Movie director born 21 May 1930 in Susiec, near Tomaszów Lubelski.
After he had finished, in 1956, his graduate studies in directing department in National Film School in Łódź, he worked for a few years as an assistant to director, or second director, working on movies such as Spotkania (1957) Zimowy zmierzch (1956), Lotna (1959), and Powrót (1960). He worked with such renowned directors as Stanisław Lenartowicz, Andrzej Wajda and Jerzy Passendorfef. His directorial debut came in 1961.
From 1976 to 1980 he was assistant artistic director of Film Studio Iluzjon, and between 1988 and 1991 he performed the same function for film studio Kadr.
Twice in his career (in 1969 and 1975) Sylwester Chęciński has received Award of the Ministry of Culture and Arts, II grade. In 1971 he also got Award of the Ministry of Defence, II grade. He also won an award presented by Film magazine for his trilogy consisting of Our Folks, Take it Easy and Love or Leave. He is also among the winners of Wrocław Cultural Award, which he received in 1968 and 2000. In 2005 in turn, during National Cinema Festival Provincjonalia in Września he was awarded with an Honourary award – Jańcio Wodnik statue. In 2006 he obtained an honourary citizenship of Wrocław, and in 2007 he was granted an Honourary Award of Polish Cinematographers’ Association during 32 Festival of Polish Feature Films in Gdynia. What’s more, in 1983 he received Officer’s Cross of Polonia Restituta.
One of distinctive features of Chęciński’s output is the variety of genres that he directed. His first movie, Story of the Yellow Boot, is clearly directed to direct audience. It was, however, just a warm-up for his further career. The next film of his, Agnes 46 is a psychological drama set in post-war Western Poland. The director explores the difficulties that people, completely changed by the war, face when returning to normal life. Jerzy Płażewski comments that ‘The movie shows that exalted mythos is redundant in everyday, grassroots work’.
Wester Poland is also the place where the action of probably the most beloved movie of Chęciński, a real cult-classic – Our Folks (1967). However, this time he presents us with a perfectly-acted comedy. Jerzy Peltz writes about the movie:
The comedy in the movie stems from three main elements: Sarmatian comedy, its setting in certain historic background and, to top it all off, a slight addition of characteristic dialect of the region which, at least to the younger generation, may sound odd and funny. (Film 1967 no. 38)
The story of Kargul and Pawlak continues in two more movies, Take it Easy (1974) and Love or Leave (1977). Together, they create a kind of comic trilogy. The genre was deserted by Chęciński for some time after that, as he returned to it with Controlled Conversations from 1991.
In 1969 Chęciński directed a spy action movie Only the Dead Will Answer (1969). Helena Opoczyńska emphasizes:
With this movie the director proves that he feel well also in a mainstream, mass-produced cinema. There still remains this freshness of his outlook and his technical virtuosity. (Film 1969 no. 49)
Another action movie aimed at the mainstream movie-goers is Big Shar (1983). Sylwester Chęciński progresses the action extremely fluently. Maciej Zalewski writes about the movie:
Each of the characters is well planned and well thought of, each line and appearance has its purpose. They are usually not that long, but distinctive enough to snatch the viewer from their boredom and engage them in the next episode of the action. (Kino 1983 no. 02)
Chęciński’s only movie that tackles the topic of war is The Legend. Jacek Fukusiewicz writes about it:
There is something fair tale-ish, or ballade-ish in it, the worldview of a grown man is rendered through a spontaneous, naïve view of the heroes, a hint of humour connects with a hint of tragedy. (Film 1971 no. 20)
There are also psychological dramas in his portfolio. The most celebrated are Roman and Magda, Because I’m crazy about Her and Catastrophe. The middle one also contains numerous comedic elements.
All the various movies in Chęciński’s filmography are always connected with one important element: human character is always of the main interest. As Maciej Maniewski writes:
This director has a brilliant ability to give his heroes a certain character, they are not only multi-dimensional and dynamic, but also, in a way, sympathetic towards the viewer. (...) From the very beginning Chęciński realises the model of popular cinema, but enriched with psychological and social level, as well as technically excellent. (Film 1986 no. 49)
It is no accident that Chęciński was named ‘painter of Polish personalities’.
Krzysztof Świrek comments:
Thorough preparation and meekness towards the viewer is his recipe for good popular cinema. Unwavering interest in his movies proves that the recipe was successful (Kino 2008 no. 01)
In 2003 he starred in Baśń o ludziach stąd [trans. Tale of people from here] (screenplay by Władysław Sikora, directed by Władysław Sikora).
Chęciński’s famous trilogy was realised over 40 years ago in Lubomierz. To commemorate this, the city organises Comedy Film Festival for over 13 years.
Edited by Halina Olczak-Moraczewska, December 2004; update: September. Translated by AS.
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