‘Choose the Impossible’: Wojciech Has reframes Prus’s Lalka

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This article considers the relationship between Wojciech Has’s self-proclaimed desire to ‘choose the impossible’ and both his selection of Bolesław Prus’s late nineteenth-century novel Lalka/The Doll for adaptation in 1968 and the mode of adaptation chosen. The quotient of ‘impossibility’ attendant upon bringing a novel of this length within the confines even of a film of ‘super-production’ dimensions is accentuated by the attempt to reconcile Prus’s realist narrative with the stylistics to which Has is most indebted, those of the non-narrative and oneiric movement known as surrealism. The surrealist foregrounding of objects in the frame corresponds to their fetishistic enchantment in the eyes of a Benjaminian flâneur, who is both the director employing tracking shots and his mise en abyme image in the protagonist, the merchant Wokulski, whose love-object, the aristocratic Izabela, is also ‘impossible’. Melancholy and masochism are also diffused between director, character and the character type made possible by the invention of cinema, who vanishes behind objects that have more life in them than he does.

Keywords: Flâneur; Polish cinema; fetishism; melancholy; super-production; surrealism

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/seec.4.1.79_1

Affiliations: University of Western Ontario

Publication date: April 1, 2013

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  • In the years since the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the political changes of 1989/90, there has been a growing interest in the cinemas of the former countries of the Eastern Bloc. There is a growing community of scholars, including a number of students working for post-graduate qualifications, who are engaged with film but also media, culture, and art (of one form or another) from the region. This is not a community existing on the margins of academia but one which is nationally and internationally recognised for the centrality and high quality of its scholarship. Studies in Eastern European Cinema provides a dynamic, innovative, regular, specialised peer-reviewed academic outlet and discursive focus for the world-wide community of Eastern European film scholars, edited by a board of experienced, internationally recognised experts in the field.
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