Andrzej J. Jaroszewicz is a cinematographer and documentary director who has worked on over 50 films. A long-time collaborator of Andrzej Żuławski, he was responsible for the camerawork in such films as 'On the Silver Globe' and 'Possession'. He was born on 12th May, 1935.
His grandmother wanted him to be a bishop, his mother wanted him to become a doctor, and his father dreamt of him finishing university. Despite these suggestions, Andrzej Jaroszewicz became a filmmaker. Born into a family of teachers in Biała Podlaska, he had no film ambitions as a teenager. However, he took photographs and read books on photography.
Road to Łódź
Close to the local high school he attended was a photography shop. It did not have many clients because photography was not a popular hobby in Biała Podlaska. Young Jaroszewicz used to sit here during breaks between lessons. One day, a man visiting the Podlasie region from Łódź to take a series of photographs for an agricultural exhibition entered the shop. Today, the cameraman remembers that meeting as follows:
He had a Rolleiflex – at the time, it was like a Rolls Royce to me. However, he couldn’t load the film.
Teenage Jaroszewicz, who had only read about Rolleiflexes, helped to load the camera and the man asked him to take some pictures of the local farms. He’d be paid, which was an additional motivation for the teenager. Jaroszewicz shot a series of photographs and after a week the man returned with 40 reels of film. Jaroszewicz used all of them up and his photos ended up at an exhibition.
His photos then arrived at a film school, and its governors invited him to a preparatory course for exams for the cinematography faculty.
I was sure the cameraman was the guy who screens films in the cinema and watches them for free. I thought: ‘Four years of studying to screen movies? Weird’. But I went anyway.
Jaroszewicz was admitted to the school in 1955, only to be expelled. The diversions of student life, girls and entertainment beat the history of Sumerian art and Jaroszewicz did not make it past the first year.
The Polish Film School
Return ticket to the cinema
He was expelled from the school and began his pedagogical studies. ‘I made a sash and a ball for graduation,’ he jokes today. He got back into cinema a few years later. In the late 1950s, his friend got him a job as a clapper on The Artillery Sergeant Kalen by Czesław Petelski and Ewa Petelska.
The producers assigned him an impossible task. He was supposed to go to Minsk Mazowiecki and, for the film, get weapons such as grenades seized from partisans and modified pistols from the local police station. When he arrived with a truck of guns at the set in the Bieszczady Mountains, he immediately became the Petelskis’ favourite.
He decided to go back to school again. In 1962, he took the exam and was admitted immediately to the second year. However, he did not graduate until 30 years later – absorbed by his work as a cinematographer and a lecturer at Łódź Film School, he did not have time to collect documents and write essays.
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Jaroszewicz was completely consumed by cinema. At school, he watched one film after another. Here he admired Welles’ Citizen Kane and met Mieczysław Jahoda, who shaped him as a cameraman.
During his studies, with Krzysztof Wierzbiański, he shot, among others, Tancerz Pana Kelnera (Mr. Waiter’s Dancer, 1964) and a documentary by Andrzej Jurga titled Przy Egzemplarzu (By the Copy, 1965). Later he made short documentaries, educational films and commercials. He threw himself into his work. In an interview about Bird Talk, Xawery Żuławski recalled his words:
I only met my children when the third one was 16-17 years old. That’s when I realised I had kids at all. For me, first there was love for cinema and it left love for women and children far behind.
He worked on films like Feliks Falk’s Nocleg (1972) and At the Height of Summer (1975), Janusz Nasfeter’s Butterflies (1972) and I Won’t Love You (1973), Roman Załuski’s Anatomy of Love (1972), Janusz Majewski’s Jealousy and Medicine (1973) and Janusz Zaorski’s Run Counter Run (1972).
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Meeting with Żuławski
His cinematographic work for Run Counter Run turned out to be a ticket to his further career. He devised a scene in which the running protagonist jumps onto a moving tram. It was filmed from the boot of a car – he filmed the running actor, and, when he got on the tram, the cameraman got behind him and moved across the tram. The stunt got him the attention of Andrzej Żuławski, who, at the same time, was working on documentation for The Devil (1972) in Wrocław.
At the time, Jaroszewicz was already impressed by the young director. He watched his The Third Part of the Night several times and quickly realised that a great fresh personality had appeared in the Polish cinema.
Żuławski was impressed by Jaroszewicz’s technical skills. He was able to shoot by hand so that the image did not shake for a moment. It was not a coincidence. Inspired by images of Indian women carrying jugs of water on their heads, Jaroszewicz began to exercise his body so that he could keep his balance just like them. He put books on his head and walked around the house. He was a living ‘image stabiliser’ and his skill was often useful in his work with Żuławski, who liked to take hand-held shots.
The young director proposed to Jaroszewicz to cooperate with him on The Devil. The cameraman remembers the situation as follows:
I don’t know if meeting Rita Hayworth would have surprised me more than that.
In The Devil, set in 1973, they told a story of a world on the verge of collapse. Their film found its way onto the censors’ shelves and was only taken off them 15 years later. It was not the end of their struggles with the authorities. Political censorship also almost killed their next film.
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On the Silver Globe
On the Silver Globe (1976-1987), a phenomenal science-fiction spectacle, told the story of settlers starting a new civilisation on a foreign planet. Each of the story’s three parts differed in its artistic setting and was filmed with different lenses and in a different way. Jaroszewicz and Żuławski came up with an extremely subjective camera technique, reminiscent of today’s micro-cameras, and, by manipulating the colour appropriately, they were able to distinguish the film’s textured materials from each other.
They shot On the Silver Globe on Kodak tape which allowed them to capture exceptionally vivid colours. ‘It’s horrible, we’re not making an American film,’ said Żuławski after seeing the samples.
Jaroszewicz invented a way to achieve a monochromatic image effect. Thanks to the use of appropriate filters, he managed to make vivid colours ‘washed out’ and put some dirt on the screen. To this day, the pale blue, almost monochromatic shots remain some of the most unusual in the history of Polish cinema.
It took many years for On the Silver Globe to be screened at the cinemas. The censors did not want the creators to complete the film. The production of this pioneering masterpiece was suspended for nine long years.
After the suspension of On the Silver Globe, Jaroszewicz worked on commercials (among others for FSO) and lectured at the Film School. He also worked with Żuławski on other foreign projects. He was a cameraman in The Most Important Thing: Love (1975) and Possession (1981), which was admired by Hollywood artists.
In 1989, together with Żuławski, he filmed Boris Godunov. During his work on the film, he suffered from a heart attack. In this project, he was not only the cinematographer but also the costume designer. When one of the costume transports was stopped at the border, his heart could not hold out. Boris Godunov was completed by the French cameraman Pierre-Laurent Chenieux.
A few months later, Żuławski invited Jaroszewicz to cooperate again. He was preparing to direct The Blue Note (1990) and wanted to do it with his friend. Żuławski did not make much of the warnings about Jaroszewicz’s state.
‘Don’t be silly,’ he said to Jaroszewicz. ‘Are you in or out?’ Jaroszewicz was in.
In an interview with Culture.pl, the cinematographer said:
I wanted to work with him because he proposed an entirely different way of thinking about film. He didn’t fake anything. He made the films he liked. And I liked them too. I’ve made a lot of films in my life, but only films made with Andrzej had an aura of seriousness.
Their film friendship also brought unexpected artistic events. One such situation was when Jaroszewicz appeared as an actor in The Public Woman (1984). When the French trade unions refused to allow a Pole to be the cinematographer for a French film, Żuławski decided to hire him as an actor and pay him the wage he would receive as a cameraman.
After that, he met with Żuławski one more time – in 1996 they made The Shaman, a scandalous film about erotic fascination based on a screenplay by Manuela Gretkowska. In 2002, Jaroszewicz and Żuławski received the Golden Frog award as a directing and cinematography duo at the Camerimage Festival.
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He realised more than 20 films in the 1990s. He was, among other things, the cinematographer of the Marek Piwowski comedy Abduction of Agatha (1992) and Jarosław Żamojda’s sensational Smugglers (1995). In entertainment productions, he expanded his cinematographer’s skillset – he was looking for new staging and technical solutions.
I tried to use language of film to create an interesting story, not just to illustrate a story.
He also worked with the biggest names of classic Polish cinema. In 1999, he directed a TV show titled Bigda Idzie with Andrzej Wajda, and two years later, together with Jerzy Kawalerowicz, he produced Quo Vadis, a film based on Henryk Sienkiewicz’s novel. In an interview with Culture.pl he says:
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Cinema is a gaudy form of entertainment and you can’t forget that. Only sometimes, with guys like Żuławski, one manages to harness it to tell important and unconventional stories.
Andrzej J. Jaroszewicz
łodz film school
Years later, he encountered Andrzej Żuławski’s work on the set once again. In 2018, together with Xawery Żuławski, an excellent director and Andrzej’s son, he stood behind the camera for Bird Talk – a film tribute to Andrzej Żuławski, an adaptation of his final screenplay.
In an interview with Culture.pl, the cinematographer remembers:
On the set I used to say to myself every day: ‘Andrzej would like this’ or ‘we screwed this up, Andrzej would be angry’.
In the interpretation of the younger Żuławski., Bird Talk became a story about the obligations of art, the need for freedom and the fact that cinema can be a mirror reflecting (and sometimes distorting) the truth about the world. Xawery Żuławski’s bold film, possessing an unobvious form, premiered at the Nowe Horyzonty Festival in Wrocław. Earlier, in the spring of 2019, Andrzej J. Jaroszewicz received the Polish Society of Cinematographers’ Lifetime Achievement Award.
Originally written in Polish by Bartosz Staszczyszyn, translated to English by PG, July 2019
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