Polish Cinema: The Prince and the Dybbuk (Elwira Niewiera/Piotr Rosolowski, 2017, Poland/Germany)

The Prince and the Dybbuk tells the story of Michal Waszynski, a film director and producer who had an enigmatic life. Directors Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosolowski’s excellent film traces Waszynski’s trajectory from an orthodox Jewish family In Kovel, Poland (now Ukraine) at the turn of the century, to elegant and hip 1950s Rome. In the process, the film explores how Waszynski was able to construct new identities for himself, and how this manifested itself in his work.
The film is comprised of interviews, scenes from Waszynski’s films, and archival footage. The interviews range from Waszynski’s relatives - now living in Tel Aviv, with little knowledge of his life - to soldiers he served with while working as a film director in the Polish Army during World War II. Some of the most moving interviews come from the residents of Kovel, Ukraine - where the Waszynski name is a distant memory. We learn in the film that all the Jews of Kovel - including Waszynski’s family, who had shunned him for leaving - were murdered during the Holocaust.
Waszynski had an extremely prolific career in the burgeoning Polish film industry of the 1930s - the archival footage captures the vitality and life in the Polish capital at this time. He is best known today for the titular Dybbuk (1937), a film that is concerned the greatest ever to be shot in the Yiddish language. The documentary posits that Waszynski - who concealed his Jewish identity for most of his life - made this film to grapple with his inner demons about abandoning the Jewish faith. This is also coupled with his homosexuality, which we learn throughout the film was a point of angst for him. 
The Prince and the Dybbuk is an intriguing portrait of Waszynski, and a nostalgic postcard to the lost worlds he inhabited.


8/10

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