Modern Polish film-making was born with the establishment of the National Film School in Łódź in 1948. In its nascent years, the output of the School was somewhat sparse – an understandable consequence of the need for a shattered nation to make sense of the horrors of World War II, as well as a reaction to the repressive whims of post-war Stalinism.

But following the death of Stalin and the cultural ‘thaw’ in the mid-1950s, the cinema of Poland flourished, with a wide-ranging, auteur-led approach to film.

It was in these first few years that the Polish Film School emerged, an informal grouping of directors and screenwriters who sought to dissect the national identity of Poland through a variety of approaches. While the work of Andrzej Wajda revealed the true nature of ‘heroism’ through a historical examination, Andrzej Munk deconstructed the mythology of that heroism with a more ironic approach. The cinema of Wojciech Has, conversely, was characterised by a distinct visual aesthetic that embraced surrealism.

The following generation of film-makers, most of whom grew up after the war, turned the camera towards the everyday concerns and dilemmas of Polish society. This is partly manifested in the work of what might be considered a Polish ‘New Wave’ – the early, largely autobiographical films of Jerzy Skolimowski and the avant-garde psychological horror of Andrzej Żuławski. Later, the so-called ‘cinema of moral anxiety’ would cover similarly striking ground, notably in films directed by Krzysztof Zanussi and Agnieszka Holland.

As Poland transitioned to capitalism in the 1990s, its cinema was opened up to market forces and began to indulge more commercial tastes. Nonetheless, challenging works by Krzysztof Krauze and Barbara Sass cut at the dark underbelly of Polish society, while the emotion-driven filmography of Krzysztof Kieślowski finally reached international fame.

In partnership with Second Run, we are pleased to present five lesser-seen films from some of Poland’s most well-known directors: Man on the Tracks (1957), Walkover (1965), A Lonely Woman (1981), On the Silver Globe (1988) and The Temptation (1995).

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