Jerzy Skolimowski Critical Essays


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Jerzy Skolimowski 1938–

(Also Yurek Skolimowski) Polish director, screenwriter, and actor.

Skolimowski's early films established him as the spokesman of Poland's troubled youth. In these films, Skolimowski wished to show "that Polishness of what happens on our streets." While his later films are less insular, they maintain his quirkish humor and fascination with life's outsiders. His style is often considered Godardian; he disdains conventional narrative and studies youth's uncompromising moods.

While studying at Łódź, Skolimowski collaborated on scripts with Roman Polanski and Andrzej Wajda. Rysopis (Identification Marks: None) is his first feature. Skolimowski plays the introspective student who serves as the filmmaker's alter ego. It is a film of indecision: a tale of a quest that ends without resolution.

Due to censoring problems, Skolimowski's Hands Up! may never be released on either side of the Iron Curtain. According to Skolimowski, the title refers to his generation in Poland—the generation that has thrown up their hands in helplessness.

Le Départ is the first of Skolimowski's foreign language movies. Here he develops an interest in surrealistic comedy and abandons the introspection characterizing his Polish work. Two British films, Deep End and The Adventures of Gerard, demonstrate his capability within different genres: one is a psychological study, the other an historical parody. Despite his lack of familiarity with the English language, Deep End, in particular, is considered one of his finest films. An adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's King, Queen, Knave proved less successful, and Skolimowski considers it the low point of his career.

In 1978, Skolimowski adapted Robert Graves's story The Shout, a British tale of primitive terror. Most critics consider The Shout to be his most successful synthesis of image, sound, and content. It also proved his most lucrative work.

Skolimowski now considers Poland a retreat rather than a work base, and does not limit himself geographically. Earlier prominent themes of alienation and the difficulties of youth have been replaced by an interest in visual imagery and surrealistic content. While some critics dislike his symbolism, claiming that it leads nowhere, others admire his inventiveness.