Pornographia: where vulgarities and sorrows merge


A beautiful movie: thoroughly touching. But why ‘Pornographia’?

Pornography is not always vulgar but the first impression of the word usually brings to our mind of something that is vulgar. Conversely, the first impression of movie ‘Pornografia’ is bound to throw us into confusion: it doesn’t consist of anything that even remotely resembles our common understanding of pornography and yet in a warped sense it exhibits what is more vulgar than the most obscene pornography.

Pornographia is about the loss or rather, death of innocence during the World War II. While such a subject have been approached by many directors at different periods of time and from different angles, what sets apart Jan Jakub Kolski is the way he enters into minds of the characters in wartime Poland: effortlessly and expeditiously, without any loud graphic reference to the horrendous violence going on around the world during the time of the world war. There was still a more abysmal violence crippling the minds of people.  Beyond nations there were the ‘people’. Of course the credit goes to a large extent to the acting of the protagonist: Frederik ( Krzysztof Majchrzak ) and to the author of the book, on whose story the screenplay is based: Witold Gombrowicz. Nonetheless, a movie is a baby of the director.

Fear, rage and helplessness, winds up in a refuge in mockery, play and indifference. The youth balefully gets spent. While some people lose their conscience to their fear, like Hippolit (Krzysztof Globisz) , some escape their fear by finding temporary excitements, like Witold ( Adam Ferency ) and some become victims of their grief and rage, like Frederick. The silence that can be felt throughout the movie, even during and between the music, is the silence of weakness or perhaps of the inevitability. Everyone is in a trap and only flying for the moment, hopelessly waiting for a chance to be spared and yet the end is to be the same: dying like the moths, inside the lamp or outside, doesn’t matter. The bug of blasphemy doesn’t spare the most sacred; it’s there crawling inside the church and even on the cross as it tries to sanctify a death. It is crawling in the peoples’ ebbing consciences. Even death cannot prevent one from the entire abhorrence of fear turning into a sinister sickness. The silence signifies the incipient gloom. It also signifies the invariant humdrum of a usual day, war or not, for instances- the accidental death of Amelia (Irena Laskowska) for a piece of cake; Frederick losing his voice temporarily and the flings of the younger generation.

Krzysztof Majchrzak plays his role beautifully: raged or aggrieved or mocking, the sadness hangs about him like his own ghost and in that whistle. The whistle, in Maria’s (Grazyna Blecka-Kolska ) words- is very happy and sad at the same time. Yes, the title music (to the credit of Zygmunt Konieczny ) is the heart of the movie: touching where all the vulgarities lose what is sad beyond them. While everyone in the story was waiting to be a victim of the Nazis, Frederick already was. His affinity for the bread even in the presence of ample amount of it shows certain insecurity: the result of a noxious hunger I presume. Though not very pronounced for an unobservant eye and that is what, I believe, is the intention of the director: to allow the character his space, Majchrzak took his cue shrewdly. The moment of resemblance of a face to that of his (Frederick’s) child’s is more momentous than any life-saving miracle for him. Besides in the wartime, a miracle itself is another mockery. The last shot is evidence enough.

Cinematically, I won’t enunciate it as one at its best; Kolska could have done better. Nevertheless, he gives us some beautiful moments, for instance the first (after the introductions) and the last shots: the former already justifying the title of the film, where the music is in complete contradiction to what is being displayed, mocking the mundaneness of tragedy in this modern era and the latter, a sharp cut, with its slickly turn from the vulgar to the sad is one of the best shots that the cinema industry must have ever witnessed. There’s also an element of surprise in the close up shots where Frederick’s senses get alert; profitably depicting that on the face of the war, senses (instincts in this case) were turning pale too.

All in all, the film is a must watch for any cinephile. If one doesn’t wish to watch the whole film, one can just listen to the soundtrack : it’s soulful and tells a story in its own language.


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