House is an animated film made in 1958, the last – and most famous – achievement of the Borowczyk-Lenica duo, whose work opened a new chapter in the history of Polish animated film.
This experimental, symbolic realization, together with their earlier work Był sobie raz / Once upon a time, gave a new, more open, and wider form to Polish animation. Marcin Giżycki wrote about both of these movies in a text published in Kwartalnik Filmowy (no. 19-20, 1997-1998):
The first and the third film film by Lenica and Borowczyk had, both in their form and content, many elements that could be considered ‘modern’. They broke up with the fairy-tale formula of animation, binding in the Polish (and not only Polish) cinema. They had no plot, and were therefore close to the abstract, proposing a new technique of cut-out and collage (…) Modernity was then identified with freedom of expression and the films by Borowski and Lenica were free. Both in form and content.
This avant-garde film, which used diverse techniques, turned out to be an important step in both directors’ careers, who from then on worked independently. A confirmation of this unconventional movie’s success was the Grand Prix won in the International Experimental Film Competition, organized during the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958.
Borowczyk and Lenica’s film is a series of surrealist images put inside a narrative frame, which consists of an image – shown at the beginning and at the end – of a façade. As Borowczyk himself underlined in one of his interviews (Kwartalnik Filmowy, no. 19-20, 1997-1998), ‘the film is composed as a poetry volume’. The animation consists of a few sequences, which are divided by a woman’s face shown en face. In these scenes the actress – Walerian’s wife Ligia Branice-Borowczyk – moves her head up and down, as if she’s witness to the events taking place in the house. They do not form a linear narrative – in the successive frames, separate, poetic scenes appear. We see fencers from photographs by Étienne Jules Marey, a pioneer of film; a live wig, which drinks milk and shatters a glass; people from old photos and sketches, and – finally – a woman who touches and kisses a mannequin’s head. In one of the sequences the returning motif of a man who hangs his bowler multiple times is reminiscent of the sequences from Ballet Mécanique by Fernand Léger (1924). The directors underlined their fascination with French avant-garde cinema of the 1920s and the work of Georges Méliès, a director and inventor from the times of cinema’s beginnings. In an interview with Tadeusz Kowalski (Film, 1957, no. 51), they said:
We would gladly come back to Méliès. To the place where image and movement prevail. Our ambition is to give a serious meaning to animated film. (…) We want to return to visual cinema, understood in a modern way, enriched by elements of sound and colour. We don’t want to limit ourselves to one stylistic genre, but would prefer to try anything that awakens the imagination, moves people, makes them laugh, gives pleasure to the eye.
Therefore Borowczyk and Lenica’s film is a combination of both acting and different animation techniques: cut-outs, collage, animation of objects and moving Marey’s photographs. The effect of this view on film matter – as declared in the interview – is the poetic, surrealist Dom. As Andrzej Kossakowski wrote in his book Polski Film Animowany 1945-1974 / Polish Animation 1945-1974 (Ossollineum,1977):
Dom (…) is a film that played a major role in awakening the independence of thinking about cinema and in inspiring a personal, artistic activity of many Polish creators of animated films.
Author: Iwona Hałgas, March 2011
- Dom, Poland 1958. Written and relized by: Walerian Borowczyk, Jan Lenica; cinematography: Antoni Nurzyński; music: Włodzimierz Kotoński; Wytwórnia Filmów Dokumentalnych (Warsaw), Kadr Film Studio. Duration: 11 minutes.
- Grand Prix at the International Experimental Film Competition in Brussels (1958).