Film actress referred to as the ‘First Lady of Polish Cinema’ and ‘The Eastern Catherine Deneuve’. Born in 1938 in Warsaw.
Film actress referred to as the 'First Lady of Polish Cinema' and 'The Eastern Catherine Deneuve'. Born in 1938 in Warsaw.
She worked with such major directors as Andrzej Wajda (her former husband), Tadeusz Konwicki, Wojciech Jerzy Has, Andre Delvaux, László Mészáros, Claude Lelouch, Costa-Gavras. She was given many distinguished titles: ‘The First Lady of Polish cinema’, ‘Angel of the People’s Republic’, ‘The Eastern Catherine Deneuve’, ‘The Tsarina of Slavic Cinema’.
Beata Tyszkiewicz studied at the Warsaw Academy of Dramatic Arts for only a year, but she went on to enjoy an illustrious career in Poland and other countries in Europe. She is the only actress in Poland to exclusively have a film career. She played theatrical roles only at the very beginning of her career, but found she did not like the ‘daily struggle with the same character’.
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I cannot really imagine having children and leaving home every day at six in the evening and come back at eleven. Besides, I’m spoiled working for the cinema – a film is made once and then it’s working for us for a lifetime. Every time the curtain opens in the theatre, it’s the same thing all over again. Such a repetition would be too monotonous for me.
Film No. 12/1996
Tyszkiewicz became involved in film acting by chance. She was a high school student when an assistant to director Antoni Bohdziewicz was in Warsaw schools looking for young candidates for the role of Klara in an adaptation of Aleksander Fredro’s Zemsta (1956). Countess Tyszkiewicz, with classic beauty, grace and refinement resulting from her noble roots and upbringing, was the perfect fit to play a noble young lady of the manor. Thanks to the role of Klara, the young actress stopped pursuing a career and her studies, and despite the lack of a formal education, she embarked on a lifetime of acting.
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A lot depends on the first roles. You can be pigeon-holed as an actor. So the filmmakers saw in me a mature, brave young lady of the manor, then a proud hero in ‘Zaduszek’ by (Tadeusz) Konwicki. This is how my film image was created.
TeleRzeczpospolita No. 2, 30 January 1997
Indeed, she did not play the same roles as her contemporaries. She was Maria Walewska in Marysia i Napoleon (1966), Princess Elizabeth in Popioły (1965), Izabela Łęcka in Lalka (1968), and later also Ewelina Hańska in Wielka Miłość Balzaka. The beautiful and proud, warm and lyrical actress bestowed the role a whole charm of long-gone eras. In the 1960s, there was a rise in classic works of literature turned into films, and there was none better than Beata Tyszkiewicz to play the female parts. She also played such characters not only in Polish films, Andrei Konchalovsky cast her in the role of the Varvara Pavlovna in A Nest of Gentry based on the novel by Ivan Turgenev.
These roles brought her immense popularity, but the actress also dreamed about complex psychological roles. ‘I liked those characters’, she said, ‘but they were based on literature. I had to fit them only to the imagination of the viewers. Not compete with them, at most, try to dominate them. She went on to play interesting roles in Andrzej Wajda’s Wszystko na Sprzedaż (Everything for Sale) and Zbigniew Kamiński’s Niewdzięczności.
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There are intuitive actors, like (Tadeusz) Fijewski and (Jan) Kurnakowicz. There are also actors extremely creative ones like Wojciech Pszoniak and Tadeusz Łomnicki. Their art is not as simple as playing (a role). They surpass the actor’s task, they can create a whole new level. I am still some way off from that kind of acting. I try to boost the sensitivity and intelligence of the viewer to the utmost of my own sensitivity and intelligence. I try to communicate my thoughts and emotions. I would be most interested in non-speaking roles. There’s a scene in ‘Niewdzięcznośc’ by Kamiński (where I play the daughter of a very dominant mother) when the mother says she loves me. I tried to act – a reaction without words to show how difficult it is for me to love, and that this overwhelms me, even though, of course, I also love my mother. I had no qualms to make myself older for this role – that in my mind was necessary to play a daughter dominated by a pretentious mother. I did everything to defend the character I played.
Film No. 12/1996
For a long time, critics could not describe the phenomenon of her acting. Reviews were at first casual, limited to admiration for the actress’s freshness, beauty and charm, then drawing attention to the delicate eroticism of her mature womanhood. Only thirty years after her debut were such words written about her talents:
Beata possesses a gift which only a few big stars and prominent actresses have – like Romy Schneider, Annie Girardot, Faye Dunaway – the gift of saturating each film, creating a particularly intimate atmosphere, to impact the viewer directly, sometimes without an on-screen partner. Every gesture of the actress is infinitely true, no word is empty. And the characters created by them are every man’s dream: they are experienced, fair in their assessments, but able to forgive, combine the gentleness of mature female eroticism, and discovering their secrets is as exciting as reading a detective story...
Jacek Tabęcki in Iluzjon No. 1-2/1989
Books and websites covering her oeuvre list more than one hundred films and five television shows. She has played in films in both East and West Germany, Hungary, Russia, India and France where she lived for a time.
I’m not tied to my own work. I never owned my filmography, I do not even own cassettes of films in which I played. Maybe because I never played anything which really characterised me. If someone wanted to be my agent today and wanted to present my work, what would he actually show? Where are these roles?
TeleRzeczpospolita, No. 2, 30 January 30, 1997
Over the years, she has very successfully played characteristic roles in dramas and comedy, such as her roles in Juliusz Machulski’s films: Bern in Seksmisja (1984), Countess Żwirska in Vabank II (1985), Lady in the bazaar in Kingsajz (1987). She played in a few romantic comedies – she was the main protagonist’s aunt in of the first Polish romcoms, Piotr Wereśniak’s Zakochani (In Love, 2000). She also played a similar part in Nie Kłam, Kochanie (Don’t lie, Darling, 2008) by the same director. On a more serious note, she worked on Jacek Bławut’s Jeszcze Nie Wieczór (Before Twilight, 2009) alongside Jan Nowicki, Danuta Szaflarska and Nina Andrycz. The action takes place in the retirement home for actors in Skolimów.
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The lead is Jan Nowicki, delightfully biased, decadent and vulgar. And yet, filled with wild vitality, when he plays the role of McMurphy, the ringleader mental (and physical) revolution, in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. There is also a hidden monster in the closet (though at her own request) – Beata Tyszkiewicz, who invites her admirers to play with her with a noble gesture. All actors play a version of themselves, a projection of their role. Their private and professional choices are reflected in the mirror of art.
Michał Walkiewicz, Filmweb, 20.03.2009
Tyszkiewicz also appeared in Mitja Okorn’s popular comedy Listy do M. (Letters to M, 2011) and in Jerzy Skolimowski’s 11 Minutes (2015).
She also tried her luck in sitcoms. Polish private TV network wrote two telenovelas especially for her – a present-day continuation the novel Helena Mniszkówna Trędowata (1999) and Izabella, partly based on the actress’s life (2000). She appeared in popular productions of TVN channel – Magda M., Teraz albo Nigdy (Now or never) and Niania (The Nanny).
In addition to acting, Beata Tyszkiewicz is also interested in photography and writing. She exhibited photographs – of her daughters – which opened in the Zachęta Gallery in Warsaw and was exhibited in exhibition halls around the country. She wrote columns for Katowice’s Trybuna Robotnicza and Łódź’s Wiadomości Dnia. In the early 1990s, she had her own fashion TV show, Naprawdę Jaka Jesteś... (The real You...) emitted on TVP2. Since 1994 she has been the president of the Polish Cultural Foundation to promote the work of young artists in various fields. In 2004, she published a personal memoir entitled Nie Wszystko na Sprzedaż (Not Everything is for Sale) – a pun on the title of one of her more famous films Everything for Sale directed by Andrzej Wajda. She was also a judge on the TVN show Dancing with the Stars.
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I like actors, those who once were, and the kind which Fellini saw, vividly presenting the buffoonery of professional acting. We all see ourselves in his films and characters, with references to our childhood, our parents, our helplessness, loneliness and love. (His actors) are dressed in the colourful fabric of our memories and dreams to dance and sing, shed tears and carry on laughing about their lives. This is the way actors should be: comedians.
Film No. 12/1996
first lady of polish cinema
- 1975 – Award of the Committee for Radio and Television for her role in the series “Polskie drogi”
- 1995 – President’s Council Award for “outstanding contribution to film art in the twentieth century” at the XIX International Film Festival in Moscow
- Special Jury Prize at the XXI Polish Film Festival in Gdynia for her role of Berta Sonnenbruch in the film “Germans” by Zbigniew Kamiński
- 1997 – The French Legion of Honour
- 2008 – Golden Medal of Merit to Culture ‘Gloria Artis’.
Written by Joanna Lenartowicz, updated by NMR, November 2016.