The Power and the Passion by Joe Wright (the director of Atonement, Anna Karenina and Pride and Prejudice), with Rufus Sewell and Helen McCrory. Lenczewski did not make it to London for the award ceremony because he was shooting another British film.
I was sitting in the hotel and I got a call from the director after 8pm, congratulating me for the success. And since then, whenever I didn’t go somewhere, something positive has happened to me.
– he recalled in an interview with PAP.
In 2004 Lenczewski teamed up with Paweł Pawlikowski once again. Together they shot the film My Summer of Love, for which the director received a BAFTA Award for the Best British Film. In an interview with Lenczewski for the Kino newspaper, Maria Kornatowska pointed out that: ‘This sounds like a paradox: the best British film of the year 2004 was made by two Poles: the director Paweł Pawlikowski and the cinematographer Ryszard Lenczewski’.
Seven years later, the two made The Woman in the Fifth with Ethan Hawk, Kristin Scott Thomas and Joanna Kulig, and in 2013 years they met again to work on Ida. During filming Lenczewski fell ill and was forced to withdraw from the project. His duties were taken over by Łukasz Żal, a cinematographer with whom he had cooperated in his two previous films. Lenczewski shot for only 9 days, but his influence was crucial in shaping the form for which Ida became famous.
While preparing the documentation for the film, Lenczewski took approximately three thousand images, organised the sources and created a storyboard. His impressive photographs, which served as a starting point for the work on Ida can be seen on the cinematographer’s official website.
Looking at my photographs, Pawlikowski and I created the screenplay of the film. These photos are a diary of my impressions, which then turned into a film story.
– said Lenczewski in an interview with PAP.
For their work on Ida, Lenczewski and Łukasz Żal received the Golden Frog at the Camerimage Festival, the Golden Lion in Gdynia, the European Film Award, the Spotlight Award from the prestigious American Society of Cinematographers, as well as the Polish Society of Cinematographers Award. They were also recognised by the American Film Academy, which nominated the film for Best Cinematography in 2015.
Sources: Kino, own information, Filmpolski.pl, PAP, Ryszard Lenczewski’s official website, ed. BS, transl. Bozhana Nikolova
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