A film and theatre director, writer of film scripts, stage plays, television plays, and radio dramas; also a painter and graphic artist. Born in 1941 in Stanisławów.
A film and theatre director, writer of film scripts, stage plays, television plays, and radio dramas; also a painter and graphic artist.
A graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw (1966) and the National Film, Television and Theatre School (PWSFTviT) in Łódź, from which he graduated in directing in 1974. He debuted as a theatre director in 1978 with August Strindberg's Dance of Death at the Teatr im. Jaracza in Łódź. His television debut was the short Nocleg / Overnight in 1973, and in 1977 he debuted on the silver screen with Wodzirej / Top Dog, a film whose title became a long-lasting symbol of people's mentality in that era. Falk was an active visual artist until the early 1980's, when he bid farewell to that profession, though recently he has not been unwilling to exhibit paintings created all those years ago. Among other jobs, he worked in the monthly "Magazyn Polski" as a layout editor. In later years, he was a lecturer at the Łódź film school. In 1991-2005, he was a film producer, co-owner of the Fokus Film studio.
Feliks Falk has won a number of major filmmaking awards. W środku lata / At the Height of Summer brought him a special mention at the San Remo International Film Festival in 1976. In 1986, Bohater roku" / "Hero of the Year won him the directing award at the Polish Feature Film Festival in Gdynia, and at the same festival in 1993, another directing award, this time for Samowolka / A.W.O.L.. In 1987 Feliks Falk received an award for lifetime achievement in script writing at the Lubuski Film Festival in Łagów. His latest success is Komornik / The Collector, which has won him awards in 2006 that include the "Eagle" Polish Film Award for best director and the ecumenical jury's award at the IFF in Berlin.
Feliks Falk's name is inseparably linked to the term "cinema of moral anxiety", coined in the mid-1970's to designate films that undertook the difficult task, given the political situation at the time, of diagnosing the Polish reality. Cinema of moral anxiety was created by young filmmakers of the day, to mention Agnieszka Holland with her Aktorzy prowincjonalni / Provincial Actors, Feliks Falk and his Top Dog, and older filmmakers such as Krzysztof Zanussi, director of Barwy ochronne" / "Camouflage. These films, unwillingly tolerated by the authorities, were highly appreciated by the public.
Cinema of moral anxiety ... gave people not just encouragement, but also satisfaction that someone was trying to tell the truth on their behalf, says the director of Top Dog and its continuation, Hero of the Year, today.
(Interview for Przemysław Szubartowicz, Przegląd, 8 /2006)
The imposition of martial law in 1981 brought an end to this trend, and then the transformation of 1989 eliminated its natural reference point, namely the communist reality and the mentality of the people who lived in it, some of them losers and helpless in life, others seemingly winners, but morally stunted.
These productions, which became cult films for the social role they played, most often failed the artistic quality test when re-evaluated years later. The passage of time and political changes laid bare the short-term nature of this kind of journalistic cinema. The entire trend was criticized, for example in Maria Kornatowska's book "Wodzireje i amatorzy" (1990).
Feliks Falk's latest famous film The Collector has revived the seemingly long-finished discussion about cinema of moral anxiety. The critics were almost unanimous in seeing the protagonist, Lucek Bohme, as a new, capitalist incarnation of Lutek Danielak from Top Dog and Hero of the Year. "I have not made a 'Top Dog 3' ", the director insisted in an interview granted to Konrad Zarębski ("Kino" 10/2005), though at the same time he admitted that he took on the script by Grzegorz Łoszewski because the hero reminded him of the character from his most famous film. Another reason was that, as often happened with the cinema of moral anxiety, he noticed a disturbing social situation in the script.
In reality though, Feliks Falk emphasizes, this is no 'Top Dog', even the opposite. Lutek Danielak was an evil man fully intentionally, he did everything for the sake of his career, he fought for his position. Here - I think - I have managed to show something different. For the sake of what he associates with good and the law, the hero of 'The Collector' does evil. Compared to 'Top Dog', this is a rather perverse conclusion, just like the whole story in fact. 'Top Dog' was more one-dimensional.
Indeed, Top Dog, with excellent acting by Jerzy Stuhr, was the story of a man who mindlessly accepted the rules of the reality in which he lived, and in accordance with those rules, not shrinking from the worst vileness nor from any deed that was humiliating for him, climbed the rungs of the career ladder. Lucek Bohme from The Collector is a more complex character than his predecessor, not only because he undergoes a moral transformation, but also because he commits evil while rigorously following the law and - it would seem - moral principles. Bribes disgust him, contrary to most people from his community, who are in fact more like Danielak than he is. He turns into a man despised primarily by these people, and ultimately falls victim to their plotting aimed at neutralizing Lucek, pulling him down to their level.
Lucek is one of the most fascinating characters in Polish cinema in recent years, wrote one critic. Played with bravado by Andrzej Chyra, he combines the qualities of a demonic monster devoid of any remnants of human feeling and a hurt child getting his own back on his father for pain he suffered years ago.
(Bartosz Staszczyszyn Tygodnik Powszechny, 45/2005)
Though the protagonist of The Collector is undoubtedly a more interesting character than the hero of Top Dog, many people have said that The Collector is not an equally good film. All its merits notwithstanding, unlike Top Dog this is a stylistically uneven picture, very realistic in its portrayal of the gloomy reality, but at the same time surreal and metaphorical in parts, which can interfere with the reception of the whole.
With this picture, though, Feliks Falk has created an interesting frame for his earlier output, at the start of which was the success of Top Dog, and - interestingly - he has shown that the stance taken by filmmakers in the 1970's does not necessarily have to be completely outdated in the new era, despite widespread views to that effect.
Between the films about Lutek Danielak and Lucek Bohme, Feliks Falk made other films, a few of which attracted the attention of critics and audiences in their time. First and foremost, there is Był jazz / And All That Jazz, a nostalgic story, though not without its bitter political context, about a band in the 1950's; there is also The Idol and A.W.O.L..
For many years Feliks Falk's film career progressed rather unevenly, one could say, with good films as well as less interesting ones, and even periods of the director's absence from the film market, a time that he partly filled by directing stage productions in various cities in Poland as well as the Television Theatre. Nevertheless he is a director who displays a certain consistency in his interests. In his films one can find an unceasing fascination with situations - to put it briefly - in which the heroes are the victims or, just the opposite, the driving forces of manipulation. This is also true of the films by other directors for which Falk wrote the scripts, to mention Wielki bieg / The Big Race, or Baryton / The Baritone. At the same time, he refers to political life as well as everyday interpersonal relationships - in the professional field, one example being Szansa / Chance, and even in the emotional sphere. Examples of the latter include Koniec gry / Game is Over and Lato miłości / Summer of Love.
According to Feliks Falk it is impossible to recreate the situation of 1970s cinema, a time when important films in the moral concern genre were made. The director attempted to replicate the unique relation between the film creator and the audience in Komornik" / "The Collector. The director's view of that period is now more complex.
I was raised in the Polish Peoples' Republic and I am aware of its many sides, Falk said in an interview with Barbara Hollender. I do not have to defend that system because I already have expressed my opinions about it in my films. But I do not agree with all of the judgments. Simplifications, which appear often, annoy me just as much as the one-dimensional view of that period. The army of young historians and politicians who were not even alive back then and who know about the period only from indirect sources, blur the true image in the name of some contrived moral ideology and settling of accounts. The image of the interwar period was distorted in People's Poland, and now you do not show the many complexities of the time of the Polish People's Republic. I find this troubling. I would like to see a fuller image of that reality in films today.
Falk added in the interview that Enen / Case Unknown was such an attempt. He presented the film in the form of a thriller using mystery and tension, in order to attract young people.
Falk's last film up to date is Joanna (2010), a drama set in Kraków during the German occupation. It tells the story of a woman who hides a little Jewish girl in her home. Tadeusz Sobolewski wrote in his review:
This intimate, purposefully old fashioned film has a clear tone, so rare in modern Polish cinema. Good and evil are not hidden by masks put by the collective. Joanna was made as a reaction to the contemporary, when questions like morality and faith are put on flags of a nation or a party. Falk makes them personal. It is a Christian point of view. The good is lonely, the virtue is hidden under the veil of sin, the sacrifice remains unrecognised - these are all evangelical paradoxes. When we see Christmas lights in occupied Cracow from this perspective, the holiday from which Joanna is banned, become an empty ritual ("Gazeta Wyborcza", 27.11.2010).
as a director and script writer:
- 1973 - Nocleg" / "Overnight. A man spending the night at the home of strangers is attacked.
- 1975 - Aktorka" / "The Actress in Obrazki z życia" / "Pictures from Life - the second of seven shorts by different directors (according to a script by Andrzej Kotkowski, based on the feature articles of Jerzy Urban). At a provincial community centre a man claiming to be an agent introduces a young girl dreaming of an acting career as a professional actress.
- 1975 - W środku lata" / "At the Height of Summer - a slightly bored married couple are spending a holiday at a lakeside forester's lodge. Influenced by the stories she hears, the woman succumbs to an irrational feeling of being trapped and an atmosphere of unease. She becomes involved in a love affair provoked by the place and the situation. (Awards: 1976 - San Remo, International Film Festival - special mention)
- 1977 - Wodzirej" / "Top Dog. Lutek Danielak, who works as an MC at various events, dreams of leading a prestigious ball. To achieve his goal, he eliminates his rivals. He destroys his relationship and his friendships for the sake of his career. (1978 - Lagow, Lubuskie Film Summer - Golden Grape, Don Kichot - Award of the Polish Federation of Film Societies)
- 1979 - Obok" / "Next Door - television film. The hero, an engineer for whom the most important thing in life is his career, treats other people unscrupulously. Emotionally, he is indifferent. At a hotel on a business trip, he meets his father whom he hasn't seen for a long time, and who wants to renew his relations with his son. The father dies during the night in the room next door. The son could have saved him if his attitude towards others had not been so lacking in empathy.
- 1979 - Szansa" / "Chance. An authoritarian and fanatical PE teacher against the history teacher at a secondary school. Another portrayal of someone striving for success at any price who doesn't care about others.
- 1981 - Był jazz" / "And All That Jazz - comedy drama. The script bears references to the story of a legendary 1950's jazz band called Melomani, established by a group of friends who dared to play "imperialistic" music that the authorities of the time did not accept. One of the leading members of the real-life band was Witold Sobociński who went on to become a cameraman - he was the cinematographer in Falk's film.
- 1984 - Idol" / "The Idol (dialogues with Krzysztof Zaleski). The late 1960's. A young journalist writing a story about a writer who died in exile falls into an excessive fascination with his idol, losing his own personality and adopting poses borrowed from the deceased writer, and even having an affair with the dead man's lover. A loose reference to the life of Marek Hłasko, an idol for many followers. (Awards: 1984 - Koszalin, Youth and Film Festival - Great Amber Grand Prix; Gdynia, Polish Feature Film Festival - Award of the Polish Jazz Archive)
- 1986 - Bohater roku" / "Hero of The Year. The 1980's. Lutek Danielak, who once worked in the entertainment business, finds himself out on the street, and tries to return to the entertainment section of television. He invents a programme and chooses a hero for it, an ordinary man whom he manipulates, only to realize that he is also being manipulated by the propaganda experts. (1986 - Gdynia, Polish Feature Film Festival - award for best director; 1987 - Moscow, International Film Festival - jury's special award and the award of the Soviet Filmmakers' Association)
- 1986 - Nieproszony Gość" / "Uninvited Guest (dialogues with Jerzy Stuhr) - television film. A classic example of a tale about how a situation of danger and imprisonment becomes a catalyst revealing things that the heroes usually keep deeply hidden. A married couple and their friends are terrorized in their home by a criminal.
- 1989 - Kapitał, czyli jak zrobić pieniądze w Polsce..." / "Capital, or How to Make Money in Poland... In grotesque comedy form, a tale about the first period of the Polish transformations of 1989. A young sociologist returns from abroad and attempts to multiply the money he has scraped together in the West by trying out even the most absurd ideas for a business venture.
- 1991 - Koniec gry" / "Game is Over (script written with Maciej Karpiński). Janusz, an employee of the control department in a supermarket, falls in love with an older woman, an attractive kleptomaniac pursuing a political career whom he has caught shoplifting. To seduce her, he resorts to blackmail. She pays him in his own coin, setting a trap and filming the blackmail scene. Both lose the chance for a genuine relationship. The heroine's political success cannot make up for it.
- 1993 - Samowolka" / "A.W.O.L. (script: Piotr Kokociński in association with the director). The 1990's. A film about bullying in the armed forces. Older soldiers bully conscripts, gaining sadistic pleasure from the power they have over them. (Awards: 1993 - Gdynia, Polish Feature Film Festival - award for best director)
- 1994 - Lato miłości" / "Summer of Love (based on the short story "Nathalie" by Ivan Bunin). Russia at the end of the 19th century. The story of the erotic initiation of a young boy, written out for a love triangle. During the holidays a medical student has an affair with his cousin at his uncle's manor. To conceal their relationship from the family, she persuades him to start an affair with another young woman, a Polish girl staying at the manor. One of the two women is the embodiment of passion, the other - of spirituality.
- 1995 - Daleko od siebie" / "Far from the Other (script written with Maciej Karpiński). Psychological drama. The 1990's. On a trip to Lviv, businessman and art historian Michał accidentally meets the love of his student years and the eight-year-old son he didn't know about. Yielding to his fond memories, he invites them both to Poland, but the woman is killed in a criminal assault during the journey. Michał thinks about putting his son in a children's home, failing to appreciate the bond between them. When he realizes this, it is probably too late because his son has run away, wanting to get back to Lviv.
- 2000 - Twarze i maski" / "Faces and Masks (also as executive producer) - an eight-episode television drama with history in the background. It is set in theatrical circles, between 1974 and 2000. The characters are actors from a Warsaw theatre, and the storyline focuses on their professional and private lives. Each episode is set in a particular year associated with specific political events.
- 2005 - Krótka historia jednej tablicy" / "Short Story of One Blackboard in Solidarność, Solidarność... - one of 13 ten-minute etudes made by the same number of directors to mark the anniversary of August 1980. This is a bitter satire about the fate of Jerzy Janiszewski's poster featuring the well-known lettering spelling "Solidarność", which used to be the symbol of the independent trade union, to become no more than an item put up for auction years later.
- 2005 - Komornik" / "The Collector (script: Grzegorz Łoszewski). Lucek Bohme, a debt collector, is a thorn in his colleagues' flesh. He is professionally successful without resorting to corruption like they do. He is also completely devoid of any sentiment, the terror of all debtors. He begins to change when he meets the love of his school days. He suffers a breakdown when his debt collector's ruthlessness causes a debtor to commit suicide. As a result of his colleagues' plotting, he is accused of accepting a bribe. The situation leads him to behave irrationally when he tries to make amends. (Awards: 2005 - Gdynia, Polish Feature Film Festival - Golden Lions Grand Prix; 2006 - Berlin, International Film Festival - award of the Ecumenical Jury, "Eagle" Polish Film Award for best director, for 2005, Września, "Prowincjonalia" Polish National Festival of Film Art - "Jańcio Wodnik" main award)
- 2009 - Enen" / "Case Unknown in cinemas starting September 2009 (script co-written with Agnieszka Holland). During the evacuation of a psychiatric hospital caused by a huge flood, a young doctor meets a mysterious patient whose identity is unknown: NN (enen). Intrigued, he makes attempts to treat him and find out who NN is. He risks not only his career but also the daily life of his family, and the safety of his loved ones. Did he, in an attempt to bring help, wake up the devil?
- 2010 - Joanna the film returns to the period of The Second World War. The heroine, a war widow decides to take a young hiding Jewish girl under her care. When a German officer learns about her secret, to save the child the woman has an affair with him. This brings public hatred upon her as well as the punishment of the underground organisation. Opens in cinemas November 2010.
- script writer:
- 1976 - Zdjęcia próbne / Screen Tests, dir. Agnieszka Holland, Paweł Kędzierski, Jerzy Domaradzki (co-writer of the script together with the three directors)
- 1980 - Laureat / The Laureate, dir. Jerzy Domaradzki
- 1981 - Wielki bieg / The Big Race, dir. Jerzy Domaradzki (script with J. Domaradzki)
- 1984 - Baryton / The Baritone, dir. Janusz Zaorski (Awards: 1985 - Gdańsk, Polish Feature Film Festival - award for best script)
- 1995 - Dyskretny urok salonów polskich w Paryżu / The Discreet Charm of Polish Salons in Paris (script: Ryszard Kaczyński)
- 1995 - Dyskretny urok salonów polskich poza Paryżem / The Discreet Charm of Polish Salons Outside Paris (script: R. Kaczyński)
- 1997 - Było i już / That's How It Was (directing and script with Teresa Torańska)
- 1999 - O Donnie Barbie i maestro / Donna Barbie and the Maestro (script with Marek Miller)
- 1971 - Pytania / Questions
- 1971 - Zdarzenie / The Event
- 1972 - Siła przebicia / Pushing Forward
Television Theatre productions
playwright and director:
- 1975 - Napad / The Robbery (play written and directed with Janusz Dymek)
- 2000 - Razem / Together
- 2003 - Powtórka / Repeat
- 1978 - Pelikan / The Pelican by August Strindberg
- 1987 - Klub / The Club by David Williamson
- 1989 - Ryszard III / Richard III by William Shakespeare
- 1991 - Audiencja / Audience by Vaclav Havel
- 1991 - Protest by Vaclav Havel
- 1991 - Demokracja / Democracy by Josif Brodski
- 1993 - Mamut / Ice Age by Tankred Dorst
- 1995 - Chwila szczęścia / Time of My Life by Alan Ayckbourn
- 1971 - Przyjęcie / The Party, dir. Janusz Dymek
- 1978 - Azyl dla bandyty / Refuge for a Criminal, dir. Bogdan Augustyniak
- 1978 - Przysługa / Favour, dir. J. Dymek
- 1980 - Kiedy się ze mną podzielisz? / When Will You Share with Me?, dir. Ryszard Bugajski
- 1987 - Węzęł / The Knot, dir. Kazimierz Kutz
- 1989 - Aktorki / Actresses, dir. Sławomir Kryński
- 1997 - Koncert / The Concert, dir. J. Dymek
- 1999 - Samoobrona / Self-Defence, dir. Sylwester Chęciński
Feliks Falk has also directed plays at various theatres, including:
Teatr im. Jaracza in Łódź: August Strindberg's Taniec śmierci / Dance of Death (1978), Edward Redliński's Pustaki [Bricks] (1980), David Williamson's Przeprowadzka / The Removalists (1981), David Williamson's The Club (1983), Ireneusz Iredyński's Kreacja / Creation (1985), Anthony Burgess' Mechaniczna pomarańcza / The Clockwork Orange (1991),
Teatr Powszechny in Warsaw: Vaclav Havel's Audience, Wernisaż / Private View and Protest (1981 and 1989),
Teatr Wybrzeże in Gdańsk: Arthur Miller's Śmierć komiwojażera / Death of a Salesman (1992), Gregory Burke's Ulica Gagarina / Gagarin Way (2003),
Teatr Polski in Wrocław: Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz's Matka Joanna od Aniołów / Mother Joan of the Angels (1993),
Teatr Ateneum in Warsaw: David Mamet's Oleanna (1994),
Teatr Współczesny im. Wiercińskiego in Wrocław: Eugene Ionesco's Łysa śpiewaczka / The Bald Soprano (1994),
Teatr "Scena Prezentacje" in Warsaw: Woody Allen's Seks nocy letniej / A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (2002).
Author: Ewa Nawój, April 2006.
Updated November 2010.