Melbourne Cinematheque- Angry Harvest: The films of Agnieszka Holland, Week 3

18 Oct

Set in 1905 Fever (1981) follows the life of a bomb and those who come in contact with it, namely a group of Polish anarchists who wish to use it to assassinate the Russian Tsar. The inexperienced group- including The Extremist Anarchist, The Hooligan, The Disaffected Peasant, etc. – of would-be terrorists make several attempts on the Tsars life, yet each character slowly succumbs to forces outside of their control. Having now become a trait in Holland’s films, the relationship between the characters and their surroundings is filled with tension, and an unseen presence is always being felt no matter how hard the characters try to ignore it. As would be fitting, Holland’s film about socialists failing to take down a Tsarist, and therefore monarchist and oppressive regime, was subsequently banned by the Polish government with the introduction of Martial Law.

To end Melbourne Cinematheque’s retrospective on Agnieszka Holland is one of her first films, Screen Tests (1977). A three-part feature film made in collaboration with Jerzy Domaradzki and Pawel Kedzierski, Screen Tests combines love affairs with filmmaking. The First Act follows working-class Anka (Daria Trafankowska) who, upon graduating high school, spends the summer getting ready for a screen test and starts a relationship with a boy who suddenly leaves her. In the Second Act Pawel (Andrzej Pieczynski) is introduced as another youth wanting to get involved in acting and joins an amateur acting group, quickly starting an affair with his boss’s wife. The Third Act bring Anka and Pawel together at the screen tests they have spent summer preparing for with the two asked to improvise a scene that entwines life and art.

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