July 1, 2013 marked the world premiere of Papusza, a film directed by Joanna Kos-Krauze and Krzysztof Krauze and co-financed by the Polish Film Institute, at the 48th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Screening in Main Competition, the film gathered very favourable reviews from Polish and international film critics.
"As of now, Papusza remains the top revelation of the Karlovy Vary festival. [...] After the [other] competition films, surprisingly mundane or flat, like the disappointing Honeymoon by Jan Hřebejk featuring Anna Geislerova, or the Franco-Belgian production 11.6 by Philippe Godeau, Papusza feels like a cinematic work in a completely different class," writes Paweł T. Felis in his review for Gazeta Wyborcza.
"After the screening, it took me a while to compose myself. Papusza is an extraordinary work, a story that steals into our subconscious mind, pulling us in entirely; this film does not allow to pass easy judgment," states the review for Rzeczypospolita.
According to Barbara Hollender, Papusza is "[an] extraordinary tale about being different, about the search for one's own identity, about being part of a community, about the price at which pursuing one's art often comes, about isolation, and about the curse that can be cast over one's head. But it is also about betrayal and loyalty. About love. And about a disappearing world."
According to Paweł T. Felis, "Jowita Budnik, known for her acclaimed role of Beata in Plac Zbawiciela (Saviour's Square), gave a stellar lead performance [as Papusza]. [...] Jowita Budnik's magnetic, constantly changing expression reveals an internal struggle. On one hand there is the dramatic will to be one of 'her own people', and on the other - her superconsciousness and her own voice; a voice that has to be kept secret," writes Felis in his review for Gazeta Wyborcza.
In her review for Portalfilmowy.pl, Katarzyna Skorupska writes: "Papusza, in a stellar performance by Jowita Budnik, is a finite artist - both frail and strong, reserved and extremely present. The performances of Antoni Pawlicki and Zbigniew Waleryś are also appealing; they played Jerzy Ficowski and Dionizy Wajs, Papusza's husband, respectively."
"Another aspect worth mentioning is the exceptional performance of Jowita Budnik and Antoni Pawlicki," writes Michał Hernes for the Stopklatka.pl website.
"Here in Karlovy Vary, everyone remembers Mój Nikifor (My Nikifor), a film that won the festival's top prize in 2004 along with an acting award for Krystyna Feldman. Papusza actually continues the same film journey into the world of a crystal clear naïve artist, who isn't even aware that he or she is creating art; it is a journey into a world where art can be as simple and as natural as breathing," states Paweł T. Felis in his review.
Paweł T. Felis also makes a note on the film's visual side: "The excellent black and white photography is the work of Krzysztof Ptak and Wojciech Staroń. But this film is not overly stylized, it has nothing that would feel artistically forced. Its greatest asset (much like in Papusza's poetry) lies in its piercing simplicity and its modesty that hides some impressive questions that reach far beyond Papusza's story itself and touch upon the issue of what is otherness, and what is art. [...] Papusza avoids condescension, overcomes stereotypes and prejudice, but also shows that there are limits as to how close we can come to those 'others' on the Romani side."
"The black and white Papusza is abundant in shades and colours. It is also rigid in terms of form. The photography by Krzysztof Ptak and Wojciech Staroń is reminiscent of paintings by Bruegel; the production design by Anna Wunderlich, the original score by Jan Kanty Pawluśkiewicz, the excellent performances of Budnik, Pawlicki and Zbigniew Waleryś as Papusza's husband - all these elements create a fascinating picture," writes Barbara Hollender.
According to Michał Hernes of Stopklatka, "cinematographers Krzysztof Ptak and Wojciech Staroń did a fantastic job; their frames often resemble paintings. Focusing on black&white imaging was a well-aimed idea."
"This film is built on the perfectly sculpted, painting-like black and white cinematography. It is a type of visual mosaic, consisting of small and precisely measured cubes, like a part of a symphony attempting to recreate the rhythm of the works of this poet, who wrote painful verse about the difficult life conditions and about the wounds of the Romani people suffered under various regimes, particularly the Nazis," writes Umberto Rossi for Ogginotizie.it.
"Krauze takes advantage of working with two of the best cinematographers of the acclaimed Polish Film School, using clear black and white images by Krzysztof Ptak to create a story that is a cross between a folk tale and a ballad," writes Massimo Tria in his review of Papusza for Nonsolocinema.com.
"These black and white images show the poetic and often barren landscape before and after the Second World War, with the Romani people, their wagons, their customs and traditions, but they also show the moral and physical pain suffered as a result of the ban on camping," reads the review on the Czech website Totalfilm.
"Krzysztof Ptak (who worked with the Krauzes on My Nikifor) and Wojciech Staroń provide some of the most spectacular black and white camera work in recent years," writes Dan Fainaru in his review of Papusza for Screen Daily.
"From Papusza's first breathtaking image, a wide shot of a gipsy camp in 1910, the black and white photography of Krzysztof Ptak and Wojciech Staroń raises the aesthetic bar of the film to a level rarely achieved by black-and-white cinema," writes Domenico La Porta in a review published on the Cineuropa website.
According to the Spanish website Elantepenultimomohicano, "the highlight of the film is its stunning black and white photography [...] painting a mature and absorbing portrait of these characters, partly reminiscent of The White Ribbon."
"Joanna Kos Krauze's and Krzysztof Krauze's Papusza enchants audiences from its first seconds with spectacular photography by Krzysztof Ptak and Wojciech Staroń. These black and white frames are reminiscent of the photographs of Jan Bułhak dating back to the pre-war era. Their beauty, almost extreme, results in every frame being suitable for individual study," writes Katarzyna Skorupska for Portalfilmowy.pl.
"Jan Kanty Pawluśliewicz's score matches the image perfectly, often resembling the sounds of nature," writes Michał Hernes in his website for Stopklatka.pl.
According to Michał Hernes, "Papusza is a model bio-pic and, a few simplifications notwithstanding, it was made with a meticulous attention to detail. Especially in terms of linguistics. I would not be able to imagine the story of this protagonist if it was told entirely in English or in Polish. The filmmakers made a great effort to show the unique character of the Romani language with maximum credibility."
" [...] the Krauzes showed Papusza's drama in a very moving way, which will allow the story of this Gypsy poet to be saved from oblivion through this film. It is quite possible that Joanna Kos-Krauze's and Krzysztof Krauze's film will prompt many people to change their opinion of the Romani people and their culture," writes Michał Hernes.
The complete reviews of Papusza are available on the following websites: Gazeta.pl, Stopklatka.pl, Nonsolocinema.com, Totalfilm.cz, Ogginotizie.it, Rp.pl, Screen Daily, Cineuropa, Elantepenultimumohicano, Portalfilmowy.pl.
Translated by Karolina Kołtun