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R.I.P. Andrzej Zulawski – absolute madman

– by David Morgan-Brown

zulawski posterThere’s no sure way of finding out which filmmaker directed the craziest scenes ever filmed, but Andrzej Zulawski would likely be at the top of the list. The Polish film director died on the 17th February after a long battle with cancer, just as his new film (and his first in over 15 years) Cosmos was picked up for an American distribution. This makes for a bittersweet farewell as his return to making films will no doubt be seen by fans like myself as his swansong, and it will close a cinematic reign of utter madness.

I’ve gone on about his most popular movie, Possession, and I can’t add too much to what I said before other than this is certainly a film that doesn’t diminish or weaken with every viewing, but only seems to get stranger the more I try to make sense of it. What made this film so special, along with the rest of his filmography, is the wild style of filmmaking that he implemented on just about all of his films, which is what cements him as a true auteur and the great surreal enfant terrible of Poland.

From his debut film, The Third Part of the Night, Zulawski immediately showed upon the world his eccentric style: chaotic and constantly moving camerawork, completely exaggerated and maddening performances from his actors, stream of consciousness dialogue that weaved in and out of existential madness, and simply bringing to the cinema some of the most impressively insane scenes to ever be committed to celluloid – he made his surreal counterparts seem very formulaic in comparison.

Some of the things I’ve seen in his films, such as Possession, On the Silver Globe, and The Devil, will forever be permanently scarred in my mind and will never leave me. He was a filmmaker who wasn’t just interested and fascinated by the darker side of the human psyche, he wanted to bathe in it and express it as deeply and as emotionally as possible, even if it meant dividing audiences with his exuberant method of creating films. I’m now very excited to see his new film when it comes out, as well as his back-catalogue of films I haven’t seen yet, to get an even greater scope of this unique filmmaker’s artistic style (and to continue scarring myself). Despite censorship and threats of arrests from various authority figures, resulting in him abandoning his home country in the ‘80s, he still managed to get his films made (even the spectacular, yet slightly unfinished On the Silver Globe) and now he has left behind a glowing legacy of total cinematic lunacy that’s going to have to take a real madman to top.

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Picture credit: Mubi, 24fps Verite, Ledevoir

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