Polish Cinema: The Lamp (Roman Polanski, 1959, Poland)

The Lamp (Lampa) is an eight-minute student film directed by Roman Polanski in 1959. The film opens with what appears to be someone working in a studio. A classical piece on the organ plays along as the camera begins to zoom in. We fade in and see a toymaker working on a doll. The workshop includes many doll pieces - heads, limbs - quite eerie. The craftsman is working on the head of one of the dolls. The camera turns and a cuckoo clock goes off. The camera pans across all of the pieces of dolls in the studio. 

The craftsman continues to assemble the doll, inserting its eyes and putting on its hair. Meanwhile the camera scans away to find other interesting doll pieces in the shop, and a lamp. We then see the craftsman nailing cords into a wall. More shots of the dolls - this time things are getting very strange. A shot of the lamp on the ceiling. An eerie ambient noise continues throughout as hte light in the shop goes off. We hear what sounds like voices warbled and whispering. Are the dolls coming to life?

The camera scans over the dolls, as the strange and warbled whispering continues along with the ambient soundtrack, in an extended tracking shot. There are sounds of what appears to be accidents, crashing. The clock ticks and a light flashes. The cuckoo clock goes off madly, and a fire starts, engulfing the dolls in flame as the classical music begins to play again. Haunting images of the dolls on fire, and the entire shop on fire, appear. We see the entire shop on fire as the camera pans outward, and a man cries out in anger. Lamp is one of Polanski's most haunting and creepy short films - worth watching for anyone who is a fan of cinema.



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