Polish Cinema: Christmas Eve (Helena Amiradzibi-Stawinska/Jerzy Stefan Stawinski, 1966, Poland)

Though set on Christmas Eve, Christmas Eve (Przedswiateczny wieczór) is by no means a festive Christmas movie. The film is emblematic of the Polish film school - deep, psychological, and elliptical. The film was co-directed by Jerzy Stefan Stawiński along with his wife Helena Amiradzibi-Stawińska. Stawiński was one of the leading figures of the Polish film school of the 1950s and 1960s, writing scripts for - among others - Andrzej Munk and Andrzej Wajda. He was also a prolific writer, and Christmas Eve is based on one of his novels.

The film stars Krzysztof Chamiec as our protagonist Andrzej. Andrzej is in the process of looking for a woman named Ewa. It becomes clear at a certain point that this Ewa may not be a real person at all, but some idealized pursuit. Andrzej first tries to find Ewa at a doctor's office, where he gets into a fight with the doctor - jealous over Andrzej having stolen his past girlfriend. Then Andrzej has a romantic tryst with an old girlfriend that ends in a bitter fight. He ends up at a bar called, unsurprisingly, Ewa, and sees many women who all look very similar.

The film becomes progressively more psychological as we begin to see Andrzej playing against himself. Christmas Eve is an atmospheric and wintry movie, cozy despite its psychological turmoil. While the film follows a similar template as many Polish dramas from this period - many follow a man on his "long journey through the night," confronting various strange characters including Zbigniew Cybulski - it nevertheless is an interesting journey. While it is clear early on that the film and Ewa are a metaphorical, interior journey, this gives the film a novelistic tone that no doubt was what the director and writer intended. We are curious to see more from Stawiński. 



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