Slavic and Eurasian Studies

Polish Film: "Austeria" (1982)

Sun, April 6, 2014 | Austin Public Library at Manchaca Road Branch, 5500 Manchaca Road

3:30 PM

Polish Film:

“Austeria”, 1982, 1 hr 48 min.

This event is free and open to the public. The film will be shown in Polish with English subtitles.

Sunday, April 6th at 3:30 p.m.

Director Jerzy Kawalerowicz fantasized about creating a film about an extinct world, a community long dead. Austeria mourns a culture now extinct. Set against the turbulent history of the first half of the 20th century, the film examines the lives of Polish Jews on the eve of World War I. Refugees ranging from a Hungarian hussar to an Austrian Baroness seek sanctuary from the Russian army in a country inn, the eponymous “Austeria,” which belongs to a Jewish innkeeper called Tag. Tag watches as the war and the looming Russian army draw ever closer. The final scene of the film brings with it the mass destruction of unsuspecting Jewish civilians, foreshadowing the events of the Holocaust. Though almost instantly received as a masterpiece, the Commission for Film Approval forced Kawalerowicz, a Communist Party member, to alter his original ending, thereby dispelling any negative image of the Russian regime. The director acquiesced, and a new scene was conceived, removing the Russian soldiers as murderers.

Quote from the director:

The lost world of Polish Jews has long awaited representation on film. This original group, with its ideology, philosophy, customs, unique charm and poetry deserved a lasting monument in world culture. It always appeared to me that such a film could only be made in Poland. Here, there are still people who remember this lost world; there are active artists who have the shape of the murdered civilization in their eyes and memories, who hear the sounds and melodies of that time (…)

We did our best to create a metaphorical film, similar to a passionate, dynamic fresco portraying the world of Jews seconds away from slaughter. This is why a book by Julian Stryjkowski, Austeria, was used as a basis for this story. It provoked enormous interest all over the world with its uniqueness and its specific way of approaching this subject.

My film is, therefore, far away from traditional, sentimental stories. In a dynamic abstract, I try to restore the dreams, thinking habits and philosophical demeanor of eastern European Jews faced with the ultimate threat. I limited this fresco to the framework of Judgement Day – literally and lyrically. Throughout one day and one night I try to show, perhaps too brutally, people’s attitude towards the tragedy, which is represented by every war bearing the prospect of annihilation. Such an approach seems to be more universal for me – Jerzy Kawlerowicz, 1983. 

 Trailer (subtitled)

Sponsored by: Austin Polish Society

Bookmark and Share