Actress. Born on the 1st of March 1920 in Lvov, died on the 24th of January 2007 in Poznań. Daughter of actor Ferdynand Feldman and opera singer Katarzyna Feldman. Home Army messenger during World War II.
A student of the actor and director Janusz Strachocki, her acting training took her to the theatre and the silver screen. She also served as a home Army messenger during WW II.
Table of contents: | Beginnings | Theatre Career | Film Career | Role of Her Life | Television |
In 1937 Feldman passed an extramural acting examination at the Warsaw National Institute of Theatre Art (PIST) after a period of preparation under the Lvov teacher, actor and director Janusz Strachocki. On September 1st of the same year she debuted at the Lvov Town Theatre, playing the part of a boy in the fairy tale Kwiat paproci / Fern's Flower directed by Janusz Warnecki. She continued to play at the Town Theatre until 1939. In 1939 to 1941 she ran the Workers' Theatre in Zimna Woda, in 1944 to 1945 was an actress at the Polish Drama Theatre in Lvov and in 1945 to 1946 performed at the Stanisław Wyspiański Śląski Theatre in Katowice. Later she appeared at the Opole Theatre(1946-47), Jelenia Góra Town Theatre (1947-8) and Szczecin Polish Theatre (1949-50). She then moved to Łódź, joining the town's Nowy Theatre in 1950 to 1952 and 1953 to 1963 and Powszechny Theatre in 1952 to 1953 and 1963 to 1968. She was on board of the Ludowy Theatre in Nowa Huta in 1968 to 1972 and of the Polski Theatre and Współczesny Theatre in Szczecin in 1972 to 1975. While in Szczecin, she appeared in the monodrama Listy Krystyny Wituskiej / Krystyna Wituska's Letters at the Krypta Theatre inside the Pomeranian Dukes' Castle. In 1975 to 1976 she performed at the Jan Kochanowski Theatre in Opole, then moved to the Poznań Polski Theatre (1976-83). She had been associated with Poznań's Nowy Theatre since 1983, and in 1982 to 1988 was an artistic tutor at the local Puls Theatre.
You will have a problem listing all of Feldman's roles in her long theatre career. An outstanding actress, she successfully played all the parts, from Hesia in Moralność Pani Dulskiej / The Morality of Mrs. Dulska and Jester in The Winter's Tale to the mute Lala in Narzeczony Beaty / Beata's Fiance to Chochoł in Wesele / The Wedding. She also appeared in Janusz Wiśniewski's production of Modlitwa chorego przed nocą / The Prayer of a Sick Man Before the Night. Although she was very much praised for this role, it was not her favourite kind of theatre, Feldman confessed in Tadeusz Żukowski's book Krystyna Feldman albo Festiwal Tysiąca i Jednego Epizodu / Krystyna Feldman or a Festival of a Thousand and One Bit Parts (Poznan 2001),
I walked bent (...) and from time to time shouted out my line 'Seize this moment, for it will go away!' (...) Initially I would walk in awfully heavy, hobnailed booths. I put out these theatrical legs like in a parade, stomped, and had to move my arms to the right and to the left in a strange fashion. …The purpose of that was never explained to me. …I, however, need to know my purpose, my function in a play, and its purpose.
Feldman made her film debut in a bit part, playing a bigot in Celuloza / Cellulose (Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 1953). In fact, it was bit parts that she played in almost seventy films in which she appeared. Robert Jaworski and Maciej Maniewski wrote,
She is a masterful actress of significant bit parts, playing eccentric, bizarre characters. Defined by her appearance rather than by her personality or the scale of her feelings, she never shirked the crudeness of her characters - she could not have - yet her extraordinary craftsmanship and originality have always caught the viewers' attention. (Kino No. 01, 1993).
This is what Feldman said about her roles,
A bit part is a projection of a highly condensed and compact, yet complete character, of an entire, living person. You need to hit a score in a little scene. …The actor needs to enter the character and to enjoy it. I create his inner life, absorbing it into myself. I experience the character as 'me', for it has something of my temperament and of my personality. …A bit part neither limits the actor nor diminishes him in any way. (Kino No. 07/08, 1998)
Feldman does not divide roles into leading, supporting, and bit parts. She said,
All roles are roles. ...You cannot play any old how. There is a purpose to a bit part, and so you need to make the most of it, even more so than in a lead role. (Przekroj No. 23-25, 2004)
Maciej Maniewski analysed Feldman's acting in the following way
She calls herself a character actress, perceiving variety at the core of this term. Indeed, the diversity of her film incarnations is amazing, spanning completely different types and characters, epochs and environments, conventions and genres. …Krystyna Feldman has successfully diversified characters within the same type, lending them unique, individual traits. Take the type of the bigot. Feldman's suggestive acting in her 1953 film debut encouraged other directors to cast her in such roles several times, the bigot becoming her flagship character for quite a long period. She played the part in Kalosze szczęścia / Lucky Wellingtons (Antoni Bohdziewicz, 1958), Awantura o Basię / The Row about Basia (Maria Kaniewska, 1959), Piekło i Niebo / Heaven and Hell (Stanisław Różewicz, 1966), Czerwone i Złote / Red and Gold (Stanislaw Lenartowicz, 1969). Each of the characters was different: spiritual, dangerous, meek, haughty, silly, opinionated. (Film No. 10, 2004 ).
Given her unflagging sense of humour and youthful temperament, Feldman was often staffed in comedies. She was the cat owner in Kryptonim Nektar / Codename nectar (Leon Jeannot, 1963), activist of Naprzód in Święta Wojna / Holy War (Julian Dziedzina, 1965), nurse in Sublokator / The Lodger (Janusz Majewski, 1966), Miss Klara in Dzięcioł / The Woodpecker (Jerzy Gruza, 1970). Maciej Maniewski wrote,
Using balanced, though powerful and sometimes over-expressive means of expression, Feldman takes her little acting story beyond the role and generates friendly emotions despite having to play negative or ambivalent characters. This came across as early as in her first important film role, that of Hela Fabiańczykowa, an infantile and extremely naïve simpleton from Głos z tamtego świata / A Voice from the Other World (Stanisław Różewicz, 1962). While sticking throughout the role to all of Hela's attributes, Feldman gradually forces the viewer to see her protagonist in a different light - as a woman ruthlessly taken advantage of by a cunning fraudster. A touch of warm irony coloured with black humour and a bit of skepticism lends the character an original tone. (Film No. 25, 1989).
The film industry discovered Feldman for good in the 1980s. Radosław Piwowarski cast her in several interesting roles. She played the nosy, though well-meaning neighbour of the Krukowski family in the three episodes - Mgiełka / The Mist, Chłopaki / Boys and Raz Kozie Śmierć / You Only Die Once - of his series Jan Serce / Jan the Heart (1981); she was an eccentric bigot, Ring's aunt in Yesterday (1984); and a dreamy Ms Krysia, a guard in the Dream Factory, in Pociąg Do Hollywood / The Train to Hollywood (1987). She also played in films directed by Andrzej Barański: Magotka the aggressive drunk in Nad rzeką której nie ma / By the River Nowhere (1991), Agata the beggar in Dwa Księżyce / Two Moons (1993); Józefa the servant shadowing her mistress (played by Nina Andrycz) in Horror w Wesołych Bagniskach / Horror in Happy Swamp (1995).
Role of Her Life
Yet it was not until 2004 that Feldman appeared in a lead role that has also turned out to be the role of her life, playing the male naive painter Nikifor in Krzysztof Krauze's Mój Nikifor/ My Nikifor. It was not her first male role; she had debuted in such a role in 1937 as well as playing Kostek in Pedagogical Poem after Anton Makarenko, Ciuciumkiewicz in Dom Otwarty / Open House after Michał Bałucki, and Procurer in Metamorphosis after Franz Kafka. Magdalena Lukaszewicz wrote,
Nobody thought it strange for Krauze to announce that a woman would play the part of Nikifor. After all, the brilliant primitive painter often spoke of himself using the feminine gender. On top of that, the role was going to Krystyna Feldman and not just some actress. …Feldman says that her work on the role was greatly helped by Nikifor's drawings as well as articles and books about him. 'I could feel I understood him; we may have liked each other. We would have been kindred spirits', said Feldman. ...The film focuses on the last eight years of the life of Nikifor, an artist considered one of the finest naïve painters in the world. (Newsweek No. 39, 2004 ).
This is how Kamil Rudzinski commented on Krauze's staffing decision:
One reason alone would have justified the making of this film: the staffing of Feldman in such a special role. …She has identified herself with her protagonist so strongly that you forget it is a woman who plays the part of the painter. Also, a comparison of her appearance with Nikifor's photographs shows how perfect was the make-up.(Kino No. 10, 2004).
Other Major Film Roles
Feldman's other major film roles include that of a teacher in Król Maciuś I / King Maciuś I (Wanda Jakubowska, 1957); concierge in Wspolny pokoj / Shared Room (Wojciech J. Has, 1960); matchmaker in Nafta / Kerosene (Stanislaw Lenartowicz, 1961); countess in Godzina Pąsowej róży / The Hour of the Crimson Rose (Halina Bielińska, 1963); housekeeper in Yokmok (Stanisław Możdżeński, 1963); clerk in Przerwany lot / An Interrupted Light (Leonard Buczkowski, 1964); bawd in Lalka / The Doll (Wojciech J. Has, 1968); villager in Samotność we dwoje / Loneliness of Two (Stanisław Różewicz, 1968); singing teacher in Abel twój brat / Your Brother Abel (Janusz Nasfeter, 1970); cleaner in Kłopotliwy gość / Troublesome Visitor (Jerzy Ziarnik, 1971); old woman in Palace Hotel (Ewa Kruk, 1977); Emilka in Zabicie Ciotki / The Killing of an Aunt (Grzegorz Królikiewicz, 1984); Maryśka, Gorzelak's mother in Pogrzeb kartofla / Potato's Funeral (Jan Jakub Kolski, 1990); Mrs Kopciowa in Śmierć Dziecioroba / Death of a Child-maker (Wojciech Nowak, 1990); Home Office archivist in Czlowieku z.../ A Man of… (Konrad Szolajski, 1993); the wife's aunt in Łagodna / A Gentle Spirit (Mariusz Treliński, 1995); archer Wilhelmina Koroniecka in Złoto Dezerterów / The Deserters' Gold (Janusz Majewski, 1998); grandmother in To ja złodziej / It's Me, the Thief (Jacek Bromski, 2000); fortune-teller in Stara Baśń / An Ancient Tale (Jerzy Hoffman, 2000); Queen Rosamund in Ubu Roi (Piotr Szulkin, 2003); Gambini in Dublerzy / The Doubles (Marcin Ziębiński, 2005).
Feldman also played Wanda, Batylin's wife, in Yurek Bogayewicz's Polish-American co-production Edges of The Lord / Boże Skrawki (2001).
She also appeared in two television features: as Feiga in Konrad Swinarski's Sędziowie. Tragedya / Judges. A Tragedy (1974) and as a judge in Julian Dziedzina's Otello z M-2 / Otello From a Bedsitter (1968).
Feldman's first role in a television series was that of Ms Kwiecińska in Cichy pokoik / A Quiet Room, episode 4 of Kapitan Sowa na Tropie / Captain Sowa on the Track (Stanisław Bareja, 1965). She gained tremendous popularity in her role as grandmother Rozalia, Ferdynand's mother-in-law, in Okil Khamidow's series Świat według Kiepskich / The World According to the Kiepskis. She appeared in sixty-six episodes from 1999 to 2004. Maciej Maniewski wrote that "This role of hers should be treated as a joke with a pinch of mockery, if not malice - a mockery of a stereotype, of ourselves, finally, of herself" (Kino 2004 No 10).
Feldman's other roles in television series have included a flower peddler in episode 7 (O kobiecie interesującej / About an Interesting Woman) and a lady in episode 12 (O twórczości najmłodszych / On the Art of the Youngest) of Klub profesora Tutki / Professor Tutka's Club (Andrzej Kondratiuk, (1968); Reil's secretary in episode 3 (Ściśle tajne / Strictly Confidential) of Stawka większa niż życie / A Larger-than-Life Stake (Janusz Morgenstern, 1968); orchestra conductor in episode 16 (Gdzie byłas, czyli Szekspir / Where Have You Been, or Shakespeare) of Czterdziestolatek / A Forty-Year-Old (Jerzy Gruza, 1976); Bednarski's housekeeper in episodes 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7 of Na kłopoty... Bednarski / Bednarski the Trouble Shooter (Paweł Pitera, 1986); Bocianicha in episodes 1 and 5 of Rzeka kłamstwa / The River of Lies (Jan Łomnicki, 1987); Annuszka in Seans czarnej magii / The Black Magic Séance (1), Mistrz / The Master (2) and Pożegnanie / Farewell (4) of Mistrz i Malgorzata / The Master and Margarita (Maciej Wojtyszko, 1988); boarding school headmistress in episode 3 of Panny i wdowy / Maidens and Widows (Janusz Zaorski, 1991); Piekutowa, Swirus's aunt in episodes 17, 37 and 117 of Złotopolscy / The Złotopolskis (1998-9); a Ukrainian in Ogniem i mieczem / With Fire and Sword (Jerzy Hoffman, 2000); Bronia the dressing room attendant in episodes 1-4 of Garderoba damska / Women's Dressing Room (Andrzej Kotkowski, 2001); patient Maria Lach in Zagadkowa Przypadłość / A Mysterious Affliction of Na dobre i na złe / For Better, for Worse (Maciej Dejczer, 2002); Genia the caretaker in sixteen episodes of Plebania / The Presbytery (2003).
Feldman appeared also in several television theatre plays: as Tatiana in Jesienna Nuda / Autumn Boredom (Jerzy Antczak, 1962); head nurse in Pułapka z Mahoniu / A Mahogany Trap (Czesław Staszewski, 1973); Etty in Mr Loveday's Little Outing (Stanisław Zajaczkowski, 1976); Bridget in Cathleen, The Daughter of Houlihan (Andrzej Maj, 1979). She also appeared in three plays directed by Izabella Cywińska: as Ms Tobaczynska in Wysocki (1984), Warwara in Słoń / The Elephant (1987) and Lala in Pensjonat Paryż / The Paris Boarding House (1988).
The 1990s saw Feldman as the nurse in Siedem Pięter / Seven Storeys (Andrzej Barański, 1994); Cesia in Toska (Andrzej Maleszka, 1994); grandmother in Ciemno / Darkness (Janusz Majewski, 1995); title role in Bunia (Olga Lipińska, 1997); Holy Cockroachess in Czary motyla / Butterfly's Magic (Jerzy Krysiak, 1997); Oma in Inne rozkosze / Other Delights (Rudolf Zioło, 1998).
Feldman spoke of her roles with considerable detachment and a sense of humour,
Whenever a furious bigot, a nosy neighbour or a terrible teacher were needed, Krystyna Felman was always at your service. Now things have changed a bit - I have switched to playing mad old women, good aunts and kind grannies… (in: Tadeusz Żukowski, Krystyna Feldman albo Festiwal Tysiaca i Jednego Epizodu).
Maciej Maniewski wrote,
More than any other actress, Krystyna Feldman has demonstrated man-like courage in creating strong and expressive characters, however without detriment to feminine perspicacity. … The key thing seems to be her ability to see the hidden beauty in the most down-to-earth and drab characters. …She switches from drama to farce with great ease. She can be most funny and at the same time able to convey - implicitly rather than explicitly - genuine emotion. And this is beautiful! (Kino No. 10, 2004).
Feldman came first in the 12th edition of Zlota Piatka Telerzeczypospolitej, the Rzeczpospolita [Poland's quality daily] readers' vote for the most celebrated media personality of 2004.
Author: Halina Olczak-Moraczewska, March 2006; updated: January 2007.