Strawberry Wine - Dariusz Jabłoński
Andrzej Stasiuk, b. 1960, one of the most talented writers of his generation, left Warsaw in 1987 and settled in Wołowiec in the Beskid Niski mountains. From there, he runs Wydawnictwo Czarne, a publishing house specializing in contemporary essays and prose, invoking the tradition of Mitteleuropa - not so much as a political concept but an understanding of Central Europe as a community of the cultures of the nations living there. For this idea of Europe's centre, Beskid Niski is particularly interesting. The region has been affected not only by the Poles living there but also Lemkos, Ukrainians, Hungarians, Roma, Slovakians, Jews as well as Austrians and Germans. It takes a great writer to express this cultural mosaic, to reflect the atmosphere of this place, to draw portraits of the people living there and sketch their world. Stasiuk tried to describe the inhabitants of Beskid Niski in the volume Opowieści galicyjskie / Galician Tales, first published in 1995. This is a collection of short stories - or maybe reportages - whose narrator, an outsider, attempts to enter the world of Beskid Niski and become a part of it. It is a fascinating prose, hard to adapt for the screen, but appealing enough to find filmmakers willing to take on the challenge.
One of them is Dariusz Jabłoński, a well-known documentary director (including the award-winning Fotoamator / Photographer, 1998) and producer (the "Pokolenie 2000" / "Generation 2000" TV series, Przedwiośnie / The Spring to Come), who chose Galician Tales for his feature debut. His vision of Beskid Niski, around which we are shown by a man from Warsaw (physically resembling Andrzej Stasiuk - not a coincidence), is a blend of selected themes from Stasiuk's stories. These have been chosen to show off the beauty of the region, its extraordinary if not magical character on the one hand, and to sketch a gallery of unusual characters, who at first seem ordinary people, on the other. These are people who have many weaknesses, but are beautiful in their communing with nature, understanding of the world, faith in ghosts and divine providence. In Stasiuk and Jabłoński's eyes, Beskid Niski is a world of real men - tough guys struggling with not necessarily friendly nature, their own weaknesses, and excruciating loneliness. Maybe they do drink too much, but who can blame them? Cheap wine is not only a key to communicating with others, it's also a key to a magical world whose presence can be felt at every step. How can it not, when there's a Catholic roadside shrine standing next to the ruins of an Orthodox church, while the ford on the river is lined with matzevas from a Jewish cemetery?
Interestingly, there are practically no women in this enchantingly beautiful world. If they appear on screen, it's almost always only to highlight the emotions of men. One of them, a neglected wife, found comfort in another man's arms, to which her husband could only respond in one way - by murdering his rival. Another woman, who discovered true love too late, dies at the hands of her jealous husband. Both murders are in a way part of the logic of this place - governed as it is by its own, perhaps primeval laws, closely guarding its secrets, but at the same time open to a new arrival, willing to give shelter to a life-weary traveller.
"The film is like the book", Andrzej Stasiuk writes on the cover of the latest edition of Galician Tales (2006). "Actually, I'm no longer sure which was an adaptation of which. Darek Jabłoński set up his camera in the same places where I invented 'Galician Tales' many years ago. In this bizarre way, I can now watch my own visions, my own thoughts. And this story of love, death, and suffering souls has been illuminated with a kind of vaguely unearthly cinematic light which still is reminiscent of a supernatural brightness. This time, I think, someone has managed to show the invisible."
This opinion as to the extraordinary nature of Strawberry Wine was shared by the jury of the "Youth and Film" Koszalin Film Debut Festival in Koszalin, at which Dariusz Jabłoński won the Youth Jury Award while cameraman Tomasz Michałowski received the award for best cinematography.
- Wino truskawkowe / Strawberry Wine, Poland/Slovakia 2007. Director: Dariusz Jabłoński, screenplay: Andrzej Stasiuk, Dariusz Jabłoński based on Andrzej Stasiuk's Opowieści galicyjskie / Galician Tales, cinematography: Tomasz Michałowski, music: Michał Lorenc, set design: Frantisek Liptak, costumes: Agata Culak, Małgorzata Gwiazdecka, editing: Krzysztof Szpetmański, sound: Bartłomiej Woźniak. Cast: Jiři Machaček (Andrzej), Zuzana Fialova (Lubica), Marian Dziędziel (Kościejny), Mieczysław Grąbka (sergeant), Jerzy Radziwiłowicz (parish priest), Lech Łotocki (Lewandowski), Maciej Stuhr (Janek), Marek Litewka (Zalatywój), Maria Ciunelis (barmaid Irenka), Cezary Kosiński (Edek). Production: Apple Film Production, TVP SA - Agencja Filmowa, Canal+ Polska, Trigon Production. Co-financed by: Polish Film Institute, Eurimages, Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic. Distribution: Gutek Film. Length: 109 min. Released on 8 May 2009.
Author: Konrad J. Zarębski, April 2009
- 2008 - best cinematography award for Tomasz Michałowski, best music award for Michał Lorenc, Journalists' Award for Dariusz Jabłoński at the Prowincjonalia Polish National Festival of Film Art in Września;best cinematography award for Tomasz Michałowski, Youth Jury Award for Dariusz Jabłoński at the "Youth and Film" Koszalin Film Debut Festival.