Ten Essential Polish Comedies

Contributing Writer; Tokyo, Japan (@patrykczekaj)
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After World War II ended and an enemy regime took over the country, Polish cinema become a sort of cultural getaway for a society that had been trapped behind the veil of Communism.

Though the censorship was pitiless and even the smallest act of disobedience was quickly and brutally suppressed, many local directors tried to make a difference and fight back with what they did best - promoting resistance movements and making people throughout the country aware of their own nationality and all the values that come with it through judicious and stout-hearted filmmaking.

Movies that were strictly anti-communistic were deemed unwatchable by the GUKPPiW (the institution responsible for controlling and verifying all the official forms of communication in Poland, i.e. books, films, press, radio). The others, more subtle and covert, premiered in some cinemas with minor cuts, or if lucky, without any alterations whatsoever. Apart from a huge number of war-related dramas and films that based their core on deeply psychological aspects of the damaged Polish community, the ones that probably got the most attention were comedies.

These harsh satires on Communism and its weaknesses were like a dream come true for all the people who wanted to escape from their grim reality every once in a while by diving into the worlds offered via cinematic experiences. Some comedies simply made fun of the omnipresent absurdities of everyday life (often exaggerated, but for the right cause); others tried to appear as romantic predictions of the upcoming fall of an evil government. The most ironic fact about films made in the state known as the People's Republic of Poland is that what looks amusingly fictional to the modern viewer was downright authentic to the citizens that survived these difficult times.

Even though there are a lot of Polish comedies that are both perfectly worthwhile, here are the ten that I found to be of the biggest importance for the development of the country's film industry, and the ones that immediately took a respectable place in the pantheon of films that the citizens love to re-watch over and over again.

An ambiguous parody of Communism, Rejs presents the story of a group of passengers that board a ship on the Vistula in order to take a cruise of a lifetime. The excursion reveals the truth about the passengers, their fears and desires, and then transforms it all into one big farce.

Full of slapstick situations and memorable catchphrases, Rejs almost instantly became a cult film. It's crucial to note that most of the actors here were amateurs, giving the film an impressive naturalistic vibe.

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JulianJune 25, 2013 9:03 AM

Thank you for this list! My interest in european comedies just recently awoke, so this is perfect