Cinematographer, writer and producer. One of the most versatile Polish filmmakers. Born on the 7th of November 1945 in Łódź.
His interest in filmmaking was inspired by his artistic talents, in painting, drawing, and later photography. He is the son of the head production manager of many Polish films, Stefan Adamek, who worked with Jerzy Kawalerowicz, Jerzy Passendorfer and Stanisław Bareja. Stefan Adamek also worked on Witold Adamek's film sets, as well as the television production Punkt Wyjścia (1971) and Olimpiada 40 / Olympics 40 (1980).
Witold Adamek studied at the department of cinematography at the National Higher School of Film and Theatre in Łódź in 1965 with Michał Bukojemski, Jacek Prosiński and Witold Stok.
At the same time, Wojciech Wiszniewski, Janusz Zaorski and Jerzy Sztwiertnia were studying directing. Adamek's gurus were Adolf Forbert and Andrzej Ancuta, under their supervision, he shot his first short films. The director was Jerzy Sztwiernia, working with Adamek at the beginning of the 1970s. He graduated with a masters in cinematography.
Witold Adamek has been an ambitious author. In his early films, he aimed to reach something more than to be just a director of the photography. He often contributed to scripts, and helped to build a concept for directing. Initially, he wanted to highlight his views on the main subjects, but over the time he realised that he must comply with the concept of the director. Andrzej Bukowiecki, a film critic and a journalist who observes the Polish art of cinematography, characterised Adamek's creativity this way
When asked whether the cinematographer has his own style, he replies in an affirmative manner. He adds however, that he is not able to say what the main characteristics of his own style are, but when pressured confesses, "I probably search in the light, and use it to create a special atmosphere". From this apparent contradiction resulting from the role of the cinematographer and his individual ambition to present the images his own way, you can come to a synthesis. Adamek, searching and playing with light, uses it to create a special atmosphere - the most appropriate in a film! This makes him a cinematographer with his own style and character, at the same time, very versatile, able to combine his own character with different styles from diverse directors such as: Andrzej Wajda, Janusz Majewski, Janusz Zaorski, Andrzej Kotkowski and Juliusz Machulski. (Statement specifically for www.culture.pl).
This flexibility is seen from a number of distinctions. At the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia in 1985 and 1988, three of his films entered the competition. In 1985, Baryton / A Baritone directed by Janusz Zaorski, Yesterday directed by Radosław Piwowarski and released from political arrest, Nadzór / Custody directed by Wiesław Saniewski, and three years later Krótki film o miłości / A Short Film About Love directed by Krzysztof Kieślowki, Dotknięci / Stricken directed by Saniewski and Obywatel Piszczyk / Citizen Piszczyk directed by Andrzej Kotkowski. In these films, the cinematographer is a master of stylisation, Baryton which is set in the 1930s, Yesterday in the 1960s, and likewise with Citizen Piszczyk. It is after all, his own style, deliberately cut-off from Hollywood movie retro patterns. Adamek skilfully operates with coloured filters, boldly departs from realism, once again, this deliberately emphasises the realism of the situation, for example the set in a prison environment, Nadzór / Custody, but also highlighting the prying theme in Dotknięci / Stricken . If one were to consider his cinematography in W starym dworku / In the Old Manor House directed by Kotkowski, directly relating to the photographic works of playwright Witkacy. The film is a screen adaptation of his drama and a series of ballet films, shot by Adamek in the late 1970s for television purposes, one can observe the cinematographer's wide range of artistic interest and his sensitivity to a broad spectrum of incentives. Both festivals mentioned earlier have brought Adamek awards for cinematography. He is also the double winner of the Head of Cinematography Award, for his work on set Jezioro Bodeńskie / The Bodensee directed by Zaorski in 1986 and for his cinematography in films made in the 1987/89 season. He was honoured for the creative use of colour film in 1986 by Agfa-Gevaert, supplying Polish cinematography with colour negatives in the 1980s.
It is no accident that cinematography is said to be one of the most technical occupations in filmmaking. Witold Adamek is not only open to technical innovations, but full of ideas as to their use. To get the effect of isolation, necessary to build the mood in Krótki film o miłości / A Short Film About Love as well as in Dekalog, sześć / Decalogue, Six, he filmed a scene through an apartment window, which had been turned into a sound stage. He managed the crane shot, communicating with the rest of the crew by radio.
On another set, Szwadron / The Squadron, he used for the first time in Poland, a Panaflex camera with Panavision lenses for panoramic images (earlier, widescreen films were shot using an Arriflex camera, sometimes with the use of Panavision lenses which were made to fit the camera mount). There was a serious accident on the set, while shooting a camera crane overturned and fell, the camera was destroyed, and the director of photography himself ended up in a wheelchair with his leg in a cast. Nevertheless, he finished the film, which was a Polish candidate for an Oscar in the category of non-English films.
In the film industry it is said about Witold Adamek that he takes great care of details. From working with authentic archival material and others stylised in the same fashion, as demonstrated by working with Edward Kłosiński on set of Matka Królów / Mother of the Kings directed by Zaorski, and between scenes shot inside natural and created studio interiors. This can be seen especially in Saniewski's films, Custody and Stricken. This demonstrated his ability to stage a scene, which in the 1990s he performed with more confidence, becoming not only a producer of several films, but also their director.
Highlighted films include, Poniedziałek / Monday and Wtorek / Tuesday, a serious story retelling the birth of the Polish middle class in the 1989 transition phase, while also depicting the life of youth in the new social situation. The protagonists of the film are in their twenties, having to cope with certain life choices, in their case, meaning a choice between a wealthy or honest life. The film Monday, awarded by the Koszalin Debut Film Festival Youth and Film, is the work of cult status, becoming for viewers at home and abroad, a guide of the Polish transformation. Enjoying equal respect, is Adamek's production Daleko od okna / Far from the Window directed by Jan Jakub Kolski based on the report by Hanna Krall, an intriguing insight into the attitudes towards the Holocaust. On the other hand, Samotność w sieci / Loneliness in the Net based on the bestseller written by Janusz L. Wiśniewski is a contemporary melodrama, characterised by the times of the growing importance of the internet in the lives of societies and individuals.
Author: Konrad J. Zarębski, August 2009.
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