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Entry updated 3 June 2024. Tagged: Film.

Polish tv film (1968; vt Layer Cake; vt Roly Poly; vt Hodge Podge). Telewizja Polska (TVP), Zespol Filmowy "Kamera". Directed by Andrzej Wajda. Written by Stanisław Lem, based on his short story "Czy pan istnieje, Mr. Johns?" (1955 Przekrój; in Dzienniki gwiazdowe, coll 1957; trans Peter Roberts as "Are You There, Mr. Jones?", August 1969 Vision of Tomorrow). Cast includes Ryszard Filipski, Bogumił Kobiela and Anna Prucnal. 35 minutes. Black and white.

In a future in which using body parts from the dead in the living is commonplace (see Medicine; Organlegging), racing car brothers Thomas and Richard Fox (Kobiela) are involved in a car accident, which leaves Thomas dead. In order to save Richard, doctors replace 48.5% of his body with that of Thomas. Other parts of Thomas's body go to other patients. The insurance company claims that this means Thomas is only 30% dead, so will not pay out the full life insurance. Thomas's widow (Prucnal) also claims that he is not dead, and demands that Richard either recognizes his role as her husband, as he is part Thomas, or pay child support. At his next rally, Richard crashes into some spectators and a dog, all of whose bodies become part of his. After a third crash, he discloses to his lawyer (Filipski) that he is in fact his co-driver, but now entirely made up of Richard's body parts.

This was apparently one of the few film adaptations of his work that Lem was happy with, but it is hard to see why. Leading Polish director Wajda (1926-2016) is famed for his downbeat war films and Solidarity dramas, but this rare excursion into Humour (his only sf film) suggests it was not his forte. Kobiela was the most popular Polish comedian of the time, and the film indulges his (and the rest of the casts') mugging at the expense of subtlety or the darker Satire the plot would suggest. A scene in which a group of people gather outside a hospital desperately trying to sell body parts for money exemplifies this missed opportunity. The low budget is evident for most of the film, which largely consists of characters talking in medium or close up shots, though there are some sf trappings in costumes and décor, clearly based on hippy fashions of the time. [CWa]


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