ZIMOWY ZMIERZCH – WINTER TWILIGHT (1956)
Director: Stanisław Lenartowicz
Script: Tadeusz Konwicki
Music: Adam Walaciński
Cinematography: Mieczyslaw Jahoda
Cast: Włodzisław Ziembiński, Zygmunt Zintel
Ligia Branice, Bogusz Bilewski, Maria Ciesielska
Stanisław Lenartowicz fought in the Home Army before Russia moved into Czechslovakia, which resulted in his Soviet detention in Moscow for almost two years. After his release, he returned to Poland to study philology and later directed at the National Film School in Łódź. Upon graduating he went on to work for Wytwórnia Filmów Oświatowych, directing educational films and documentaries. Lenartowicz’s debut feature film was ZIMOWY ZMIERZCH and can be considered one of the earliest examples of the New Polish Film School.
Michał Rumsza works as a railway operator in a small village at the end of World War II. Two of his sons died during the war and his third, Józek, returns at the start of the film with a wife. This becomes an immediate conflict between Michał and Józek, as Michałalways envisioned his son marrying the local girl and neighbor Celinka. Michał casts out his son and his wife, Zosia, while refusing to even talk to either of them. Celinka is devastated by the return of Józek and Zosia. Feeling spurned, Celinka attempts to spend time away from the house by visiting another bachelorette who is stuck living in her own past. Soon Michał begins to seek out his son, following him in the open and in the shadows, which allows him to better understand his son’s family situation and Józek’s renewed interest in Celinka. Michał ends up encouraging Celinka to leave town to find a new life, away from the drama and heartache.
Lenartowicz and Konwicki creates a real quality of lyricism to the film by having the central character Michał speak only a handful of times. While more high-brow films will use this technique to express what they may desire as prophetic statements, Konwicki uses it to mark Michał’s internal struggle and his own humanity. At the same time, Michał has several terrible characterization scenes when he recalls his political past as a socialist, but these scenes were the ghost of the original script written by the director. The description of the plot is also misleading, as Konwicki expertly weaves in the drama by explaining it to the viewers through non-dialogue, using images and actions to convey the background for characters’ reactions. ZIMOWY ZMIERZCH does this by never showing that Celinka or Michał have a relationship history, but it is apparent by Celinka that at some point before the war there was an attachment between the two.
ZIMOWY ZMIERZCH breaks from social realism not just in its focus on Michał, a character stuck in time before the war, but also in its taboo use of language. Much like how Jia Zhang-Ke uses local dialect to further expand his commentary, so does Lenartowicz with his use of characters using the Vilnius Polish dialect. The film also has a strong focus on religion, taking place between Christmas and Easter, showing the town participating in traditions and prayer. Many of these elements move in contrast to the ideas of Social Realism, which helps to define ZIMOWY ZMIERZCH as an early example of the New Polish Film School.
ZIMOWY ZMIERZCH is available in an English friendly DVD release by Best Film.