Film director, camera-operator, screenwriter. He was born in 1936 in Pińsk (in present-day Belarus), died on 22nd June 2016.
Film director, camera-operator, screenwriter.
During the war he stayed in exile in Kazakhstan until 1945, from where he came to Poland with his family to live in Łódź. It was there that in the years 1955-1960 he studied in the Cinematography Department of PWSTiF (State Higher School of Film and Theatre). Also, for a short time, he studied directing (1962) with his younger brother Janusz.At first he made short films, educational films and commemorative editions of the Polish Film Chronicle. He also authored a photograph-comic based on abstract humour, printed in the weekly magazine Przekrój. He was recognized as a creator of comedies based on human emotions. After a few years' break (1974-1979) he returned to filming to create his own, unique style and way of production, often not only the directing, writing and filming, but also wrote the music, edited and designed the sets. He is also a creator of television shows, as well as a producer in his wife’s studio. As an independent producer, he received a honourary Jancio Wodnik (Johnnie Aquarius) award in 1996 at the Prowincjonalia film preview for an accomplished producer of 'provincial' films.
Andrzej Kondratiuk’s production is a unique phenomenon in Polish cinema, as is the producer himself who, as Tadeusz Lubelski put it, 'built up his status as a private director'. Moreover, he emphasises, he achieved that status back in the times of the Polish People's Republic. It is commonly known, that since the mid 1970s, Andrzej Kondratiuk, along with his wife Iga Cembrzyńska – an actress, has lived in the small village of Gzowo, where low-budgeted films are made. They are, to a lesser or greater extent, a record of the director's own life.
Various statements of the director, as Lubelski writes, show that he aimed at achieving that private status from the very beginning. When he was a college student, he already considered ‘indirect’ cinema, which would undermine the very ideals of Wiertowowski – filming the world in the popular at the time ‘cinema direct’ style [...] he dreamt of cinema that would be driven by one’s own creative needs and in line with one’s own plan…
The path to Gzowo led through stylistically inconsistent films. The film Ssaki (Mammals), a short grotesque film based on a story by Andrzej Kondratiuk, and directed by Roman Polański was a significant beginning – they both wrote the script. It is not a coincidence that his films (e.g. Chciałbym się ogolić (I would like to shave) or Nad wielką wodą (Over the great waters) show similarities to Polański’s style. The characters fight the absurd, they try in vain to get out of situational traps, as J. Nowakowski – the monographer of Kondratiuk’s work – points out. However, in the films like Balon (Baloon) and Monolog trębacza (A monologue of a trumpeter) not only are the differences in style evident, but also the attitude to life is different than Polański's. The director of Ssaki goes into humanity’s passion for cruelty, while in Kondratiuk's works, we often see the world and the characters in a tongue-in-cheek style, as well as their warmth and kindness, as Nowakowski calls it. 'The element of humour' as the critic wrote, 'dominates over uneasiness.
In his early films, Kondratiuk looked for his own language, often turning to formal experimentation. In the films Kolorowe kłamstwa (Colourful lies) and Fluidy (Fluids) he used animation. The former follows a character dreaming of pursuing a world in the form of the surrounding people, places and objects in illustrated magazines – women, cars, exotic countries.
In the film Kobiela na plaży (Kobiela on the beach) he used a hidden camera, which was a new element in Poland back then. He creates a series of 15-minute episodes for a TV show "Klub profesora Tutki". According to Tadeusz Lubelski, 'In each episode Gustaw Holoubek, playing the professor would announce benevolent phrases, such as the conclusion that each human fate can be exciting'.
After the series was completed, Kondratiuk was given an opportunity to create his first feature film. Naturally, a feature film offered more possibilities of expression but the director had to reckon with limitations resulting from the political situation in Poland back then. Kondratiuk’s debut, Dziura w ziemi (A hole in the earth), was nothing more than a 'beefed up' minor production. The young producer managed to create a specific atmosphere and base the dialogue on the actors’ improvisation, and in spite of the characters’ frivolity, he showed a piece of reality. Years later, the director could admit that he was requested to create a film 'with good ideals', yet he did not want to be 'artistically embarrassing'.
Hydrozagadka (Hydro-puzzle), which was created shortly after Dziura w ziemi, was a true masterpiece. Kondratiuk seemingly made the film as a parody of a western comic (which almost no one in Poland knew about), but used it to mock the absurdity of Polish reality caused by the dominating system and the economy subjected to it. Years later, the film became 'iconic' for a large group of viewers. The film depicts as water-shortage in Warsaw. This mystery can only by unraveled by Ace, a hero stylised on Superman comics. This comicbook hero saves the capital from the clutches of the maharaja, who intends to steal all the water from the city's pipes.
Another attempt at shifting the style was Skorpion, panna i łucznik (Scorpion, lady and the archer), called post-Bunuelist by the critics. In spite of ambitious plans, the biblically-styled story of betrayal turned out to be a failure – the director himself considers the film as such.
Kondratiuk regained the respect of his viewers when he made the comedy Wniebowzięci. Jan Himilsbach and Zdzisław Maklakiewicz play a couple of friends who win a lot of money in the lottery and decide to do something which they have never been able to until now. They rent a plane and fly around Poland, all the while trying to charm two girls they met.
Andrzej Kondratiuk’s films from that period evidently show similarities to those made within the Czech film school (Forman, Mentzel, Chytilowa) with the ever-so-characteristic melancholy and warm attitude towards the characters who, in spite their humorous doings, can be touching. J. Nowakowski quite rightly finds this similarity in the short films and the ones created later, in the so-called "Gzowo" period.
After the excellent Wniebowzięci, a comedy Jak to się robi (How it's done) with the same two actors was less successful. The director, hiding in solitude, was not heard of for four years, to finally find a new way of artistic expression in a film with a meaningful title "Pełnia". Critics agree that the film is a groundbreaking point in his career. Kondratiuk shows a rare ability to mix realism with mythical creationism. Within often unreal events, he portrays his own life, lives of his loved ones, neighbours and animals that are rightful household members in Gzowo (most of all, the trilogy Cztery pory roku (Four seasons), Wrzeciono czasu and Słoneczny zegar (Sundial). After years of trying, he undoubtedly realized his own vision of cinema, gaining a respectable fanbase and disregarding the voices of criticism, claiming his work to be snobbish and egotistic.
The Gzowo films show a contemplative attitude to the world, a specific way to live through passing time. Aesthetically sophisticated, yet ennobling everyday life. Kondratiuk finds joy in filming the beauty of the world, but his films are full of bitterness flowing from the very essence of existence. His characters rebel against the passage of time, the cruelty of nature, insignificance of their own being, only to eventually accept that state. An important weapon in this struggle is the saving – albeit limited – power of art.
- 1958 - Juvenalia w Łodzi / Juvenalia in Łódź (Documentary film)
- 1958 - Zakochany Pinokio / Pinocchio in love (fiction, with J. Augustyński)
- 1959 - Dedykacja / Inscription (fiction, with M. Kijowski)
- 1959 - Noe (fiction, screenplay with M. Kijowski)
- 1959 - Obrazki z podróży (fiction, screenplay with J. Augustyński). (1960 - nagroda na Festiwalu Etiud PWSTiF)
- 1962 - Nad wielką wodą / Over the great water
- 1963 - Kobiela na plaży / Kobiela on the beach
- 1963 - Niezawodny sposób / Reliable way
- 1967 - Fluidy / Fluids (film concept with Krzysztof Wierzbiański).
Feature films medium-length films:
- 1965 - Monolog trębacza / A monologue of a trumpeter (medium-length film).
- 1966 - Chciałbym się ogolić / I would like to shave
- 1966 - Kolorowe kłamstwa / Colourful lies (animowany wycinankowy).
- 1966 - Klub profesora Tutki / Professor Tutek's club (TV series).
- 1967 - Balon / Baloon (screenplay with Krzysztof Wierzbiański).
- 1970 - Dziura w ziemi / A hole in the Earth (feature-length, screenplay with A. Bonarski).
- 1970 – Hydrozagadka / Water puzzle
- 1972 - Skorpion, panna i łucznik / Scorpion, maid and archer (screenplay with A. Bonarski).
- 1973 - Wniebowzięci (medium-length TV film, screenplay with Jan Himilsbach).
- 1973 - Jak to się robi / How is it done (feature-length, screenplay with Zdzisław Maklakiewicz).
- 1976 – Pełnia / Plenitude
- 1982 - Gwiezdny pył / Stardust
- 1984 - Cztery pory roku / Four seasons
- 1986 - Big Bang
- 1990 - Mleczna Droga / Milky way
- 1991 - Ene...due...like...fake....
- 1993 - Wesoła noc smutnego biznesmena / A cheerful night of a sad businessman
- 1995 - Wrzeciono czasu
- 1997 - Słoneczny zegar / Sundial
- 2001 - Córa marnotrawna / The prodigal daughter
- 2006 - Pamiętnik Andrzeja Kondratiuka / Andrzej Kondratiuk's diary
Moreover, Andrzej Kondratiuk made several TV shows: 1986 Renowacja (written and directed with his brother Janusz), 1987 Alicja, 1987, Palma, 1988 Duodram. He co-wrote the script of Roman Polański’s Ssaki (1962) and his brother’s Czy jest tu panna na wydaniu? (1976), as well as the script writer of his own film Złote runo (Golden Fleece, 1996). He was the director of photography on Agnieszka Osiecka’s film Słoń (Elephant, 1959) and Pamiętnik filmowy Igi C. by Iga Cembrzyńska (2000).
In 2004, a documentary dedicated to Andrzej Kondratiuk was produced: Andrzej Kondratiuk - próba wywiadu (directed by Joanna Cichocka-Gul and Joanna Strzemieczna-Wielczyk).
Author: Ewa Nawój, July 2003, updated filmography: July 2009.