Feature film directed by Agnieszka Holland, 1978. "In 'Provincial Actors' I was less concerned with showing the mechanism of manipulation, and more with presenting human fate, in all its embroilment and entanglement."
A director from Warsaw comes to a provincial theatre with the intention of staging Stanisław Wyspiański's Wyzwolenie / Liberation. He gives the leading part to Krzysztof, the most talented actor there. Krzysztof takes his task very seriously, he is full of ideas. The blasé careerist director cools his enthusiasm, stylising the play to be "avant-garde", distorting the work's ideological message. Krzysztof rebels, but has no influence on the production. His wife Anna, an actress in a puppet theatre, also gets little satisfaction from her job. The two frustrated people are unable to communicate. After the premiere everybody is happy, but Krzysztof feels he did not give the audience any important message of his own. After many misunderstandings, Anna leaves her husband. Krzysztof starts drinking. Drunk, he tells the manager he will no longer play Konrad in Liberation, and crosses out his name on the poster. Unhappy and depressed, he visits Anna at her theatre. They are reconciled; however, neither has any great hope for a better future.
"This is about the interpretation of the text of a classic play from the great national repertoire, or in fact about defending fundamental, genuine values. Krzysztof demands a discussion to extract the true meaning of the play from the camouflage of words, and to juxtapose it with the present: 'We have to know what we want to say, why we want to do it, and who for... we have to answer a fundamental question: what is this meant to be about, because it must mean something that we are doing it here and now... The play's title is 'Liberation'... in our production, what is it liberation from?' Krzysztof's questions fall into a vacuum, nobody has time, everyone's got more important things on their mind than finding inner meaning in the Great Author's vague allusions...
The director has no doubts: 'I suggest we cross it out, from line two to the end...' Krzysztof makes a final attempt to fight for faithfulness to the truth, he complains to the manager: 'But you can't cross these things out: homeland, human fate, freedom... Troublemakers - that's you, you're the rabble... How can you have 'Liberation' without the Polish cause?' And talking to his wife: '... you really have to want it - we have to do something that depends on us...' But Krzysztof only bounces off the glass walls of indifference, mindlessness, inertia, apathy, an overwhelming reluctance, lack of understanding..." (Barbara Mruklik, "Kino", 1979)
"...I don't know how far I have been successful, but in 'Provincial Actors' I was less concerned with showing the mechanism of manipulation, and more with presenting human fate, in all its embroilment and entanglement. That is, I tried to highlight the existential aspect rather than a journalistic one. I didn't want a film with a thesis, though I have sometimes been accused of this". (Agnieszka Holland, "Kultura" 1979)
Aktorzy prowincjonalni / Provincial Actors. Directed by Agnieszka Holland, screenplay by Agnieszka Holland, Witold Zatorski, director of photography: Jacek Petrycki, music by Andrzej Zarycki, production design by Bogdan Soelle. Featuring: Tadeusz Huk (Krzysztof), Halina Łabonarska (Anna), Jan Ciecierski (Burski), Sława Kwaśniewska (Malina), Kazimiera Nogajówna (Hanka), Stefan Burczyk (Andrzej), Jerzy Łapiński-Gaździński (Darek), Bronisław Kassowski (Old Actor), Stanisław Michalski (Antczak), Andrzej Buszewicz (Bielski), Tomasz Zygadło (Director), Jerzy Kryszak (Cynic), Jerzy Wasiuczyński (Director), Adam Ferency (Adaś), Iwona Biernacka (Assistant). Produced by Zespół Filmowy X, Łódź 1978. Color, 35 mm, 2966 mm.
- Best actress award for Halina Łabonarska at the 6th Polish Feature Film Festival in Gdańsk, 1979;
- Great Amber Grand Prix for Agnieszka Holland and the audience's award for Halina Łabonarska at the 7th "Youth and Film" Koszalin Film Meetings in Koszalin, 1979;
- FIPRESCI Award as part of the Critics' Week for Agnieszka Holand at the International Film Festival in Cannes, 1980.