Monday, June 27

‘About the silver balloon’: Zulawski’s banned film that you can already see on Filmin



The polish director Andrzej Zulawski, who died in 2016 at the age of 75, got tired of the interference from your country’s censorship and in the mid-70s he went to shoot in France. It was not something new: a decade before, capital names of this cinematography, such as Roman Polanski y Jerzy SkolimowskiThey had done the same, fed up with pressure from the pro-Stalinist government. In France he gave the best of himself with titles as visceral and iconic as ‘The important thing is to love’ (1975), ‘The possession’ (1981) and ‘The public woman’ (1984). If there was a fashionable European filmmaker then, it was Zulawski.

In 1987 he presented at the Cannes film festival ‘About the silver balloon’, a very particular sample of how he understood the science fiction genre. But it was not a movie of that time. It was about a film prepared in Poland in 1976, shortly after concluding ‘The important thing is to love’, and shot in 1977. Zulawski, unavailable to discouragement, kept testing it in his own country. I didn’t want to throw in the towel. His first feature film, ‘The third part of the night’ (1971), an experimental story set during the Nazi occupation of Poland, has already been rejected by the Polish authorities. The next, ‘The devil’ (1972), a story with supernatural overtones set in another invasion, that of Poland by the Prussian army in 1793, was banned and did not reach theaters until March 1988. We saw it here at the Sitges festival, a contest that it presented in the last edition 2021 ‘About the silver balloon’.

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No wonder his early French films were so extreme, hectic, jerky. Zulawski must have been fed up with his ongoing clashes with the Polish authorities. And that despite the fact that ‘On the silver globe’ is a fairly abstract and metaphysical film. In the copy that now the Filmin platform launches, the director himself can be heard and seen commenting on aspects of the shooting and the ban. At first he assures that the film “was murdered in 1977”. Filming was stopped in the spring of that year by order of the Minister of Culture and the Secretary of State for Polish Cinema, leaving the entire team standing on the Baltic coast. The sets and costumes would be destroyed. For years, technicians hid everything they could in their own homes. Thanks to them, Zulawski was able to finish the film a decade later, although it is still an unfinished film: the director supplies with his voice the scenes that could never be shot.

Strange planet

It lasts 166 minutes. It is a movie of sci-fi without special effects or futuristic settings, although it occurs on a strange planet where some astronauts arrive and end up building a primitive civilization. It is the camera, the color and the sound that give the story its fantastic specificity, a bit like Jean-Luc Godard did in ‘Alphaville’, set in a future city when it was actually filmed in 1964’s Paris. In this way, the compulsive mobility of the camera at ground level through the corridors of the Warsaw metro transports us to a imaginary and strange reality. And in the many outdoor scenes, the lens filters turn beaches and mountains into landscapes of an unexplored planet.

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The beginning seems that of a western. A rider on horseback, dressed as an Indian, rides through completely snowy mountains, although the electronic music that accompanies the scene could be signed by Tangerine Dream or Vangelis. But as the camera zooms in on the rider, we see that under his plumage he wears a kind of iron mask. He is one of the inhabitants of a tribal civilization, which it helps Zulawski to reflect, in a poetic and nihilistic fantasy key, on how the world was then.

Very crazy, very free, visually powerful, ‘About the Silver Globe’ is based on Jerzy Zulawski’s ‘Lunar Trilogy’, philosopher, novelist, poet, and mountaineer whose brother was the film’s director’s grandfather. The game was going on among relatives.


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