Friday, 21 October 2011

Malgorzata Braunek & co in Andrej Zulawski's "Diabel" [1972, Poland]

I'll start Andrzej Zulawski's filmography with one of his early (and rare) films, "Diabel" [Eng. title: Devil]. This is not my favourite Zulawski film - his next feature, "L'important c'est d'aimer" certainly is. But there's a surreal quality to this otherwise shocking film - Andrzej Zulawski is no stranger to controversy, but even by his standards it is shocking. It was promptly banned in Poland and remained so until the fall of communism - even if the film is set in the 18th century, its message is allegorical and could relate to any corrupt and cruel regime.

Cruel too is the film - depicting mindless acts of violence, debauchery, and pain. It is also highly stylised, reminiscent of Alejandro Jodorowsky's "El Topo", and the costumes and make-up as outlandish as Federico Fellini's "Satyricon". Some of the dialogues come out absolute bonkers through the subtitles - I'm not sure if they'd have been any more intelligible for a Polish audience. The film nevertheless is a fascinating piece of cinema - the images are vivid and some of the scenes will stick with you long after you've put the DVD away. But I don't think I'll be watching this again any time soon - life's depressing as it is! The compilation below is from the DVD in my Zulawski Box-set - it is not remastered - and the quality is only so so. However, if you're looking for something challenging, confrontational, and outrageous, "Diabel" is definitely Recommended Viewing.

DVD Order Link [PAL]

A man clad in black (the Devil?) makes use of the chaos when Poland is invaded by Prussia, to free political prisoner Jakub, a young nobleman and dissident of the monarchy. The man seems to know everything about Jakub, his family and friends, and persuades him to return home. He also kidnaps one of the prison nuns and forces her to accompany Jakub, who returns home only to discover his father'd just killed himself, his fiancée is now married to his best friend - she's also pregnant by God-knows-who, his mother had been a whore since running away from home when he was little, and his sister is a nymphomaniac, 'engaged' to a half-brother none of them knew they had. We see Jakub growing insane as he watches his life crumble - who wouldn't, and it is the sinister man in black who seems to appear out of nowhere to show Jakub these awful truths. He definitely seems to have a hidden agenda...

Compilation: Malgorzata Braunek, Hanna Parzonka, Iga Mayr, and Bozena Miefiodow
Some of the nude scenes are not particularly pleasant - view at your own discretion.

Malgorzata Braunek, Hanna Parzonka, Iga Mayr, and Bo?ena Miefiodow in Zulawski's "Diabel".

Scene Guide:
  • Brief nudity - Jakub is shown his newly wed fiancée's bedroom, while she's with her husband - his hitherto best friend. We soon realise that she isn't interested at all in having sex with her husband. The fiancée is played by Malgorzata Braunek.
  • Jakub's sister is pleased to see him, but she's also changed, and is being abused by her half-brother, no one knew of his existence until he showed up with their mother recently - the mother had fled home when Jakub was young. The sister is played by Hanna Parzonka.
  • Jakub visits her mother in the brothel. When he asks for her, she doesn't recognise him and presumes he's one of those young clients who fancy older women - he finally manages to stop her. The mother is boldly played by Igar Mayr.
  • A Turkish performer at a travelling circus entices Jakub, and just when they get going, they're are interrupted by her boyfriend (also from the circus) - but Jakub has by now started to perceive things differently, and kills them both. The Turkish woman is played by Bozena Miefiodow.
  • Unidentified nudes - it's the mother's turn to get her throat slashed this time, while this bizarre family are spectators at an orgy of sorts.
  • Another brief scene of the sister (with more signs of abuse), and Jakub has now had enough...


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