Europa by legendary directors Stefan and Franciszka Themerson rediscovered
by Ola Salwa
- The avant-garde masterpiece from 1931, which had been thought lost, resurfaced in 2019 in the Berlin-based Bundesarchiv and will now be screened across Europe
Europa is one of a clutch of pre-war Polish films that have been rediscovered in recent years. The film stock has usually been found in private homes and attics, but Stefan and Franciszka Themerson’s oeuvre was located in Berlin’s Bundesarchiv by researchers from the Pilecki Institute in 2019.
Two years later, the original celluloid copy was handed to the Themerson Estate, while the digital restoration was carried out by Warsaw-based post-production outfit Fixafilm. “When we are remastering pre-war films, we are faced with the dilemma of which ‘defects’ visible on the film stock were intentional and which ones are the result of material degradation or the limitations of the technology used back then,” said Łukasz Ceranka, the owner of Fixafilm, in a press release. The original print is stored in the BFI National Archive, while the remastered copy of Europa, with a dedicated score composed by Dutch artist Lodewijk Muns, is set for numerous screenings all over the continent. The short has already been shown at the BFI London Film Festival and at a special event in Warsaw. London-based agency LUX handles the film’s distribution.
The Themersons worked both in Poland and in the UK, and are considered the most accomplished avant-garde filmmakers of their time. Europa is one of five movies that they made in the 1930s in Poland, before the couple emigrated to France in 1938. All of these films were stored in the Vitfer Film Laboratory, where they were seized by the Nazis. The 1931 avant-garde masterpiece is based on the futuristic poem of the same name by Anatol Stern, which expressed a critical view on a Europe torn apart by social crisis. The short, which is also considered an anti-fascist manifesto, incorporates special photograms and collages.
The Themersons also made The Eye and the Ear (1944), Calling Mr Smith (1943) and Adventures of Good Citizen (1937). Before they left Poland, they founded the influential Film-Makers Co-op, which gathered together the important directors of pre- and post-war cinema in Poland: Eugeniusz Cękalski, Aleksander Ford, Wanda Jakubowska, Stanisław Wohl and Jerzy Zarzycki, among others.
To watch a special video presenting pre- and post-restoration material, please click here.
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