House on Its Head - Adam Palenta
House on Its Head is based on film footage from Wojciech Zamecznik's private archive, selected and interpreted by Adam Palenta. The nineteen-minute film presents his private life hand-in-hand with his artistic.
Wojciech Zamecznik, a prominent graphic designer, deserved the title of artist not just at work but also at home. The footage included in House on Its Head (Wojciech Zamecznik – Dom na głowie) was filmed between 1949-1966. This unique collection of images offers a glimpse of the designer's private life and also illustrates the atmosphere of the PRL era: its clothing, interiors, and everyday surroundings.
Taking chronology and relevant technological progress into consideration, the film material used in House on Its Head could be divided into the black & white and colour sections. This would, however, be a purely formal distinction, as the film doesn't cease to revolve around Zamecznik's immediate surrounding: his two sons, beloved wife Hala, Figa the dog, and several friends and colleagues.
The images, shot for the artist's and his family's sake and intended for the private archive, form, as one could expect, an extremely personal documentation. Viewers will indulge in it thanks to their voyeuristic drive, ever so natural for man. Still, films made by Zamecznik, an educated and experienced man, sensitive to the rules of composition, are extremely aesthetic. The graphic designer created his home movies as if they were art pieces, appropriately employing close-ups, as well as shifts of perspective and rhythm.
His son, Juliusz Zamecznik, reminisces:
I would always see my dad with a photo or video camera in his hand. I think that our private life wasn't kept separate from my father's professional life. We constantly saw him at work, and were also engaged in it, either as assistants, or as models. It could be said that we were part of our parents' and their friends' work, but we didn't think of it as work, but play. This symbiosis between private and professional life has been exceptionally well conveyed in the film.
Adam Palenta, a cinematographer and film director, was responsible for selecting and editing three hours of film footage. On commission from the Archaeology of Photography Foundation, he revived Zamecznik's memories, turning them into a multidimensional collage. Work commenced on House on Its Head in 2008, with the laborious digitization of his 8mm and 16mm tapes. The process proved difficult due to the incompatibility of the old frame sizes and contemporary archiving equipment. The final, nineteen-minute-long version has managed to encompass Zamecznik's intimate relationship with his wife, the everyday struggles of parenting, country breaks with friends, otherwise unreleased visual works, and some experimental footage.
Palenta starts off with a symbolic prologue, featuring Zamecznik and his wife, Hala. In the next scene, the camera's focus shifts to the much loved woman by herself. Zamecznik carefully documents each single centimetre of his wife's body as she wakes up from sleep. Feet, calves, buttocks, a firm back, tousled hair, a subtle smile, and the tender gaze directed straight at the lens, as if she was looking into her husband's eyes. Then, a silence. Pause. Credits.
The first scene of the film proper shows a crying infant – Wojciech Zamecznik's son, while the final one – face of a gloomy-looking model. These two images become a frame for the entire film, turning it into more than just a diary of Zamecznik's life – a general allegory of the life of a man.
In between these two marking points, Palenta inserted a mosaic of Zamecznik's memories, with such recurring motifs as relaxing by the water, frolics and children's games, Hala's body, exposed to the sunlight. Selecting the material posed a great challenge to Palenta.
I found it terribly difficult to select the excerpts for this story about Wojciech and his family. Mr Juliusz was saying: and this one! And this one too! And I answered that I can't, I won't fit it in anymore!
– the director commented during the premiere screening of the film.
The silent film footage was augmented with a soundtrack comprising regular “noise”, such as a child's cry, rustling trees, knock of the heels, as well as music by Marcin Masecki. The pianist based his compositions on the sparse preserved recordings of Zamecznik's musical arrangements. The graphic designer used to spend his spare time playing piano, and naturally registering his efforts on film.
Initially, the screenings of House on Its Head were accompanied by live music.
Concept and realization of the film: Adam Palenta
Cooperation: Julia Odnous
Music: Marcin Masecki
Content advise: Juliusz Zamecznik, Monika Supruniuk
Produced by the Archaeology of Photography Foundation, 2013
Sources: Archaeology of Photography Foundation, own materials, ed. DS, 22.10.2014, transl. AM, 23.04.2015Dagmara Staga