Polish Cinema: Cztery pory roku (Andrzej Kondratiuk, 1985, Poland)

                Cztery pory roku, otherwise known by its English title The Four Seasons of the Year, marks the beginning of a trilogy director Andrzej Kondratiuk made in his Polish country village of Gzowo. The films, which also include Wrecionoczasu and SĹ‚oneczny zegar, are a unique record of Kondratiuk’s own life. The films blend reality and fiction, and feature performances from Kondratiuk as his himself, as well as his wife Iga Cembrzynska, and his pets. Kondratiuk is perhaps best known outside Poland as an early collaborator with Roman Polanski on his short films at the Lodz film school, as well as for his 1971 film Hydrozagadka – a curious and funny take on American superhero comics from a Polish perspective.

                Despite its grounding in mundane everyday existence, Cztery pory roku is far more mythical than Kondratiuk’s prior work. As the title suggests, the film is an examination of the seasons of the year as well as the seasons of life, and nature features prominently in the film. The sound design also prominently features the sounds of the natural world, in addition to other elements – including a haunting chorus that sounds like Orthodox chanting. While the film is certainly not plot-driven, it does feature a plot – Kondratiuk is preparing his home for the arrival and stay of his elderly father and mother. His father is suffering from senility, and Kondratiuk is clearly concerned that this future may greet him one day.

                One of the highlights of the film is Iga Cembrzynska – Kondratiuk’s real-life wife. She has a connection to the mystical and natural that provides a counterpoint to Kondratiuk’s cold and scientific rationality. The tension between her mystical worldview and Kondratiuk’s more logical one provides one of the main themes of the film. The film has an incredible finale, in which Kondratiuk builds a pyramid-like structure that almost evokes the monolith from 2001: A SpaceOdyssey.


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