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The Films of Franciszka and Stefan Themerson (DVD)


by Franciszka and Stefan Themerson

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Stefan and Franciszka Themersons had a significant influence on the art and philosophy of the avant-garde of Eastern Europe during the 1930s. Their work reflected something of the Dada and Constructivist forms and ideas of the time, but what most distinguished them throughout their lives, was their remarkable invention and technical experiment.

This was true of every field they became involved in: photography, literature, art, design and publishing, as well as film. They were the most important makers of avant-garde film in pre-war Poland. After they settled in London in the early 1940s, they made two films under the auspices of the Polish Government in Exile including their first British film, Calling Mr Smith (1943), a rallying call to open the eyes and minds of the British public to Nazi atrocities in Europe.

In London they became key figures in the post-war cultural scene, founding Gaberbocchus Press, a major small press publishing first English editions of Jarry, Adler, Apollinaire, Schwitters, Queneau amongst others as well as writing novels, poems, philosophical treaties, operas, painting and theatre design. They died in London in 1988.

The DVD contains:
Adventures of a Good Citizen, 1937, 9 min
"There are two sentences spoken in Polish. At the beginning the CARPENTER shouts to one of the two men with a wardrobe: ‘The sky won’t fall in if you walk backwards!’ This is overheard (over the telephone) by THE GOOD CITIZEN (a civil servant) who also decides to try walking backwards. In the street, he collides with TWO MEN WITH THE WARDROBE, and now it is he and one of the other two who carry the wardrobe backwards out of the town and into the forest. A group of people (representing a cross-section of society) march with banners to protest against walking backwards." - Stefan Themerson

Calling Mr Smith, 1943, 10 min
Calls on ‘Mr Smith’ to support the war effort as an anti-fascist struggle, illustrating its appeal with examples of Nazi oppression in Poland.
"The film is experimental in technique, using anamorphic lenses, still and moving images and vivid colour (the Dufay-colour process). While the spoken soundtrack employs a rhetoric heard elsewhere in wartime propaganda, the overall tone of the film is unusually urgent and authentic and in some sequences images combine with music (Chopin, Szymanowski ) to convey a real feeling of loss." - David Finch.

The Eye and the Ear, 1944-5, 10 min
Four types of visual interpretation of four songs by Karol Szymanowski , Polish words by Julian Tuwin, English translation by Jan Sliwinski - Stefan Themerson
Orchestra conducted by Ronald Biggs. Commentary by Bruce Graeme spoken by J. McKechnie

These are the three surviving Themerson films (all others were lost in Nazi-occupied Poland).

Please note that this DVD is for individual purchase only, for institutional sales please contact LUX directly.

  • Bilingual 88 page booklet in English-Polish from the LUX/CCA Warsaw 'The Films of Franciska and Stefan Themerson', including unpublished texts and letters by Stefan Themerson.
  • Additional Information
    More Information
    Product contents 1 disc + 88 page book
    Year 1937-45 (DVD 2008)
    Director Themerson, Franciszka; Themerson, Stefan
    Format DVD, Paperback
    Publisher(s) LUX
    Countries Poland
    Colour Colour + B&W
    Subtitles English, Polish
    Language(s) English, Polish
    Running time 60min
    DVD region 0, PAL
    Certificate N/a
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