Director: Andrzej Zulawski
Starring: Wojciech Pszoniak, Leszek Teleszynski
Studio: PolArt distributed by Facets
Country of Origin: Poland
Features: Talent Bios
The Devil (Diabel) is a fierce and uncompromising film made in 1972 and banned in it’s native Poland at the joint behest of both The Polish Catholic Authorities the then Communist Government.
Set during the 1793 invasion of Poland by the Prussian army, Devil opens with an horrific scene in a criminal mental asylum where Jakub (Leszek Teleszynski), a nobleman, is freed by a mysterious stranger (Wojciech Pszoniak). The two then journey across an increasingly disturbing and allegorical landscape where the rules of life are increasingly turned upside down. It is clear at this point that all connection with literal historical events has long been left behind, as the violence both, figurative and physical reaches sickening conclusions, faces are mutilated, Nuns are raped, genitals severed and so on.
It has been alleged that Zulawski was attempt to criticise the then incumbent Polish Communist regime, and this intense film was the result. It is possible that the supposed freedom that Jakub is given is analogous to the freedom promised by Communism which itself often resulted in heinous acts of barbarism. Once this allegorical stance was perceived then the film was banned without further question or remit, though it is the Polish Catholic Church’s accord with the Communist authorities which suggests that the true motive for the ban, was depiction of acts of desecration.
Equally uncompromising, and in keeping with the rebellious nature of the piece and indeed Zulawski himself, the soundtrack is a discordant, post-psychedelic mix of backwards guitar, and a general ambience of experimentation. Reputedly the uneven camera-work is not the result of sloppy directing, but rather a deliberate stylistic trademark, after all this is the country of Polanski.
This is a difficult film to recommend as it will only appeal to a small but open minded group of cineastes who can see past the degradation and insanity to Zulawski’s true message, but if you have the slightest interest in this film I urge you to see it, it’s age and it’s dislocation from Hollywood will be a shock to your system.
For a further investigation of this iconoclastic Polish director visit www.Andrzej-Zulawski.com.