Bartosz Prokopowicz is a cinematographer and film director. He was born in Łódź on 24th July, 1972.
Cinematographer and film director. Born on 24th July, 1972 in Łódź.
In filmmaking circles it is said that he was born on a film set – his father, Waldemar Prokopowicz, an esteemed Polish assistant director, was working at the time with Jerzy Hoffman on his The Deluge. This cinematic kinship determined the future life choices of both Bartosz and his younger brother Jeremiasz, who is also a cinematographer, working towards the top of both the Polish and European scenes.
Prokopowicz admits, however, that the choice to become a cinematographer was accidental. Having spent plenty of time on film sets, he had the opportunity to become a child actor, however, in spite of attending countless auditions and his privileged position stemming from his father’s association with cinema, his filmography as an actor is surprisingly modest – just one role, in Radosław Piwowarski’s film A Daughter or a Son (1979).
As his high school graduation day was approaching, Prokopowicz began wondering what to do with the rest of his life. Having been educated in music (he graduated from a class for percussion instruments at a music school), he suddenly turned towards photography. After three months of creative experiments, he submitted an application to the Cinematography Department at the Leon Schiller National Higher School of Film, Television and Theatre in Łódź. He was admitted on the first try and started attending the course together with Arkadiusz Tomiak and Małgorzata Łupina; other students who commenced studies in 1991 included the future directors Xawery Żuławski and Grzegorz Pacek.
Even though he was the youngest student in his year, he immediately threw himself into work. Apart from creating his own student short films under the supervision of Witold Sobociński and Jerzy Wójcik, he also worked on the sets of professional feature films, such as for instance One Stone Upon Another (1995), Street Games (1996), Poznań 56 (1996), and Time of Betrayal (1997). Working with, respectively, Ryszard Lenczewski, Łukasz Kośmicki and Krzysztof Ptak, and later with Paweł Edelman (Love Stories, Home Chronicles, and Happy New York) turned out to be an excellent professional training. When he was merely twenty-five years old, he debuted as the main cinematographer on Łukasz Wylężałek’s film The Polish Freeloader. No other Polish cinematographer has debuted this young.
Prokopowicz’s youthful temperament and cinematographic sense is a great testimony to why Wylężałek put so much trust in him, allowing him to debut on The Freeloader. During the filming stage, they walked into a granary whose floor was covered in a thick layer of dust. Strong afternoon light fell in through narrow cracks in the walls. Bartek started stomping on the floor, the dust rose from the ground and the light passed through it, creating beautiful beams of light and instantly transformed the interior beyond recognition, and pumped life, magic, into it.
– Andrzej Bukowiecki, a journalist and expert supporting the Polish art of cinematography, said exclusively for Culture.pl
Cinematography for The Debt (1999) by Krzysztof Krauze was equally intriguing: by shooting by hand, Prokopowicz found a visual equivalent of the dark situation of the protagonists, whom the state’s weakness forced to commit a crime which allowed them to escape a spiral of debt controlled by a petty gangster. This exceptional photography earned him a Golden Duck from Film magazine – a sign of appreciation from cinema-goers who recognized his input into Krauze’s and Wylężałek’s films, as well as Urszula Urbaniak’s The Junction. His cinematography is graphic and punchy, but also quite painterly, creating a hermetic world that is not necessarily real but which nevertheless carries traces of plausibility bordering on documentary. This unique craft turned out to be extremely useful not only on feature film sets, but also in nearly one hundred commercial spots, several music videos, and numerous Television Theatre shows, most of which were directed by Filip Bajon. Bajon also directed The Spring to Come (2001), based on a novel by Stefan Żeromski. In it, Prokopowicz had the opportunity to apply several different conventions on a single set – from low-key, almost intimate scenes, to war imagery of the 1920 Battle of Warsaw and the tumult in the revolution-ridden Baku on the Caspian Sea.
When describing the specifics of Bartosz Prokopowicz’s photographic style, Andrzej Bukowiecki focuses on The Collector, awarded at the Gdynia Film Festival.
The value of that cinematography lies in the coordination of the visual character of individual sequences with life stages of the titular character. That excellent beginning: Lucjan cannot see anything beyond the merciless exaction of debts. He rushes in the direction of an equally fast camera in front of him and authoritatively points to medical equipment which is to be levied from the indebted hospital. And later, when the thus far steady world of the debt collector begins to burst, the camera also slows down, showing – in longer, calmer shots – what he previously did not notice. But these shots are still as energetic.
Dreaming about grand, epic cinema (although not necessarily in Hollywood: ‘I prefer to be among the top ten here than the three-hundredth one over there’, he confessed to Katarzyna Zalewska in Newsweek, no. 12/2003), putting creation above the reflection of reality, he does not shy away from radical achievements. In Projekt X, he travelled across the globe with Bogusław Linda, documenting exotic – and not only – extreme sports that pose a challenge to modern man. Several years later, he accompanied a Polish team of Himalayan climbers on their way to K2, which resulted in the film W cieniu K2 (In the Shadow of K2) (2003).
However, perhaps the most personal film by Bartosz Prokopowicz was the TV documentary Magda, Love and Cancer (2009) by Alina Mrowińska – a story about the cinematographer’s wife and her struggle with a tumour. This is not only a film about a struggle with an illness, but also a story about love helping them survive the most difficult times.
Prokopowicz told the story of his wife once again in the feature film Chemo from 2015. The picture, which premiered at the 50th International Film Festival Karlovy Vary in 2015, was his directing début.
The idea for the film came from the director’s present wife, while the movie – even though inspired by events from his life, was not autobiographical. In it, Prokopowicz escapes realistic poetics and uses animated excerpts to describe how the illness affects the mutual relationship between the characters, how it distances them from one another, often making them egotistic. Prokopowicz paints ruthless portraits of his protagonists – an immature guy who is unable to come to terms with the past, and a sick girl who wants to live the life which she is slowly losing to the fullest.
The lead characters in Chemo were played by Tomasz Schuchardt and Agnieszka Żulewska. The latter received the Zbyszek Cybulski Award for best young female actor.
- 1993 – Drzwi / The Door, cinematography.
- 1993 – Hałda, cinematography.
- 1993 – Hałdy. List otwarty / Hałdy: An Open Letter, director.
- 1993 – QB, cinematography.
- 1994 – Dwie wdowy / Two Widows.
- 1994 – Jak być Hamletem / How to Be Hamlet.
- 1994 – Męzka przygoda(!) / A Male Adventure (!), cinematography.
- 1994 – Na oślep / Headlong, cinematography.
- 1994 – Uciekinierzy / The Runaways, cinematography.
- 1994 – X 2, cinematography.
- 1995 – Klinika lalek / A Doll Clinic, cinematography.
- 1995 – Niemcy. Scenka 5 / Germany: Scene 5, cinematography.
- 1995 – Prawie nic / Almost Nothing, cinematography.
- 1995 – Two Minus One, cinematography.
- 1997 – Taka piękna niedziela / Such a Beautiful Sunday.
- 1993 – Sopocka podróż sentymentalna / A Sentimental Sopot Story, cinematography.
- 1994 – Pasterze na hali / Shepherds in the Pasture, cinematography.
- 1996 – Henryk szuka kobiety / Henryk Seeking a Woman, cinematography.
- 1998 – Oblicza dialogu / The Faces of Dialogue, cinematography.
- 1998 – Projekt X / Project X, cinematography.
- 2000 – Budka Suflera w Nowym Jorku / Budka Suflera in New York, cinematography.
- 2003 – W cieniu K2 / In the Sahdow of K2, cinematography.
- 1997 – Darmozjad polski / The Polish Freeloader, cinematography.
- 1999 – Dług / The Debt, cinematography.
- 1999 – Krugerandy, cinematography.
- 1999 – O dwóch takich, co nic nie ukradli / The Two Who Stole Nothing, cinematography.
- 1999 – Torowisko / The Junction, cinematography. Polish Filmmakers Association Award for the visuals in the film at the Youth and Film Koszalin Film Meetings in 1999.
- 2000 – Strefa ciszy / Quiet Zone, cinematography.
- 2000 – Wielkie rzeczy / Big Things (TV series), cinematography.
- 2000 - Wyrok na Franciszka Kłosa / The Condemnation of Franciszek Kłos (TV), cinematography.
- 2001 – Przedwiośnie / The Spring to Come (TV series 2002), cinematography.
- 2002 – Jak to się robi z dziewczynami / How It’s Done with Girls, cinematography.
- 2005 – Biała sukienka / White Dress (TV, from the series Święta polskie / Polish Holidays), cinematography.
- 2005 – Komornik / The Collector, cinematography.
- 2005 – Solidarność, Solidarność... (novellas: Benzyna / Gas, Krajobraz / Landscape), cinematography.
- 2007 – Korowód / Twists of Fate, cinematography. Award for cinematography at the Gdynia Film Festival 2005.
- 2008 – Kochaj i tańcz / Love and Dance, cinematography.
- 2015 – Chemia / Chemo, director
Author: Konrad J. Zarębski, November 2009, update: BS, January 2015, translated by AM, August 2016.