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Kiwerski, Krzysztof

Entry updated 24 April 2023. Tagged: Film, People.

(1948-    ) Polish director, writer, animator and painter. After studying at the High School of Fine Arts in Poznań, he went on to graduate from Krakow's Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts Faculty of Painting in 1973. Kiwerski would become head of the Academy's Animation Art Studio, as well as a Professor of Fine Arts in its Faculty of Graphic Arts. He also worked for the Animated Film Studio ("Studio Filmów Animowanych") in Krakow, for whom he created most of his twentieth-century works. Several of his animated films were sf or related; he was both director and writer except where otherwise stated.

His first film was Awaria (1975; vt Breakdown), 11 minutes. A Space Station discards a small broken pump which falls onto a nearby planet; here it is accidentally activated by intelligent termite-like Aliens, whom it threatens. The space station's crew come to help – initially without success, until they leave a packet of "Donald Bubblegum" (with both a picture of the famous duck and a presumably ironic "©Walt Disney productions" printed on it). The pump sucks it in – resulting in a giant bubble that carries it off into space. When on the planet the pump seems to be sentient and its size seems to fluctuate.

Przypadek? (1977; vt Case?), 9 minutes. Red balls fall from boxes, roll through a maze of corridors and land in one of the latticework of cubicles that form the landscape below. Some cubicles (as boxes) fly off, attach themselves to the corridors, thereby extending them. Three balls coalesce, expanding into a goo-like substance that fills the lattice then engulfs the sky corridors, eating everything away (in a Grey Goo-like scenario) until only one box is left. The process restarts, the film ending with a backdrop of stars and what appear to be images from a microscope.

UFO (1978), 6 minutes. When a crowd mistakes the bubbles blown by a child for UFOs, they blame him for their error; then a flying saucer appears and hands the upset boy a lollipop.

Jasio (1979; vt Johnny), 10 minutes. A small, red insect-like Spaceship tours the Solar System. The Moon – despite a sign stating "dumping of garbage forbidden" – is littered with discarded rubbish: old Technology, beer cans, Charlie Chaplin, a moon-landing spacesuit, R2D2 (see Star Wars) and suchlike. Next is Mars, where a battle between Pepsi and Coca-Cola is taking place. After passing an Asteroid carrying Rodin's Thinker under a palm tree, it reaches Jupiter; this is now a drive-in movie theatre, its surface a screen showing backwards film of people boarding trams, watched by a ring of Spaceships; Superman is also present. The rings of Saturn (see Outer Planets) are used for motor racing. After stopping to allow Donald Duck to use a zebra crossing, it arrives at Uranus, a musical planet: Yellow Submarine (1968) is referenced, both film and song. Neptune has a sign saying "revalorization"; Pluto holds Fort Knox 2: the spaceship is seized and an American voice complains, "He's a pain in the ass wherever he goes.", but sends him on his way. Back on Earth the spaceship is captured, labelled Jasio Wedrowniczek ("Wandering Johnny") and put in a collection of historical spacecraft. Given that the solar system is dominated by western influences and the spaceship is insect-like and red, the film might argue that communism was but a gadfly to the American hegemony. It is also an example of how western copyright law did not extend into the communist bloc.

Drzwi 18 (1981; vt Door 18), 3 minutes. People are walking across an unprepossessing rocky landscape, all carrying something. We focus on a long-faced man carrying a door. Reaching the top of a hill and now out of breath, he turns the handle and looks through the door onto a different landscape, but one still much the same.

Uwaga Idzie Nowe (1982; vt Note Goes New; vt Attention! Goes New), 8 minutes. A Machine, working in the countryside and distracted by a bird, is the first of a series of machines wandering increasingly surreal landscapes, either chasing or escorted by a bird, which later also becomes mechanical. The setting shifts to space, traversed by boxes, which include the bird. The boxes are then shown to be a picture on an Animation Desk; our perspective steps back to reveal that the desk is itself an image resting on another desk; this is repeated a few times.

Stop!! Wstep Wzbroniony (1984; vt Stop!! Entrance Prohibited; vt Stop), 6 minutes. A live action viewpoint camera cuts between various mundane settings – children in a nursery, a house, office, workshop, church, hospital, farm, train and so on. The images are increasingly treated with effects, then shift to animation – showing rolling abstract patterns – before reverting back to live action, to be brought up short by a door with a notice pinned to it: "Stop!! Wstep Wzbroniony". An attempt to enter causes a red flash ... the viewpoint backs off, the earlier sequence is shown in reverse, speeded up and upside down until a front door closes on us. The ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) was clearly an influence, including its Stargate sequence. Though 2D, the animated section in part prefigures Kiwerski's later CGI work, The Rolling Stones (2013).

Kuszenie św. Antoniego (1987; vt The Temptation of St. Anthony), 9 minutes. A live-action aircraft designer experiences visions as he works, displayed in varied animation styles. References include Hieronymus Bosch, Salvador Dalí, another appearance of the 2001 stargate sequence, plus horses becoming Robots, naked women, mechanical birds and strange structures. Finally he jubilantly completes a design for a new military aircraft: the film ends with a loop of it causing destruction and his manic laugh.

End of the World (1988, 3 minutes), co-directed and written with Longin Szmyd is a gag, where after a long pan shot of space we see a planet: a hand reaches out and grabs it, then breaks it like an egg on the edge of a frying pan. Drzwi 15 (1989; vt Door 15), 2 minutes, has a man on a raft lost at sea: despairing of rescue he rests – then turns a door handle on the raft and enters a room. As there had been no handle before and the raft is a different colour, this is likely a hallucination. There has been at least one other short in this series: Drzwi 14 (1988). Królestwo zielonej polany (1994; vt The Kingdom of Green Glade), 64 minutes, written by Zbigniew Ksiazek. A Fantasy where a schoolboy on a field trip starts out damaging nature and is punished by being magically shrunk (see Great and Small; Magic; Miniaturization) to the size of an insect. After a series of adventures where lessons are learnt, he is returned to normal size. Królestwo Zielonej Polany. Powrót (1998; vt Kingdom of Green Glade – The Return), 68 minutes. Co-directed with Longin Szmyd and written by Zbigniew Książek, this is a sequel to the preceding film: this time it is a Polluting industrialist who is shrunk.

In the twenty-first century, Kiwerski began working with CGI: Level (2005), 8 minutes, co-directed by Zbigniew Szymański, was inspired by artist Jacek Gaj's copperplate engraving Drabiny ["Ladder"]. Children with the faces of old people (or perhaps old people with the faces of children) assist each other in clambering out of a sea of ladders. Everything is black and white, save for a pulsing coloured object in the sky which the people feel compelled to reach. They collaborate until, through trial and error they build a tower from the ladders, only to then fight among themselves. One eventually succeeds in reaching the sky, to find a trapdoor – which opens onto another sea of ladders, where others are already attempting to reach an object in the sky.

Przejscie Cydow Przez Morze Czerwone (2007; vt The Jews' crossing of the Red Sea), 6 minutes, has a giant sun (see Stars) rising above geometric scenery, whose appearance constantly evolves and into which a ruddy ocean encroaches. The Rolling Stones (2013), 8 minutes, in some ways reworks the previous film, refining the techniques used: a mass movement of boulders shift into increasingly complex formations – a moving cityscape that becomes a rolling sea of shapes, then after rain, an actual sea, from which more structures rise and migrate. In Pandemic (2017), 8 minutes, objects – possibly viruses, possibly representing birth – move and interact in an architectonic structure that rests on the ocean; the structure eventually departs skywards, the objects darken and settle into the sea. All three films convey vastness, an increasing depth of detail and not a little ambiguity. The latter two are impressive, though Pandemic sometimes falls into a bland prettiness.

Kiwerski has made other shorts, some experimental, some for children – he co-directed several fantasy shorts for the children's Television series Bajki Zza Okna (1992-1998; vt Fairy Tales from Behind the Window), about anthropomorphized forest animals. Earlier works clearly suffered from budgetary constraints. Visually his films display a fondness for surrealism, the abstract and cycles. Thematically, anti-War sentiments and Ecological concerns are present, whilst a belief in the transience of humanity's endeavours may be detected. His work is stimulating rather than emotionally engaging; nonetheless Jasio, Stop!! Wstep Wzbroniony, Kuszenie św. Antoniego, Level, The Rolling Stones and Pandemic are memorable. With the release of Transfer (2021), 7 minutes, Kiwerski has been active in six decades. [SP]

Krzysztof Kiwerski

born Poznań, Poland: 1 February 1948


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