Discover This: Sieniawka

Copyright: Arsenal – Institut für Film und Videokunst

Like a fly in slow motion the camera moves and moves and moves, in constant search for new impressions, new images, new discoveries, new moods to capture. The camera eye takes its time, like the entire film does, and takes us, the audience, deep into an unreal world which is created through the mind and the memory of its filmmaker and cameraman Marcin Malaszczak.

Then, the camera stops, as if in awe, almost like it’s paralysed by what it sees, rendered immobile. An old man enters the frame, then another one, then a person wearing a motorcycle helmet like a spaceman, looking at a landscape that feels like a dystopian fantasy but is in fact the Communist aftermath of a space marked by brown coal mining. We hear the almost terrifying noises of machines -enormous conveyor belts in fact- that have nothing to convey, nothing to carry anymore. There is a poetry of uselessness that is deeply inscribed into the spaces of the Polish town Sieniawka that Marcin Malaszczak portrays as if all this was but a dream, a nightmare, a somnambulant imagination of something that didn’t exist.

Copyright: Arsenal – Institut für Film und Videokunst
Copyright: Arsenal – Institut für Film und Videokunst

But all this does exist, and Malaszczak has spent many years living and looking at a place that by now seems like a post-apocalyptic site where traces of civilisation can only be found in a wastewater pipe or the mural mosaic of past days or a conveyor belt that has lost its purpose. The film’s human inventory mirrors these ideas of time and purpose – they are the residents of an insane asylum – “going to Sieniawka” is a winged word from Malaszczak’s childhood days, meaning that you lost your sanity and were doomed to a controlled and supervised life inside, in company of others who are old and useless like yourself.

Copyright: Arsenal – Institut für Film und Videokunst
Copyright: Arsenal – Institut für Film und Videokunst

Some of these inhabitants break out, and as the do, the images turn from darkness to blazing brightness in the course of the film. We are never sure when these old men are simply documented by the lingering camera and when they are actually directed. In fact, we are constantly left unaware of the amount of cinematic fiction that the film creates and the amount of quiet observation that sneaks into the flow of images. The process of making Sieniawka was spontaneous and led by intuition – the curious camera that moves and moves has been part of an organic process of expressing feelings and ideas by letting the moment dominate over the concept that would later be added in editing.

Copyright: Arsenal – Institut für Film und Videokunst
Copyright: Arsenal – Institut für Film und Videokunst

Sieniawka can best be described as a long meditation that we are invited to be part of, an odyssey into destruction and alienation, a series of moments and explorations that are held together by places that appear enigmatic and mysterious, beautiful despite their hostility. A film in the form of a tender gesture – a personal journey into a Neverland that was once filled with life, bustle, ideology and labour and that is refilled with magic and mystery by an emigrant who returns like a silent observer. Marcin Malaszczak is that fly on the wall that contemplates on an old world annew, before it takes off slowly and keeps moving and moving and moving.

Sieniawka, Germany/ Poland 2013, 126 min.

director/ writer/ cinematography: Marcin Malaszczak, protagonists: Stefan Szyzszka, Stanisław Chęmiński, Ryszard Ciuruś, Tomasz Członka, Kazimierz Duchaczek, Tadeusz Gubała, languages: Polish, distribution: arsenal distribution

Polish with German subtitles: Fsk am Oranienplatz, Kino Krokodil

Director Marcin Malaszczak will be present at Fsk am Oranienplatz on Saturday, June 7th at 6 pm

Discover This! is a Berlin–based film comment.

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