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, fot. Stefan Okołowicz

Poland’s Modern Shakespeare | DVD Series

To create the Poland’s Modern Shakespeare series, NInA recorded Krzysztof Warlikowski’s The Tempest, Jan Klata's H. and Grzegorz Jarzyna's 2007. Macbeth.

H. | Jan Klata

The director decided to transplant the play into a very ambiguous and historically important setting: the Gdańsk Shipyard. Over the course of the play, the audience wander amidst the docks, they gaze at Anna Walentynowicz’s overhead crane, the world-famous poster encouraging Poles to vote in the first free election, but they also see the brambles overgrowing the premises, the abandones halls, machines eaten through with rust. Jan Klata’s Hamlet won’t choke on air, has no trust in crystalline ideas, his hands don’t shake, on the contrary, he loves to play turbo golf, a game requiring heightened levels of aggression, with Horace and the White Stripes.

The eponymous character, his name shortened to a symbolic H., loses his importance, in contrast to his plight, transposed into a modern setting thats much more familiar to contemporary audience. The ghost of his Father appears on horseback, clad in a Hussars armor, settings the symbolism and mythology of Polish Romanticism against the post-1989 realities we all know. The vision is quite sad and grotesque: Hamlet wont fix his kingdom, Claudius can only squander it on drink or dance on the table, whereas Gertrude wants nothing more than to court her much younger lover.


H., dir. Jan Klata.

2007. Macbeth | Grzegorz Jarzyna

This rendition of one of Shakespeares greatest dramas updates it to modern times and changes the setting to the Middle East, placing us in the middle of an American military base. In the course of a daring but less-than-honorable military operation conducted during daily Muslim prayer, Macbeth murders the leaders of rebel Arab forces. His deed, appreciated by General Duncan, will become the first in a series of brutal murders committed by the ambitious soldier, his ruthless wife and ever-growing ambition egging him on to perform even more heinous deeds.

Jarzyna took on one of Shakespeares most famous works, creating a spectacle that combines theatre and film. By introducing numerous references and callbacks to cinematic and television narratives, he manages to instil a peculiar tension between fiction and reality, as well as between cinema and theatre. Jarzyna not only updated the realities and changed the setting, he also rewrote some of the dialogue and scenes, staying true, however, to the majority of Shakespeare plotlines.

A televised version of the play was created in 2006, only one month before the old Waryński factory facilities in the Wola district of Warsaw, which served as the stage for 2007. Macbeth ever since its premiere, were finally torn down and demolished. The revised rendition faithfully reflects the content and the atmosphere of the original, although this version was shortened. The director of photography, Jacqueline Sobiszewski, tried to tap the full potential of the cameras she was using. Using very cinematic close-ups, editing, and additional sound effects, the intimacy and dynamic nature of particular scenes was punched up, while the claustrophobic interiors roamed by the increasingly psychotic Macbeth further emphasized the protagonists decrepit psychological state. 


2007. Macbeth, dir. Grzegorz Jarzyna.

Burza | Krzysztof Warlikowski

In Elizabethan theatre, Shakespeares original workspace, the audience had a direct relationship with the actors. Warlikowski decided to perpetuate the idea but infuse it with a slightly different context; the private space - in contrast to Elizabethan theatre - becomes paramount. We see the viewersreactions becoming a natural part of the spectacle itself, the audience decides the way in which the narrative unfolds, the viewers decide what is amusing and what is grotesque. The open nature of the scenes makes that direction far from obvious.

One element of the set design, the wooden wall, was a delicate yet suggestive reference to the Jedwabne pogrom. As Grzegorz Niziołek wrote in the article that accompanied the DVD release: 

Warlikowski claimed that back when he was working on The Tempest, he constantly had Jedwabne in the back of his mind. However, he decided against using his play to make a statement in that particular discussion, instead placed Shakespeares drama in a very particular social setting, stripping its of it traditional optimism. This real event allows the actors to draw from a space of resistance, discomfort, of ever-changing and fleeting meanings. It makes us realize what violent emotions can be brought up to the surface by crimes of the past (because if The Tempest is about anything, its about past transgressions), realize the true meaning of a union between the children of victims and their oppressors, and spiritual effort required for true forgiveness.


Burza , reż. Krzysztof Warlikowski.

See also