Polish Cinema: The Race (Marek Serafinski, 1990, Poland)

Race (Wyścig) is a 1990 short directed by Polish filmmaker and animator Marek Serafinski. The film opens with a top hat-wearing man seated at a table in an elegant room, holding a sheet of paper. It should be mentioned first and foremost that the film has a very peculiar style. The human figures in the film are portrayed by actors, although the actors' motions are rendered completely animated. There is something of the quality of pastiche or cut-out style in the animation. The man fires a gun, and the footage cuts to bicycles racing.

Thus begins the film's titular race. We are introduced to several characters on bikes moving along the course. One character is drinking and seems to be dressed in a folk outfit. There is a nun in full habit. There is a doctor, a woman in a fur coat, some kind of military figure, and others. Throughout the race, the figures are constantly beating up on each other. One character lassoes another, pulling him back and slowing him down. Meanwhile, the top-hatted man applauds.

It seems that these figures are meant to represent different archetypes or facets of Polish society at the time, and certainly the historical significance of the film's year of production cannot be overlooked. Perhaps the film's "race" reflects a dog-eat-dog race toward a new system of government after the PRL disintegrated. Serafinski brings a sense of humor to the proceedings and an almost slapstick style. At the film's conclusion, it is revealed that our characters are not on a real racetrack at all, but are in fact on some kind of hamster wheel contraption that is sending them running in circles. There is certainly some satirical element to the film's finale and lends even more absurdist humor to the proceedings of this strange little short.



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