Television films

   Although the first experimental television studio opened in Warsaw in 1952, and the first films were produced there in 1954, television became more popular in the 1960s. The number of television sets grew from approximately five hundred thousand in 1960 (when the first television production company was formed), to more than three million in 1968 and more than five million in 1972.
   In 1965 Polish viewers watched the first locally made television series, Barbara and Jan (Barbara i Jan, seven episodes), directed by Hieronim Przybył and Jerzy Ziarnik, followed by Stanisław Bareja's crime series Captain Sowa Investigates (eight episodes, 1965), starring Wiesław Gołas. The most popular 1965 television series, however, was Civil War (Wojna domowa, fifteen episodes), directed by Jerzy Gruza. In 1967 Janusz Majewski directed the first television film, Avatar, or the Exchange of Souls, part of a popular series of films called Strange Stories (Opowieści niesamowite, thirteen episodes, 1967-1968). The late 1960s were dominated by the two most popular Polish television series ever made, Four Tankmen and a Dog (Czterej pancerni i pies, twenty-one episodes, 1966-1967), directed by Konrad Nałęcki, and More Than Life at Stake (eighteen episodes, 1967-1968), directed by Janusz Morgenstern and Andrzej Konic. The former, based on Janusz Przymanowski's novel (he was also the coscriptwriter of the film) and featuring future stars of Polish cinema including Janusz Gajos, Roman Wilhelmi, and Franciszek Pieczka, was an adventure war film featuring the tank Rudy and its crew on their road to Poland from the Soviet Union. The latter, also set during the war, offered an equally cartoonish, simplified, and stereotypical version of history. The film narrated the story of Hans Kloss (Stanisław Mikulski), a Polish superspy dressed in a German uniform. The popularity of these two television series prompted their makers to release theatrical versions. Subsequent television series, for example Peasants (1973) by Jan Rybkowski, were frequently made with eventual theatrical release in mind. This practice was first started by Jerzy Antczak, the maker of the historical film Countess Cosel (1968). Antczak later produced several distinguished television productions, such as Nights and Days (thirteen episodes, 1977), and became known for numerous television plays.
   In the late 1960s, television films were produced by established filmmakers and recent graduates from the Łódź Film School. Television became a training ground for a number of young filmmakers who often started their careers by producing medium-length television films. For example, Krzysztof Zanussi attracted international attention with Death of a Provincial (1966) and two television films made in 1968, Face to Face and Pass Mark. In 1971 he produced Next Door, one of the finest Polish television films starring Maja Komorowska and Zbigniew Zapasiewicz. Other notable directors, such as Agnieszka Holland, Janusz Zaorski, and Edward Żebrowski, also took that route. Furthermore, a number of established filmmakers, including Andrzej Wajda, occasionally made television films, some of them with a theatrical release in mind, as was the case with Wajda's television film Birchwood (1970). Often two versions of one film were produced (television and big screen), sometimes made by two different directors. For example, the theatrical version of Pan Michael (aka Pan Wołodyjowski, 1969) was directed by Jerzy Hoffman, and the television series, titled The Adventures of Mr. Michael (Przygody pana Michała, 1969), by Paweł Komorowski. The 1970s also marked the production of other distinguished television films, such as those directed by Janusz Kondratiuk (Marriageable Girls, 1972), Andrzej Kondratiuk (The Ascended, 1973), and Krzysztof Kieślowski (The Calm (1976/1980).
   In the 1970s, television series often dealt with the realm of the managerial class and Communist politics. They ranged from the reflective pictures of factory managers presented in the very well-received series Directors (six episodes, 1975, Zbigniew Chmielewski), to the popular humorous depiction of life during the Edward Gierek period in The Forty-Year-Old (Czterdziestolatek, twenty-one episodes, 1974-1976, Jerzy Gruza). Other television films also dealt with similar issues, for example The Most Important Day of Life Najważniejszy dzień życia, nine episodes, 1974, Andrzej Konic, Sylwester Szyszko, and Ryszard Ber), Identification Marks (Znaki szczególne, six episodes, 1976, Roman Załuski), and The Sign on Earth (Ślad na ziemi, seven episodes, 1978, Chmielewski). Popular among audiences were attempts to uncover the past such as Columbuses (five episodes, 1970) and The Polish Ways (ten parts, 1976), both directed by Morgenstern, dealing with the Warsaw Uprising and the fate of the Home Army (AK) members. Adaptations of the Polish literary canon also proved to be popular, for example Jan Rybkowski's Peasants (thirteen episodes, 1972) and Ryszard Ber's The Doll (Lalka, nine episodes, 1977), as well as historical films such as Wojciech Solarz's Balzak's Great Love (Wielka miłość Balzaka, seven episodes, 1973).
   In 1980 Rybkowski produced the popular television series The Career of Nikodem Dyzma, starring Roman Wilhelmi. Also in 1980, Jan Łomnicki started his acclaimed series The House (seven episodes), dealing with the fates of inhabitants of a Warsaw apartment building from 1945 to the 1960s. He added five more episodes in 1982 and 1987. In 1981 Jerzy Sztwiertnia directed a historical series, The Longest War of Modern Europe (Najdłuzsza wojna nowoczesnej Europy, thirteen episodes, 1981), and another director, Radosław Piwowarski, completed the popular, unusual melodrama titled John Heart (ten episodes, 1982). After the introduction of martial law in December 1981, some directors tried in a thinly veiled manner to poke fun at the absurdities of the Polish People's Republic, for example Stanisław Bareja in Alternatywy 4 (Alternative Street, No. 4, nine episodes, 1983, premiere in 1986/1987). Krzysztof Szmagier's crime series 07 Report! (07 zgłoś się! twenty-one episodes, 1976-1988) was also very popular. The most important event, however, was Kieslowski's ten-part Decalogue (1988), loosely inspired by the Ten Commandments. Arguably, one of the best television films produced in the 1980s was Magdalena Łazarkiewicz's The Touch (1986).
   In the 1990s, with the decline of existing film studios, Polish Television also became the leading producer of theatrical films. For example, in 1995, state-run television participated in the production of almost all feature films in Poland and acted as the sole producer of four. Three films were produced by the private television network Canal+. Certain acclaimed filmmakers, such as Andrzej Barański and Jan Jakub Kolski, made all their films with the help of state television. The first Polish television soap opera, In the Labirynth (W labiryncie, 1988-1990), was produced by Paweł Karpiński. Zanussi's Weekend Stories (seven episodes, 1995-1996), close in spirit to Decalogue, proved to be popular among audiences. Perhaps the most popular crime series at that time was The Extradition (1995-1996, 1998), directed by Wojciech Wójcik, with Marek Kondrat starring as Warsaw police inspector Halski. Perhaps the most artistically important television project in recent years is a series of loosely linked films designed by screenwriter Grzegorz Łoszewski and grouped under the title Polish Holidays (Polskie święta). Prior to 2006, twelve fine television films were produced (usually lasting more than an hour), directed by some established and new directors, including Janusz Kondratiuk (The Night of Santa Claus, 2000), Janusz Morgenstern (Yellow Scarf, 2000), Radosław Piwowarski (The Queen of Clouds, 2003), and Sylwester Chęciński (The Uhlans Have Arrived, 2005).
   Historical Dictionary of Polish Cinema by Marek Haltof

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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