One of Poland's most popular theatre and film actresses. Actress, director of theatre productions and films. Born on December 19, 1952 in Starachowice.
She is one of Poland's most popular theatre and film actresses and also works as a director of theatre productions and films.
Janda has a vast number of fans whose admiration for her is reminiscent of the 'star era' of nineteenth-century theatre. She owes her status to powerful performances and a strong character that shines through in every role.
Janda (...) always plays a certain character she created at one time, imbuing every one of her roles with that character's traits. Her acting is highly expressive, her temperament energetic. She manifests ideological engagement and is at times manneristic (Jan Kłossowicz, Dictionary of Polish Theatre, Warsaw, 2002).
Janda studied at the State Higher School of Theatre in Warsaw, obtaining her degree in 1975. She made her debut on the professional stage in 1976 at Warsaw's Athenaeum Theatre as Aniela in Aleksander Fredro's Śluby panieńskie (Maidens' Vows) directed by Jan Świderski. In 1974, while still a student, she was cast in Aleksander Bardini's legendary television theatre production of Anton Chekhov's The Three Sisters. Her enchanting and truthful Masha marked the beginning of her career in Polish Television Theatre, where she appear in many more productions.
Her film career developed in parallel. Janda debuted very successfully in Andrzej Wajda's Człowiek z Marmuru (Man of Marble), as Agnieszka, a young, dynamic and stubborn film student who strives to reveal the truth about former leading labourer, Mateusz Birkut, played by Jerzy Radziwiłowicz. These two appeared again in Człowiek z żelaza (Man of Iron, 1981), in which Wajda developed the story of the previous film to explore the roots of the 'Solidarity' Trade Union movement. Janda worked with Wajda on several more occasions. She played the minor character, Agata, in his film Bez znieczulenia (Rough Treatment, 1978), and featured in Dyrygent (The Conductor, 1979), as the young violinist, Marta, fascinated by the older, mature conductor, John Lasocki, played by John Gielgud. Janda also appeared in a number of Piotr Szulkin's science fiction films, including Golem (1980), Wojna światów - Następne stulecie (War of the Worlds - The Next Century,1981) and O-bi, O-ba. Koniec cywilizacji (O-bi, O-ba. The End of Civilization, 1984).
One of Janda's most significant international successes came with her appearance in Istvan Szabo's Oscar-winning Mephisto of 1981, in which she played Barbara Bruckner alongside Klaus Maria Brandauer. But her greatest screen performance was as Antonina Dziwisz in Ryszard Bugajski's Przesłuchanie (Interrogation, 1982). Here, Janda created an engaging portrait of a human being who, as the director says, "wishes to be free, regardless of the cost". This performance gained Janda numerous awards, including Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival.
During 1987, Janda was a member of the ensemble at Warsaw's Athenaeum Theatre, while also appearing occasionally at the Teatr Scena Prezentacje (Presentations Stage Theatre). During her tenure at the Athenaeum she worked with a number of exceptional directors. Significant roles included Dorian Gray in a production of John Osborne's Portret Dorian Gray (The Picture of Dorian Gray), based on Oscar Wilde's novel, and directed by Andrzej Łapicki (1976), Nina in Chekhov's Mewa (The Seagull) directed by Janusz Warmiński (1977), and Vi in Pam Gems' Dusia, Ryba, Wal i Leta (Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi) directed by Agnieszka Holland (1978). She played Jenny in Bertolt Brecht's Opera za trzy grosze (Three Penny Opera) directed by Ryszard Peryt (1980), and at the Scena Prezentacje Theatre she twice played the role of Heloise in Ronald Duncan's Abelard i Heloiza (Abelard and Heloise) directed by Romuald Szejd (1979, 1984). In addition to these varied theatrical roles, Janda continued to appear in films, such as Radosław Piwowarski's Kochankowie mojej mamy (My Mother's Lovers, 1985) and Krzysztof Kieślowski's Dekalog II (Decalogue: Two, 1988). Janda also appeared in a cameo role in Kieślowski's Krótki film o zabijaniu (A Short Film about Killing,1987) and put in a more significant performance in Krzysztof Zanussi's Stan posiadania (Inventory, 1988). On the silver screen, Janda offered complex, psychological portraits of contemporary women - from the 'entertaining' Krystyna, who remains in conflict with her own young son, in My Mother's Lovers, to the violinist, Dorota, torn between passion and fidelity in Decalogue: Two, and Julia, a woman in a relationship with a younger man in Zanussi's film.
In 1988, Janda became a member of the ensemble at the Teatr Powszechny (Popular Theatre) in Warsaw.
In essence, the Miss Julie we observe on stage is a figure who reveals the doubts and hysteria she has previously hidden from those around her, traits that consistently lead her towards tragedy, and ultimately to suicide. This role is indubitably difficult, but also immensely fascinating, wrote Lech Sokół about Janda's role in a review of Andrzej Wajda's staging of Strindberg's Panna Julia (Miss Julie).
During her tenure at the Powszechny, the actress appeared in a number of immensely successful starring roles. After Miss Julie, the actress played the title role in Euripides' Medea directed by Zygmunt Hübner (1988).
She is practically the only complete character on stage, preserving her autonomy relative to the compositional arrangements of the director, wrote Tomasz Kubikowski. It is upon her that the entire conflict is based and she who commands it
Maciej Nowak added,
Hübner and Janda have succeeded at a daunting task, namely, that of constructing a deep, none too psychologically simple motivation for the actions of the mythological heroine. Their construction has turned out to be shockingly contemporary (Teatr monthly, 1988, no. 7).
In 1990, the actress featured in yet another stage production directed by Wajda, William Gibson's Dwoje na huśtawce (Two for the Seesaw), in which she played Giselle Mosca.
Wajda has found excellent performers in Krystyna Janda and Piotr Machalica. Janda plays a certain nervousness (but without her sometimes irritating mannerisms from 'Man of Marble'), and she proves capable of being lyrical at times. Underlying her singular primitivism is a longing for a different, better life, for which she struggles and which she simultaneously fears (Wojciech Dudzik, Rzeczpospolita daily, February 20, 1990).
Following that appearance, and also in 1990, Janda teamed up with director, Maciej Wojtyszko, to tackle Willy Russell's one-woman show, Shirley Valentine. The production proved a tremendous success. Janda, who could never be denied emotional authenticity on stage or immense respect from her audience, found her range with the role of Shirley. After the premiere, critic Jacek Sieradzki wrote,
The actress has strongly worked through Małgorzata Semil's translation, making it fit her lips ideally in its entire commonness, colloquial tones, brevity and vulgarisms. She has invested tremendous energy in an effort to bring out Shirley and make her a sympathetic character for viewers. At times, this comes across as catering to the public, as if the purpose was to elicit chuckles of approval and comments like 'damn, she's babbling away'. However, this was only up to a point. Confident of the sympathy of her audience, the actress complicated the image of her heroine, revealing her insecurities and complexes concealed beneath the boastful talk. (...) The performance I saw ended with a standing ovation. Apparently, Krystyna Janda is thanked by her audiences in this manner evening after evening - for her performance and for the joy of hope she provides (Polityka weekly, 1991, no. 9).
Janda continues to perform this one-woman show to the present day, over twelve years since its première.
After Shirley Valentine, Janda continued to take on starring roles, playing the lead parts in both contemporary and classic plays. In 1992, she portrayed Margaret in Tennessee Williams' Kotka na rozpalonym blaszanym dachu (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) directed by Andrzej Rozhin (1992), appearing alongside Piotr Machalica and Henryk Machalica.
Everything seems to indicate that the actors were chosen for their names to ensure the production's success, because this staging has no other merits. (...) In watching the scenes, one has the impression that the director has done nothing to challenge the actors, allowing them instead to be guided by their experience, intuition, if not merely by their routine. This is especially true of Krystyna Janda's performance. Those who have seen her in 'Shirley Valentine' or 'Educating Rita' are sure to recognize the character choices they know from those productions. In this case as well, the actress builds the character of Margaret from sharp gestures, characteristic breaks of the voice, a nervousness and trembling of the hands that accompanies the lighting of cigarettes, wrote Natalia Adaszyńska (Teatr monthly, 1992, no. 4/5).
Janda then appeared as Andrea Salas in Ariel Dorfman's Śmierć i dziewczyna (Death and the Maiden) directed by Jerzy Skolimowski (Studio Theatre in Warsaw, 1992), and as the title character in the one-woman play, Kobieta zawiedziona (A Woman Scorned) based on the writings of Simone de Beauvoir and directed by Magda Umer (1994), and as Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare's Macbeth staged by Mariusz Treliński (1996). In the latter, she
(...) played Lady Macbeth in a sentimental, teary style reminiscent of South American television soap operas, wrote Jacek Cieślak (Rzeczpospolita daily, May 28, 1996).
She also portrayed Maria Callas in Terence McNally's Maria Callas - lekcja śpiewu / Maria Callas - a Singing Lesson, directed by Andrzej Domalik (1997).
For two and half hours, Janda-Callas (perfectly made up and costumed) completely commands not only her own feelings (...), but also those of her audience, whom she treats as the observers of a singing lesson, including them in the exercises and dominating them entirely. She proves capable of inducing the audience to react as she wishes, at the moment of her choosing. (...) It is important that Janda portrays this primadonna with noble restraint, largely abandoning the tone of many of her previous roles, her characteristic spontaneity, even the over-excitement that rendered so recognizable her 'scorned women' (Aleksandra Rembowska, Teatr monthly, 1997, no. 10).
Janda also appeared as the lead in Jean Racine's Phaedre directed by Laco Adamik (1998).
Her many film roles of the 1990s and beyond included such noteworthy performances as Magda in Maciej Ślesicki's Tato / Dad (1995), and Ewa in Robert Gliński's Matka swojej matki (Her Mother's Mother,1996). She also appeared in Krzysztof Zanussi's Życie jako śmiertelna choroba przenoszona drogą płciową (Life as a Fatal Sexually Transmitted Disease, 2000), Wojciech Marczewski's Weiser, based on the renowned book by Paweł Huelle (2000), and in Filip Bajon's Przedwiośnie (The Spring to Come), a screen adaptation of Stefan Żeromski's classic novel, Przedwiośnie (Early Spring, 2000).
The 1990s marked the beginning of Janda's career as both a film and theatre director. She directed the film Pestka (Core [aka The Pip], based on the book by Anka Kowalska (1995), and a number of productions for Polish Television Theatre, including Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler (1995), Pierre Corneille's El Cid (1996), Honore Balzac's Fizjologia małżeństwa (The Physiology of Marriage, 1999), Dario Fo's Związek otwarty (The Open Couple, 2000), in which she teamed up with Marek Kondrat to portray an intensely comedic married couple, as well as Michał Bałucki's Klub kawalerów (Bachelors' Club, 2001), and Esther Vilar's Zazdrość (Jealousy, 2001). At the Teatr Powszechny, her directing projects during this period included Ernest Bryll and Katarzyna Gaertner's Na szkle malowane (Painted on Glass, 1993), and Witkacy's Panna Tutli-Putli (Miss Tootli-Pootli, 1997).
Janda also worked with director Zbigniew Brzoza. She played Karla in his production of Ingmar Villqist's Noc Helvera (Helver's Night at the Powszechny Theatre (2000) and then surprised audiences with her performance as the title character in Lee Halls' Mała Steinberg (Spoonface Steinberg at Warsaw's Studio Theatre (2001). In the latter production she took on the challenging role of portraying a character afflicted by illness and disabilities.
The acting skills of Janda, who on stage transforms from a beautiful woman into a stooping, closed child, places the reviewer in a less than comfortable position, wrote Roman Pawłowski. Am I supposed to assess the degree to which the actress has convincingly portrayed actual illness? Should I criticize her for not groaning often enough or for moving about too easily? It would be better for the play if Janda had rejected this naturalism, which instead of helping audiences in experiencing and understanding the true story of this girl conceals this story beneath theatrical form. Because in theatre, illness portrayed by healthy actors is only form, pretense. (...) While the theatrical form of 'Spoonface Steinberg' at the Studio is controversial, the entire concept of staging a play of this nature is unquestionable. In a country where disabilities exclude people from society, it can never be repeated too often that people with disabilities are people too. Janda once more provides proof of artistic and civic daring - after playing Karla, the guardian of a boy with disabilities in Ingmar Villqist's 'Helver's Night', she has this time chosen another social drama, one which reveals the rich spiritual and emotional life of a child afflicted by illness. So when Janda came out for her bows, I stood with the other audience members, because this is an actress who deserves recognition for her courage and her engagement on behalf of the weak and rejected (Gazeta Wyborcza daily, October 3, 2001).
In January 2003, Janda celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of her acting career. To mark the occasion, Warsaw's Studio Theatre mounted a production of Chekhov's The Seagull directed by Zbigniew Brzoza, and featuring Janda as Irena Arkadina. As has been the case many times previously for this actress, the premiere ended in a tumultuous standing ovation.
In 2005, Krystyna Janda, under her Fundacja Krystyny Jandy / Krystyna Janda's Foundation for Culture, opened the Polonia Theatre in Warsaw. In 2006 she received the Médaille Charlemagne, the prestigious European media award. In 2007 she received the Golden Duck for the Best Film Actress of the past 50 years of Polish filmmaking. In 2009 she once again was honored with two Golden Ducks, including one for Best History and Costume Film Actress on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Polish Cinema. Her second theatre in Warsaw, Och-Teatr, opened in January 2010.
In the beginning Janda presented in her theatre plays about women: she directed Dubravka Ugresic's In the Jaws of Life (2005) and herself in Vedrana Rudan's one woman play Ear, throat, knife (2005). She played a half-Serbian, half-Croatian woman who has to face the after-war reality of the Balkans.
Tonka in her interpretation is a lively, charming woman, immersed in her own carnality' - wrote Hubert Michalak about Janda's role. - 'She is agressive, irritating and fascinating at the same time. She doesn't try to seduce the audience, but attacks it with suggestive images of carnage, twists their arm and doesn't even try to pretend she's doing anything else (Nowa Siła Krytyczna, 12.05.2008).
Another play she directed and played in, is a tragic comedy about a grown-up woman and her life filled with bad luck - Leslie Ayvazian's High Dive (2006), in which also the audience performs, without stopping to laugh.
A delightfully simple idea allows the viewers to spend a pleasant, relaxing evening with the famous actress nearby and a hint of adrenaline, since nothing is entirely predictable in tihs game - noted Iza Natasza Czapska (Życie Warszawy, 2006, nr 165).
Polonia's following plays - Lament na Placu Konstytucji / Lament at Constitution Square based on Krzysztof Bizio's texts (2007) and Joanna Murray-Smith's Bombshells (2007) were also about womens' everyday problems. Janda also co-directed (with Natasha Parry) Chekhov's Three Sisters (2006), showed Michał Bałuckis Grube Ryby / Big Fish (2008), a cabaret-like play based on Woody Allen's God (2008) and the musica Bagdad Cafe by Percy Aldon and Bob Telson (2009).
She also played alongside Jerzy Trela in Samuel Beckett's Happy Days directed by Piotr Cieplak (2007).
Janda's Winnie is not a theatrical symbol of the absurdity of human life, but a simple, sick woman with a great intuition - wrote Jacek Kopciński. - Her existence - written in such a degraded speech - in front of our very eyes gets filled with a richness of emotions and experiences, also the most difficult ones such as death, so that in the end it can emerge in its transcendental shape ("Teatr" 2007, nr 3).
Later on, she played one of her most popular theatre roles - the worst singer in the world, Florence Foster Jenkins in Beter Quilter's Glorious! (2007). In Dancing, based on Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska's poetry, directed by Jarosław Staniek (2008) she portrayed a woman who dreams of a great love.
2009 brought Janda a moving, personal role in Andrzej Wajda's Tatarak / Sweet Rush. A year later the actress returned to Agnieszka Osiecka's Biała bluzka / White Blouse, a one-woman show directed by Magda Umer, which she once performed all around Poland. The protagonist, who is now a middle-aged, experienced woman, thinks and interprets the text differently. She says the same things, but underlines different parts, uses different tones. The play also describes the atmosphere of the PRL to younger generations, in Osiecka's characteristic style.
In 2011, in Małgorzata Szumowska's Elles, Janda played a mother, who discovers her daughter is sponsored by an older man while studying in France. In HBO's version of the popular TV show In Treatment (Bez tajemnic) about a psychotherapist, she plays the main character's (portrayed by Jerzy Radziwiłowicz) supervisor. The legendary duo from Wajda's films returned in an intimate story, which focuses on human interactions. Janda also appeared in Marcin Krzyształowicz's nostalgic comedy Pani z przedszkola / All About My Parents, and a year later - in Filip Bajon's variation about Gabriela Zapolska's play - Panie Dulskie / Damaged.
2012 brought even more success in theatre. On stage Janda faced Danuta Wałęsa's moving, best-selling autobiography.
This play and this role with the legendary Solidarity leader and Polish President in the background, is one of my biggest challenges - not only as an actress, but also as a woman and as a citizen. Every day Danuta Wałęsowa's confessions make me feel both fascinated and full of respect. The simplicity and sincerity of these words surprises me and moves me. All this makes me want to tell Poland's history from the womens' perspective - said the actress before the premiere.
Danuta W., directed by Janusz Zaorski, was named one of the most important plays of the year.
Janda's play is political because it gives voice to women who have been excluded from history. The fact that the name was replaced in the title by just an initial is symbolical. It is not a biography of the wife of an union's leader, but of all the women who have been pushed away from the social rebuilding of Poland and cast in the role of housewives. 'There was Solidarity in this house, but family was often forgotten' - says Janda at one point and this sentence says a lot about the Polish revolution. Maybe the world would be different if women took a bigger part in it? - asked Roman Pawłowski ("Gazeta Wyborcza", 15.10.2012).
For her 60. birthday Janda decided to direct and play (alongside Piotr Machalica) in Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night (2012). In 2013 she directed two plays based on Ray Cooney's texts - Mayday 2 and It Runs in the Family, and in 2014 - Miloš Forman's Loves of a Blonde and Noël Coward's Fallen Angels. In 2015 Janda returned to the role of Maria Callas, playing in Callas. Master Class directed by Andrzej Domalik. Her last play up to date is Mothers and Sons by Terrence McNally, a story of a mother who visits the ex partner of her son who died of AIDS.
The woman who doesn't accept her son's homosexuality, pays a visit to the new family of her son's ex partner and starts offloading onto him. McNally's text was written for the American audience, but it fits very well into the Polish reality. The mother, played by Krystyna Janda, is a symbol of the Polish intolerance, lack of knowledge, hate towards different sexualities. We hear many difficult words, but we mostly feel sadness. It's a sadness hidden in his text by Terrence McNally, exposed very well by Janda - pisał Jakub Panek (3.05.2016).
Krystyna Janda won the People of Freedom Award, winning over Rafał Blechacz, Agnieszka Holland, Leszek Możdżer and Janusz Głowacki in the Culture category. The competition was organized by Gazeta Wyborcza and TVN for the anniversary of political transformation in Poland.
This decision is a confrimation that our lives and works, everything we did in the past 25 years, had a meaning also for others. The title 'Person of Freedom' is more than I could ever hope for. I would like to thank everyone who believe I am worthy of this title and everyone who are next to me each day - thanked Krystyna Janda.
Significant awards and distinctions:
- 1978 - Zbigniew Cybulski Award
- 1980 - Złote Grono (Golden Grape Bunch) at the 12. Lubuskie Lato Filmowe / 12th Lubuskie Film Summer in Łagów; Leon Schiller Prize
- 1981 - Golden Asteroid at the 19. Międzynarodowy Festiwal Filmów Fantastycznych / 19th International Festival of Fantasy Films in Trieste, Italy, for her role as Rozyna in the film Golem directed by Piotr Szulkin
- 1988 - Aleksander Zelwerowicz Prize for her appearance in the title role in Euripides' Medea directed by Zygmunt Hübner at the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw; award of the Mayor of Warsaw for the same role
- 1989 - Złoty Krzyż Zasługi (Golden Cross of Merit); Award of the Minister of Culture and Art, 2nd class; Award of the Fundacja Kultury Polskiej (Foundation for Polish Culture) for exceptional performances in films commemorating the fate of post-war generations of Poles at the 14. Festiwal Polskich Filmow Fabularnych / 14th Festival of Polish Feature Films in Gdańsk; Złota Kaczka (Golden Duck) - awarded by the readers of "Film" monthly
- 1990 - Vittorio de Sica Medal; Złote Lwy Gdańskie (Gdańsk Golden Lions) for Best Female Performance as Antonina Dziwisz in the film Interrogation directed by Ryszard Bugajski at the 15. Festiwal Polskich Filmów Fabularnych / 15th Festival of Polish Feature Films in Gdańsk; award of the Head of the Polish National Film Commission for the role of Julia in Inventory directed by Krzysztof Zanussi; Golden Palm for Best Female Performance in Ryszard Bugajski's Przesłuchanie / Interrogation at the Cannes Film Festival
- 1991 - Medal of the Fine Arts and Humanities (France); Best Actress award for her performance in Ryszard Bugajski's Interrogation at the 1st Belgrade Central European Film Festival (BESEF); award of the Minister of Foreign Affairs; Wiktor (Victor) award for being the most popular television personality
- 1992 - Złota Kaczka (Golden Duck) - awarded by "Film" monthly; Silver Shell at the San Sebastian Film Festival for her performance in the film Zwolnieni z życia / Absolved from Life directed by Waldemar Krzystek
- 1994 - Named "Personality of the Year" in a national review of the theatre compiled by Channel III of Polish Radio
- 1995 - Individual Prize for her directing debut Core at the 20. Festiwal Polskich Filmów Fabularnych / 20th Festival of Polish Feature Films in Gdańsk
- 1996 - Super Złota Kaczka (Super Golden Duck) - for Best Actress in the History of Polish Cinema
- 1998 - Telekamera '98 for Most Popular Actress of the Year - awarded by readers of "Tele Tydzień" ("Tele Week") weekly
- 2000 - An Open Relationship by Dario Fo, directed by Krystyna Janda, named Best Polish Television Theatre Production at the Lato Filmów / Film Summer in Kazimierz Dolny
- 2001 - Martynka - awarded by the Fundacja Synapsis (Synapsis Foundation) for her work on behalf of children with autism; winner of the People's Choice Best Actress Award for her performance as Ruth Steiner in Donald Margulies' Collected Stories at the Teatr Komedia (Comedy Theatre) in Warsaw, directed by Krystyna Janda; 2nd place in the Best Production category at the 40. Rzeszowskie Spotkania Teatralne / 40th Rzeszów Theatre Meetings; Busola 2001 (Compass 2001) - awarded by Przegląd (Review) weekly to persons who inspire others to strive for better goals and remain a guiding light for them; Złote Koturny 2001 (Golden Buskins 2001) - awarded by the readers of Gazeta w Częstochowie (Newspaper in Częstochowa) - for Best Production of the Season at the Teatr im. Adama Mickiewicza (Adam Mickiewicz Theatre) in Częstochowa for her staging of Ernest Bryll's Painted on Glass; Telemaska (Telemask) for Best Actress of the Season in Television Theatre - awarded by the readers of Tele Tydzien (Tele Week) and Television Theatre viewers
- 2002 - Krzyż Oficerski Orderu Odrodzenia Polski (Officer's Cross of the Order of the Restitution of Poland); Telemaska (Telemask) for Most Popular Actor in Polish Television Theatre based on a survey of the readers of Tele Tydzień (Tele Week); Kryształowe Zwierciadło (Crystal Mirror) for strength and consistency in artistic endeavor - awarded by Zwierciadło (Mirror) weekly
- 2006 - awarded the Médaille Charlemagne for European integration and cultural achievement in the media.
Author: Monika Mokrzycka-Pokora, May 2003. Updated: NMR, November 2016.