STUDIES AND RESEARCH
Brilliant Nuances of Darkness — Piotr Dumala’s Animations
Polish animated film belongs
to the leading film industries in the world when we take
into consideration its creative achievements and a number
of minutes of animation produced in one year. The pioneers
of Polish cinema viewed animation as a very important genre
from the very beginnings, if not the most important. In
practice, animation started to develop in Poland after
1916 when Felyks Kuczkowski made his first animated film,
while Zenon Wasilewski founded the first studio for animated
film Triofilm at the end of 1930’s. Until the end of World
War II nothing much was happening, but then in 1950’s started
the golden age of animation in Poland. Four different studios
for animation were founded, in Bielsko-Bialama, Krakow,
Lodz and Warsaw creating a precious and unique cinematic
and historical phenomenon. At the same time, with a number
of over 2000 animated films produced Poland is one of ten
countries with the richest production of animation.
Polish animation is characterized by absurd,
macabre films, films with nightmarish atmosphere achieved
through brave and original experimenting with unique graphics
techniques and audiovisual processing of the film form.
Polish animators Jan Lenica, Walerian Borowczyck, Witold
Giersz, Miroslav Kijowitcz, Ryszard Czekala, Daniel Szczechura,
Zdislav Kudla, Jerzy Kucia or Zbigniew Rybczynski preferred
working with unusual forms of expression; using methods
of model animation, collage and flicker rather than those
of classical animated film.
Sophisticated artistic and animation forms
were combined with a literary content and typically middle
European characters, pessimists making fun at their own
expense, laughing at the hopelessness of their situation
in the world resembling a gigantic trap they are caught
in. Totalitarianism of the modern age, which has left deep
scars on Poland, was best portrayed in the animated medium.
These films superbly
developed a certain surreal visual language that described
the subconsciousness and dark nightmares of lonesome losers,
their anguish in the ambiance of entrapment they were born
into. Painting absurd, often morbid dreams of these pessimists
who have lost all their illusions, human caricatures that
wander through the tunnel with no entrance nor exit, Polish
animators spoke about their reality, political system and
the society they grew up in and harshly criticized it.
All this could also be said of Piotr Dumala’s
films (1956) who is, along with Jerzy Kuciu, one of the
leading contemporary Polish animators.
Dumala is a graduate of the Academy of Fine
Arts in Warsaw, his current living and working place. For
a part of the year he lectures film animation in Sweden,
in the Higher Artistic School in Eksjö. His films have
won almost all the awards an animator could win. He won
several prizes at the festivals of animation in Annecy,
Ottawa, Hiroshima, Stuttgart and he won the Grand Prix
in Zagreb in 1992.
A combination of his various studies and
interests created Dumala’s fascinating technique of animation.
He places plasterboard painted in black under the camera.
Each phase of movement is engraved with thin needles. He
scratches the paint and thus obtains white lines and hatches
on the dark background. Each drawing has a very high graphic
value. However, after being recorded, every drawing is
repainted with black paint so that they live shorter than
a drawing made by a finger on a steamy window. His work
has placed him among the greatest creators who have improved
the technique of animation with original innovations.
Almost all of his films are black and white,
while he only occasionally and discretely uses some other
colour. His films emit a strong sense of loneliness and
loss, fear and anguish: man is shown as a live being buried
in the dark world very much resembling a grave.
Author of the text analyses Dumala’s films Lycantrophy (1981), Little
Black Riding Hood (Czarny Kapturek, 1983), Flying
Hair (Latajace Vlosy, 1984), Gentle (Lagodna,
1985), Jittery Life in Space (Nerwowe Zycie Kosmosu,
1986), Walls (Sciany, 1987), Freedom of
the Leg (Wolnošć nogi, 1988), Franz Kafka (1991), Crime
and punishment (Zbrodnja i Kara, 2000) and concludes
that Dumala’s films are based on cartoon figuration, however,
almost all of the above films include elements of non-figural,
geometrical forms and pursue an imitation of motion picture
’realism’. His most significant heritage, however, is Polish
satiric graphics. The foundations of Dumala’s aesthetic
are Kafka’s work and philosophy, while Kafka’s influence
and love of literature defined basic features of his
art. Nevertheless, the ultimate value of Dumala’s films
lies in the fact that under a thick layer of darkness,
fear and anxiety hides a treasury of authentic humour
presented in the form of bitter irony and sarcasm.
The Polish tradition
of animation / Piotr Dumala / Dumala’s authentic style
of animation / Dumala’s films: beginnings / Dumala and
Kafka / Piotr Dumala’s filmography.