DVD Innocent Sorcerers
Innocent Sorcerers is released as part of the Polish Cinema Classics box set.
Andrzej Wajda follows on from his trilogy of films set during World War II with Innocent Sorcerers, a casual focus on the avant-garde youth of Warsaw. The film is released as part of a special box set entitled Polish Cinema Classics which also features Andrzej Munk’s Eroica (1958), Jerzy Kawalerowicz’s Night Train (1959) and Janusz Morgenstern’s Goodbye, See You Tomorrow (1960).
It’s the beginning of the 1960s and we’re in the bohemian streets of Warsaw. Bazyli is a confident young man in the prime of his life. A doctor by day, jazz band member by night, Bazyli is certainly popular with the ladies – so much so that beautiful Mirka is constantly baying for his attention. The apathetic Bazyli seems to exhibit nothing but effrontery and downright ignores her persistent considerations.
Bazyli and his jazz group, a coterie of boisterous young musicians who roam the city at night, search desperately for any sylph they deem worthy of attention. On one particular night, a friend of Bazyli urgently attempts to use the doctor to win the affections of a beautiful young woman in a bar. Using a confidence trick to separate the young lady from her ostensible boyfriend, Bazyli meets his match with the quick-witted Pelagia and soon becomes enthralled with her, terminating his friend’s plan.
The two make their way back to Bazyli’s bachelor pad where the couple take part in casual badinage, as well as a mischievous game with a matchstick box, with the loser having to divest their clothing as a forfeit. As the night progresses, Bayzli’s begins to fall for the alluring Pelagia…
Occasionally supercilious, sometimes charming and always interesting, Bazyli is a truly fascinating character and is film’s greatest lure. Despite the palpable iniquity he often shows towards women – his constant rejection of Mirka and his haughty behaviour towards a female journalist being notable examples – it is difficult not to like Bazyli. At the start of the film, the character seems to display an unflappable stoicism akin to that of Meursault from Albert Camus’ L’Étranger. It is only through the devastating allure and extreme intelligence of Pelagia that the complexities of Bazyli are brought to light.
It is through Pelagia’s extraordinary magnetism that he finds himself feeling something he has never before felt. The young doctor, a heartbreaker who ostensibly lives a life in and around near debauchery, realises feelings of love, perceptibly an emotion he has yet to experience in his relatively short life so far. The man who regularly plays games with women finds himself being played, so much so that his infatuation causes him to hastily search the early morning streets when he thinks Pelagia has left him forever.
Life as a game is a subject that is discussed more than once within the film.
Life as a game is a subject that is discussed more than once within the film. The young musicians, as well as Bazyli, treat their pursuit of female attention as a game. Pelagia also talks about life in general as being nothing but a game, speaking in words that are somewhat nihilistic. The young couple’s encounter with the matchstick box reads as a metaphor for dating between the two characters. They seem to be playing a constant game in which they act duplicitous in a salacious attempt to get one over – or to force a forfeit – in able to appear superior. It is interesting to note that at the end of the matchstick game, when Pelagia is intended to remove her clothing – to which Bazyli declines gallantly – it seems to be the moment that the young doctor feels true emotion for Pelagia.
As already touched upon, the badinage between the two central characters is marvellous – their chemistry is magnificent. The performances of Tadeusz Lomnicki and Krystyna Stypulkowska, who play Bazyli and Pelagia respectively, are excellent. Lomnicki exudes a desirable cool throughout and even adds real emotion during Bazyli’s experiences with Pelagia. Stypulkowska’s performance is one of real marvel. Her Pelagia is a mesmerizing enigma. Bazyli’s band of musicians also features a young Roman Polanski, which is certainly a treat.
Whilst the camaraderie between the two main characters is truly captivating, nothing much else happens within the film. The ambiguity that surrounds Pelagia certainly adds to her alluring mystique, but it also debars the audience of any satisfaction in regards to her transformation in character. The film, as a whole, also suffers from a certain amount of ambiguity. There seems to be an underlying message of a need to exit a certain situation – possibly mirroring the communist era in Poland at the time. The rowdy young musicians lead seemingly desultory lives – they wander around aimlessly in the early hours of the morning. Bazyli also tells Pelagia of his dream of travelling, a vision which is laughed off harshly by his female companion. These scenes are amongst many that hint at a discontent at a circumstance that seems to be utterly irreparable. If this theme was explored in a greater detail, the film would most certainly profit.
Krzysztof Komeda’s impressive jazz score, as well as the visuals, which, despite often portraying gritty and rundown areas, depict Warsaw as a bohemian wonder, make Innocent Sorcerers a real joy to watch from a technological point of view. Andrzej Wajda’s film gives us a great representation of the principles of love and attraction within an intelligent youth culture, but it often feels as if there is something vital missing from this particular game.
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