A short excerpt from the Booklet essay by Ewa Mazierska
, 1961-63), Andrzej Munk’s final movie on an accidental encounter between an ex-Auschwitz inmate and her Nazi oppressor, is regarded as one of the most important films tackling the Holocaust that was ever made. Moreover, its very complex and abrupt structure, somehow paralleling the short and tragic life of its director, makes it an unique work in Polish and world cinema. The uniqueness of Munk’s film has much to do with its origin. Its source was a radio drama, Pasażerka z kabiny 45
(Passenger from Cabin Number 45
), written by Zofia Posmysz-Piasecka in 1959 and transmitted in the same year. Posmysz-Piasecka got the idea for her drama in Paris, accidentally meeting a group of German tourists. The voice of one of them reminded her of the voice of a female SS supervisor from Auschwitz. Passenger from Cabin Number 45
attracted significant critical attention, culminating in a request to the author to allow its adaptation as a television drama to be directed by Andrzej Munk. It is difficult to establish now whether Munk already thought about screening Posmysz-Piasecka’s work or if this idea came to him later. We know only that in 1961 he approached her to write the film script. Eventually the script was their joint effort. The television drama, broadcast on 10th of October 1960 with Zofia Mrozowska playing the part of Liza, was not recorded (which at the time was the fate of the vast majority of the Polish television programmes), adding to the difficulty of reconstructing Munk’s conception of the film.
The shooting of Passenger
began in 1961 with the contemporary part of the film set on the luxury liner, ‘Batory’. Subsequently the crew moved to Auschwitz where the retrospective part of the film is set. Munk still had to complete the part in the studio as well as to re-shoot the cruise section which he was dissatisfied with, but he failed to do so. He died on 21st of September 1961 on his way to Łódź where he was to inspect the designs for his film. In the next two years Munk’s collaborators and friends attempted to complete his film, to ensure that it did not vanish onto the shelf of an archive, by using two principal methods. The first consisted of shooting extra episodes in Auschwitz, based on the text of the script and previous discussions with the director. Andrzej Brzozowski was responsible for this part of the film. The second method relied on filling the gaps in the contemporary part with stills, chosen from footage shot by Munk, and with a commentary, written by Wiktor Woroszylski. Woroszylski and a fellow Polish School author, Witold Lesiewicz, took responsibility for the final shape of the film.
Ewa Mazierska’s complete Essay, from which this excerpt is taken, appears in the Booklet of the DVD release.
Main Feature : 58 minutes
Special Feature : 47 minutes
Sound: Original Mono (restored)
Black & White 1.66:1
Subtitles: English On/Off
PAL R0 RRP: £12.99
Release Date: 25 Sep 2006