I think we are supposed to feel sympathy for Polish artist Wladyslaw Strzeminski (Boguslaw Linda) whose avant-garde art saw him fall out of favour under socialism in the 40s.
Rendered in beautifully subdued colours and with some visually and emotionally lyrical moments, this is a quiet and measured retelling of a life. Strzeminski, a double amputee after WWI, is a revered artist and art teacher. With the post-WWII advent of a Stalinist orthodoxy, art and artists become regulated, forcing them to choose the only option, socialist realism. Unsurprisingly the outspoken Strzeminski refuses and so dooms himself to professional exclusion and poverty.
The story is engaging enough. Strzeminski is obviously seen as charismatic but his growing bitterness and petty meanness to those around him make him an awkward hero. I’m not sure if we are supposed to excuse this is as an unfortunate but acceptable trait of a great artist or acknowledge it as arrogant self absorption that masquerades as principles. His cruel indifference to his daughter Nika (Bronislawa Zamachowska) and student Hania (Zofia Wichlavz) is chilling in its banality.
I ended the film with an appreciation of Strzeminski’s art and the difficulties of holding to principles under oppression but not much admiration for him as a person.
Have you seen this film? Let me know in the comments below.