The Carpathian Film Trail features films which are set in the borderlands between the Małopolska Voivodeship and the Prešov Region and thus correspond to the cultural and artistic heritage of that region. The films have been classified into two fundamental categories – feature films and documentary films. Many a film aficionado finds discovering the genuine locations of their favourite films to be an entertaining and rewarding activity. One nationwide example of taking advantage of film tourism in Poland is the website polskanafilmowo.pl.
The following description includes both Polish and Slovak motion pictures. They are frequently evidence of how much these two countries have in common. It is true for the legends of the highwayman Jánošík, for instance, which are part of both the Polish and Slovak heritage. The trail features such popular films as Juraj Jakubisko’s Tisícrocná vcela (A Thousand-Year-Old Bee), but it by no means excludes the pictures which are more underground, but still a must-see, a perfect example of the excellent documentary being W Nowicy na końcu świata (In Nowica at the End of the World) by Natasza Ziółkowska-Kurczuk.
The second building block of the Carpathian Film Trail is providing the profiles of the people of the cinema who are somehow connected with the said borderlands region. These include the creators (directors, actors, screenwriters) who were born here, and sometimes worked here as well. Each artiste has been assigned to the town he was born in.
The film is the story of Johanka, a single mother living in the countryside somewhere near Prešov with her daughter Paulína. As she does not have a man by her side, her fellow villagers treat her with disrespect. Her daughter commutes to Prešov to work in a cold meat factory. During a concert, she meets a young soldier, immediately falls for him, and soon gets pregnant. It turns out, however, that another woman is also expecting his child, and the soldier decides to stay with her.
The history comes full circle. Just as her mother was over ten years before, now the daughter is expecting an illegitimate baby too. Both women have been abandoned by their men.
By telling a simple story, set mainly in the Slovak province, Uher managed to create an engaging picture. Full of warmth, with brilliantly-portrayed characters, the film is as amusing today as it was thirty years ago when it was made.
Production - Czechoslovakia
Directed by Štefan Uher
Written by Štefan Uher, Emília Zimková
Cinematography - Stanislav Szomolányi
Outdoor filming locations - Bratislava, Fintice, Hubina, Ostrava, Prešov
Emília Zimková - Johanka Ovšena
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez tells the multi-generational story of the Buendía family. The novel is one of the most prominent masterpieces of magical realism in literature. This trend is characterised by appealing to one’s imagination, deriving inspiration from local traditions and legends, and the skilful use of the surprising and the unusual.
In the Slovak cinema, the equivalent of magic realism was created by Juraj Jakubisko. The director elaborated his own style, very fairy-tale-like and replete with metaphors. This is best exemplified by the film Tisícrocná vcela, which, like Márquez’s famous novel, tells the story of an extended family. The backdrop for the story is Slovak history from the late 19th Century to the First World War.
Like in the works of magic realism, Jakubisko’s film features extraordinary events and characters. The eponymous bee, which has lived for a thousand years, is the guardian of the village’s inhabitants. One day, a ball of fire falls down from the sky and burns the mill.
The film is based on the novel by Peter Jaroš. It is a must-see for all cinema lovers!
Production - Austria, Czechoslovakia
Directed by Juraj Jakubisko
Written by Juraj Jakubisko, Peter Jaroš
Cinematography - Stanislav Doršic
Outdoor filming locations - Banská Bystrica, Bratislava and the vicinity, Lednice, Liptov, Orava, Spiš
Loosely based on one of the Brothers Grimm’s folk tales, Perinbaba is a story about the life of Jakubek, a boy who went to heaven to be looked after by the eponymous Fairy. The Feather Fairy’s job is to produce snow and control the weather in the world. Living in the heavenly palace, both the Fairy and Jakubek remain immortal.
From heaven, Jakubek observes the everyday life of a certain village and its inhabitants. He is particularly interested in the fate of little Elżbietka, whose mother died and father re-married. The stepmother and her daughter try to make Elżbietka’s life miserable in every possible way. Jakubek decides to come to her rescue. He flees from the Fairy’s palace and descends onto Earth, renouncing his eternal youth. As befits a fairy tale, there is a happy ending – Jakubek and Elżbietka get married, and the evil stepmother and stepsister are chased out of the house.
Film lovers will especially appreciate the role of the Feather Fairy, played by Giulietta Massina. For fifty years, this Italian actress was married to one of the most famous directors in the history of cinema, Federico Fellini. She appeared in many of her husband’s films, including La Strada, Nights of Cabiria, Juliet of the Spirits, and Ginger&Fred.
Production - Austria, Czechoslovakia, the Federal Republic of Germany
Directed by Juraj Jakubisko
Written by Juraj Jakubisko, Ľubomír Feldek
Cinematography - Dodo Šimončič
Outdoor filming locations - Orava, the Tatra Mountains – Łomnica, the Súľov Rocks, Martin, Rožnov pod Radhoštěm
Tobias Hoesl – Jakub
Petra Vančíková – Alžbetka
Giulietta Massina – Lady Winter (the Feather Fairy)
1994 Legenda Tatr (Legend of the Tatras), directed by Wojciech Solarz
The screenplay of the film Legenda Tatr was based on two of Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer’s works of prose – Na skalnym Podhalu (On the rocky Podhale) and Legenda Tatr (the Legend of the Tatras).
The time frame is the year 1994, where the main character Andrzej comes to the Tatra Mountains. He is on his way to the Strążyska Valley in a horse-drawn cab when he suddenly spots a light coming out of the Sleeping Knights’ Cave on the face of Giewont. The cabman explains to him that, as legend has it, every ten years a blacksmith shoes a horse there. Intrigued, Andrzej decides to climb up to the cave, but he falls off the steep rock wall.
This is when the film proper begins. Full of vividly-portrayed characters, legends, and folk beliefs, this story is of a young man who takes no notice of his sister’s advice and joins a gang of highwaymen. This is also a story about impoverished Mudroń - a single father of two.
However, one of the most enchanting stories here is that of an old highlander Zwyrtała, who dies and goes to heaven. It turns out that even God wears highlander clothes. What is more, when Zwyrtała starts to play Tatra music on his violin, all the assembled in heaven begin to dance and sing along to the highlander tones.
Legenda Tatr is a captivating story about highlander culture and the legends that had been generated in this region for centuries. The character is mesmerised by the mountain folklore and the mentality of the locals, and so are the viewers.
Production - Poland
Directed by Wojciech Solarz
Written by Wojciech Solarz
Cinematography - Zbigniew Wichłacz
Outdoor filming locations - Zakopane, the Tatra Mountains
Rafał Królikowski – Andrzej
Jerzy Trela – Mudroń
2000 Duże zwierzę (The Big Animal), directed by Jerzy Stuhr
Although the location for Jerzy Stuhr’s film is not exactly specified, those who know the Beskids will easily recognise the towns of Rabka, Myślenice, and Tymbark.
The screenplay, based on Kazimierz Orłoś’s story Wielbłąd (Camel), was written many years ago by Krzysztof Kieślowski. In fact, he wanted to be the one to film Duże zwierzę, but the communist censorship relegated the script to the sock drawer for many years. It was dusted off by Janusz Morgenstern. Jerzy Stuhr, one of Kieślowski’s favourite actors, decided to direct it. He also played the leading role.
Duże zwierzę tells the story of Mr and Mrs Sawicki, who one day find a camel left behind by a circus. They take the animal in and gradually become more and more attached to it. At the same time, their neighbours’ negative attitude towards the big pet gets worse. Everybody sees the camel as a threat and treats it like something socially useless and therefore dispensable.
In a broader perspective, Duże zwierzę is the story about intolerance and the fear of the unknown on the one hand, and about standing up for your own beliefs no matter what on the other. The film reality is black and white – both literally (filming technique) and metaphorically (the Sawickis are unquestionably good people while the rest of the townsfolk are downright bad).
Production - Poland
Directed by Jerzy Stuhr
Written by Jerzy Stuhr, Krzysztof Kieślowski
Cinematography - Paweł Edelman
Outdoor filming locations - Tymbark, Warsaw (the Zoo), Myślenice, Rabka
Jerzy Stuhr – Zygmunt Sawicki
Anna Dymna – Maria Sawicka
2001 Człowiek zwany Nikiforem (A Man Called Nikifor), directed by Grzegorz Siedlecki
The film is dedicated to the extraordinary artistic work, sensitivity, and mysterious identity of one of the most prominent primitivist painters. All his life, Nikifor was closely associated with the town of Krynica-Zdrój. This is where he was born, where he created his works, and tried to sell his paintings. This is also the place most eagerly featured in his paintings. He spent most of his life in poverty, rejected by others due to his disability – he slurred his speech, which made his words inarticulate.
The picture focusses on the painter’s profile and identity. Nikifor referred to himself as Matejko, as he thought it to be the synonym for the word ‘painter.’ He was of Lemko descent, born the illegitimate child of Eudokia Drowniak, a poor, deaf-mute Lemko beggar, who used to bring water to the boarding houses of Krynica. The painter never used her surname, though.
At some point, the primitivist’s works gained significant popularity, and in 1962 the communist authorities decided to establish his identity. The Court in Muszyna drew up a new birth certificate, giving him a new name, Nikifor Krynicki, and Polish nationality.
Many years passed before Lemkos reminded the world of Nikifor’s true roots and national identity. He died in 1968, and on his tombstone there are two inscriptionsNikifor Krynicki in the Latin alphabet and Nykyfor Epifan Drowniak in the Cyrillic letters.
Production - Poland
Directed by Grzegorz Siedlecki
Written by Grzegorz Siedlecki
Cinematography - Andrzej Szulkowski
Outdoor filming locations - Krynica Górska
Edward Dwurnik - Marian Włosiński
2003 Tatry mystérium (The Tatras - a Mystery), directed by Pavol Barabáš
Pavol Barabáš is a director, screenwriter, and a cameraman. Born in 1959, he makes mountain and travel films.
His works can be divided into two predominant trends – on the one hand, he tells us about the remotest and wildest corners of our globe (e.g. in Pururambo, he shows the tribes of New Guinea undisturbed by western civilisation, or in Tepuy, he portrays one of the world’s biggest caves); on the other hand, he likes to film Slovak mountains. Several of his extraordinary films are dedicated to the Tatra Mountains. One of them, Tatry mystérium, is featured in the Carpathian Film Trail.
Completed in 2003, Tatry mystérium is an eleven-minute-long film impression. With instrumental, soothing music in the background, the viewer has the opportunity to contemplate the breathtaking photos of the Tatras depicted in all seasons of the year and times of the day. We can admire Tatra animals and observe how nature leads its harmonious life. The status quo established centuries ago is still in force – man is only a guest, and nature acts according to its own rules.
His works repeatedly won Barabáš prestigious awards, including one at the Trento Film Festival, one of the world’s oldest and most important mountain and exploration film festivals, held annually in Trento, Italy. In 2003, he received the Crystal Wing Award, given to the most eminent figures in Slovakia.
Production - Slovakia
Directed by Pavol Barabáš
Written by Pavol Barabáš
Cinematography - Pavol Barabáš
Outdoor filming locations - the Tatra Mountains
2004 Mój Nikifor (My Nikifor), directed by Krzysztof Krauze
As Kamil Rudziński wrote in his review, “it seems indeed that it was worth shooting the film for this one idea – casting Feldman in this unique role” (of Nikifor – MW’s note) (sourceRudziński Kamil, Stróż diamentu, [in:] Kino 10/2004, p. 42). The idea turned out to be a great success. In addition to her physical resemblance to the famous Krynica’s primitivist, Krystyna Feldman delights us with her brilliant performance, which must have been far from easy.
Krzysztof Krauze’s film is not the account of the artist’s entire life, but focusses on the theme of friendship between him and Marian Włosiński, spanning the period from the moment Nikifor meets Włosiński till the painter’s death in 1968. Once Nikifor appears in Włosiński’s life, both the harmony in his work and at home becomes disrupted (Nikifor was the reason Włosiński’s marriage ended). Despite this, Włosiński allows the artist to stay in his world until Nikifor’s death.
As a by-product of making a picture about an extraordinary friendship, the filmmakers managed to portray the Krynica Górska of the post-war period. Nikifor was forcibly resettled from Krynica three times, the first time during the Vistula Operation. Although each time expelled to remote areas, the primitivist always found his way back to his beloved home town.
Production - Poland
Directed by Krzysztof Krauze
Written by Joanna Kos-Krauze, Krzysztof Krauze
Cinematography - Krzysztof Ptak
Outdoor filming locations - Krynica-Zdrój, Złockie (the Orthodox Church of Saint Demetrius), Warsaw (Zachęta)
Krystyna Feldman – Nikifor
Roman Gancarczyk – Marian Włosiński
Lucyna Malec – Hanna Włosińska, Marian’s wife
2004 Goralenvolk, directed by Artur Więcek
Goralenvolk is the name given to the Nazi action of Germanisation conducted in Podhale in the years 1939-44. It propagated the idea that the Polish Górale (the highlanders) were of German descent. Goralenvolk was the most prominent example of Polish collaboration with the Nazis during the Second World War. It started at the outset of the war, when Wawel Castle started to be occupied by Hans Frank. On 7 November 1939, Frank was visited by a group of highlander collaborators. Wacław Krzeptowski and Józef Cukier presented Frank with a golden shepherd’s axe, paying tribute on behalf of the Podhale inhabitants. Zakopane was turned into a holiday resort for Germans, who were eager to visit the city to relax during the War.
Not all highlanders took the Nazis’ side. Only just over ten per cent described their identity as highlander, renouncing their Polishness. Many were part of the resistance movement, and the Tatra Confederation was established.
Więcek’s film attempts to answer many questions - why did some highlanders choose to collaborate with the Nazis?, was Krzeptowski a real traitor? The inhabitants of Podhale, most of whom still remember those times, are interviewed by Paweł Smoleński, the journalist from Gazeta Wyborcza. It turns out, however, that they are reluctant to reopen old wounds of that part of their history. Also, they do not want to pass judgements that would unambiguously condemn certain people. They considered the subject of Goralenvolk as taboo for many years, and for some of them that has not changed.
Production - Poland
Directed by Artur Więcek
Written by Witold Bereś, Artur Więcek
Cinematography - Marek Gajczak
Outdoor filming locations - Zakopane, the Tatra Mountains
2005 Karol – człowiek, który został papieżem (Karol - A Man Who Became Pope), directed by Giacomo Battiato
Karol Wojtyła is strongly associated with the Małopolska Voivodeship. Born in Wadowice, the Pope studied and lived in Kraków. He took countless trips to the mountains, which were very important to him. Later, being a university lecturer, he used to visit Podhale and Tatras with his students.
The film Karol – człowiek, który został papieżem by the Italian director is a story of Karol Wojtyła’s life, covering the period from the outbreak of the Second World War to his election to the Papacy on 16 October 1978. The character is portrayed in a broad context – both historically and culturally. The film clearly demonstrates the impact of the Second World War and the subsequent deaths of his loved ones on the kind of life path the future Pope chooses to follow. The political events of post-war Poland, conflicts with the secret communist police, and the Poznan 1956 protests, constitute a backdrop for Wojtyła’s later church career.
The film started to be shot near the end of John Paul II’s pontificate, but it was not premiered until after the Pope’s death. Because of that, the viewers’ reactions were very emotional, and the film was not only a mere piece of cinematography, but an important event in itself.
Production - France, Canada, Germany, Poland, Italy
Directed by Giacomo Battiato
Written by Giacomo Battiato
Cinematography - Giovanni Mammolotti
Outdoor filming locations - Kraków, Babice, the Przełom Białki nature reserve
Piotr Adamczyk – Karol Wojtyła
Małgorzata Bela – Hania