Short silent film by Roman Polański, made in 1958, during the Polish director's studies at the National Film School in Łódź.
Allegedly, Polański's legendary short was inspired by one of the experimental films by Stefan Themerson, narrating the adventures of 'the good-natured man'. Polański himself said:
The first images that appeared in my imagination were irrational: two men emerging out of the sea, carrying a piano. It was folly, an absurd situation, very much like the crazy stuff we came up with at school. Apart from heaving the piano, the men don't do anything extraordinary – they're trying to enter a restaurant, hop onto a tram, rent a room in a hotel. They are comic and harmless people, but the strange burden they're carrying makes them somehow unwished-for everywhere.
Unlike Polański's other shorts recorded while studying at film school, Two Men... were not mere exercise – the young director decided to shoot it in order to participate in a contest for an innovative short film, organised alongside Expo '58 in Brussels.
Polański managed to convince Antoni Bohdziewicz, one of the teachers at the National Film School in Łódź, that the concept was good and consequently the director received money for shooting. He invited his school mates to co-operate and got the work started.
Years later, Polański reminisced in an interview for Rzeczpospolita:
In that bleak time, only art mattered. ... During the communist regime era, in the Łódź Film School we could do things that would be unthinkable anywhere else. We wanted to be colourful like jazzmen. ... Krzysztof Komeda was our guru. We worshipped him for his modern pieces. Without him, my short would've never come into existence.
Komeda was among the creators Two Men and a Wardrobe alongside with other friends of Polański: Henryk Kluba, Jakub Goldberg, Andrzej Kostenko, Maciej Kijowski and Andrzej Kondratiuk. When the shooting was just about to start, in July 1958, Henryk Kluba – one of the men with a wardrobe – got called up for obligatory military service. The recording of the film had to be postponed. Eventually, the young crew made it to Sopot – the film's location – but the shooting took nearly three weeks instead of the couple of days it was supposed to last.
As Henryk Kluba said about working on the set:
Roman would sometimes get mad at us and break the mirror in the wardrobe. Having done that, he'd get sulky and disappear. On the following day we'd record without him. Later he'd return and get back to work as if nothing had happened.
Two Men..., a story about the inability to find one's place in a hostile, brutal world, became Polański's first international success, bringing him awards in Brussels, San Francisco and Oberhausen. Years later, Paul Werner, Polański's biographer, wrote:
It was the exquisite use ... of editing and skillful exploitation of surprising perspective in order to achieve surrealistic effects that ... disclosed Polański's similarity to Luis Buñuel.
Two Men... were indicative of Polański's thematic and stylistic interests. Motifs and formal solutions well-known from his later works appeared for the first time in this short.
Justyfing Polański's nomination for an honorary degree at the Jagiellonian University, professor Andrzej Gwóźdź wrote:
The symbol of men emerging out of the sea with a wardrobe, and coming back into its depths after a short stay in this world – this parable of human fate, disguised as a film happening in Two Men and a Wardrobe – is present throughout Polański's oeuvre in various forms.
Similar figures, going from one reality to another, can be also found in Polański's later works: The Tenant, Tess, Rosemary's Baby (in this film, the director explicitly quoted Two Men...) and Macbeth. Paul Werner wrote:
In comparison with his earlier shorts, Two Men with a Wardrobe (1958) should be considered Polański's first actual work. What would later become characteristic for him is visible here: both in terms of the dramaturgy and the skillful use of cinematographic means of expression.
The movie is available online for free at Filmpolski.pl
- Two Men and a Wardrobe / Dwaj ludzie z szafą, Poland, 1958. Directed and written by Roman Polański, assistant director: Andrzej Kostenko, cinematography: Maciej Kijowski, score: Krzysztof Komeda. Starring Jakub Goldberg (the fist man with a wardrobe), Henryk Kluba (the second man with a wardrobe), Roman Polański (a hooligan). Produced by the National Film School in Łódź. Black and white, 15'.
Originally written in Polish by Joanna Pawluśkiewicz, updated by BS 2018, translated by NS July 2018