Polish Cinema: Hydrozagadka (Andrzej Kondratiuk, 1971, Poland)

Hydrozagadka or “Hydro-Puzzle” is an absurdist Polish superhero comedy made for television in 1971. Writer-director Andrzej Kondratiuk had a long career making comedies, but he is little known outside of Poland. From the opening credits of the film, delivered by a woman reading them in a dramatic fashion, Kondratiuk’s film is a parade of absurdities. It tells the story of a water shortage in Poland, orchestrated by a local doctor and a maharajah from the fictional desert country of Kabur. Our hero “As” is modeled after Superman. He spends his days as an unassuming worker at a design firm named Jan Walczak. When he learns of the plot to steal Poland’s water, he changes into his superhero persona and sets off to rescue Poland.
There is of course a great deal of humor in Kondratiuk’s premise, as the comic book superheroes known so well to Americans at the time were not part of Polish culture at the time. Kondratiuk reimagines Superman for the Polish People’s Republic. While much of the humor of the film seems to be embedded in the Polish language, and as a result went over my head, many scenes are clearly meant to parody the directives of the state at the time. For example, during a scene with a railway worker, As reminds him to always comply with health and safety regulations.
There are other targets of satire, including what seems to be the new class of man in Polish at this time. One of As’s co-workers, Jola, goes on a retreat with her man Jurek. Jurek tries to seduce her with his consumperistic Western habits - Winston cigars and French love-making. Beyond this, there is plenty of absurdity of a nonsensical nature, including a midget posing as a child, a harem of veiled women (the maharajah’s wives) revealed to be men, and so on. Overall, Hydrozagadka is a fun film if somewhat inscrutable to non-Poles.


6/10

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