Andrzej Zulawski's On the Silver Globe (Poland / 1987)

This is the place to talk about films from around the world.

Andrzej Zulawski's On the Silver Globe (Poland / 1987)

Postby arsaib4 » Sat Oct 06, 2007 5:11 am



Let's allow America's best "unemployed" critic and Zulawski aficionado Mr. Michael Atkinson to get the ball rolling:

What we talk about when we talk about "lost film" pertains, more often than not, to celluloid allowed to decay into nitrate goo, usually at the hands of neglectful businesses who saw little reason to preserve films once they'd had their theatrical run. But Andrzej Zulawski's On the Silver Globe (Na srebrnym globie) is another kind of lost altogether a berserk, one-of-a-kind science fiction epic, conceived and fashioned by Europe's most notorious hyperbolist, the production of which was halted and destroyed in 1978 by the censors in Poland, who probably didn't know what in the name of a pagan god to make out of Zulawski's outlandish, gory, screaming-mimi footage, but saw clearly that it wasn't what the Politburo had in mind when it came to Communist culture. Zulawski expatriated to France in a depressed rage; after he returned to a democratized Poland in 1986, he was convinced by Film Polski and the loyal cast and crew to assemble the film anyway, shooting new footage, recording narration to fill in the story gaps, etc., for a kind of honorary screening at Cannes. After that, On the Silver Globe vanished Zulawski did not want it publicly shown, and it quickly became one of the most hankered-after unseen films of the modern age.

In fact, when I wrote about Zulawski and On the Silver Globe for Film Comment five years ago (I'd seen a bootleg), I labeled the film (and I promise, this will exhaust my self-quotation rights for the next decade), "one of cinema's most appalling, breathtaking follies, and the most frightening art film you will never see." That is, until now somehow, someone wrested it from Zulawski's embittered grasp, and here it is, sans explanation, on DVD. Newcomers to Zulawski's filmmaking might be discombobulated even if the film weren't a fragmentary cobble-job: the tone he doggedly attains, the manner in which he ratchets up his cast and camera, is as close to skull-splitting psychotic frenzy as movies have gotten. No actor reads lines realistically in a Zulawski film when he can howl them in maddened agony; no shot simply captures a landscape when it can scramble and catapult and race like a starving cheetah. On the Silver Globe is, of course, a special case (the only Zulawski film to ever get a theatrical release here was 1981's Possession, a portrait of dissolving marriage that involved a Carlo Rambaldi monster and a measure of procreative-sexual unease that makes David Cronenberg look like Nora Ephron). The story is pulled from a famous series of Polish science fiction novels, the "Moon" trilogy, written by Zulawski's own granduncle, and here it is mostly told in narration over footage of contemporary Warsaw: A disastrous mission to the Moon (Zulawski used the Gobi desert and the shores of the Black Sea) spawns a primitive society that, a few generations down the road, hails an investigating cosmonaut as their messiah and warrior-king in the battle against a race of winged mutants.

But it's the primal, ghastly originality of Zulawski's Dantean visuals that brand the memory: armies of black-robed savages dancing through mysterious rituals on white-sanded beaches; the sea water in flames behind a slow-motion shore battle between moon-men and mutants; tribal dramas played out in what looks like a hand-carved cavern the size of a warehouse; cinema's most appalling crucifixion; a mob of heretical victims impaled as in, Vlad-the-Impaler-impaled, through the rectum on 25-foot, intestine-roped stakes on the same beach, captured by Zulawski in a crane shot that launches high enough to hear one of the poor bastards choke out a few last words of protest. On the Silver Globe is an unfinished thing; it's both difficult to say it's a successful film as it stands that was certainly never Zulawski's intention and to imagine what it might've amounted to, almost 30 years since its plug was pulled. But you're not likely to see anything remotely like it, ever.
arsaib4
 


Re: Andrzej Zulawski's On the Silver Globe (Poland / 1987)

Postby R6dw6C » Thu Oct 11, 2007 7:07 pm

Though this review could be identified as an effectual overview, I'm a bit disappointed that the author is talking much about the images (which are extremely impressive and metaphorical indeed, no doubt - when did Zulawski film no impressive images?) but didn't mention the more important "dialogues" (this one was the first Zulawski I watched in which the talk seemed to be more significant than the silence). Somehow, these "dialogues" reminded me of the essayistic talk in Godard's "Notre musique" as every sentence has got its own meaning and so, there is no real dialogue. Of course, it is hard to describe this phenomenon (otherwise I would just quote some of lines as an example here) as the whole script seemed like a chaotic, unstructured collection of despaired comments, pulled out without any stylization, directly and non-philosophical, but it would've been a fortune to mention that. When I watched "The most important thing: Love" as my first Zulawski (with the upsetting "Possession" following) I already supposed the director to be a difficult artist but in front of "On the silver globe", this seems like an understatement. I won't believe anybody who tells that he got it - of course, you can get it, but only in a way which could be compared to Lynch, Tarkowsky, Jodorowsky or Argento which means that the film doesn't want to be understood but to be re-shot in your head, coloured with your individual paint.

Anyway, have you seen it in the meanwhile, arsaib? Don't worry about the images - my version was in pretty bad state and loaded with VHS-damage (though in the correct AR of 1,66:1) but the film didn't lose any of its strength.

BUT... the author of the upper review seems to share some humerous bits with me:

Quote:1981's Possession, a portrait of dissolving marriage that involved a Carlo Rambaldi monster and a measure of procreative-sexual unease that makes David Cronenberg look like Nora Ephron

Great comparison...

I guess I have to give the film to A, so he can join the discussion with his enthusiastic comments (or not. )
R6dw6C
 

Re: Andrzej Zulawski's On the Silver Globe (Poland / 1987)

Postby arsaib4 » Fri Oct 12, 2007 6:04 am

Thanks for replying, R6dw6C.

"Anyway, have you seen it in the meanwhile, arsaib?"

Oh, of course, otherwise I wouldn't have started this thread, let alone posted a foreign review.

"I'm a bit disappointed that the author is talking much about the images (which are extremely impressive and metaphorical indeed, no doubt - when did Zulawski film no impressive images?) but didn't mention the more important "dialogues"

I think he's probably keeping in mind that for most viewers this will be their first Zulawski experience, and so the filmmaker's visual prowess is likely what's going to grab them in the initial stages.

I've only seen it once so far and it's certainly a vertiginous experience. I agree with you that the "dialogue" -- which touches upon faith, organized religion, science, sex, etc. -- is implicatively rendered, though the (method of) delivery, needless to say, isn't quite Godardian.

"I won't believe anybody who tells that he got it - of course, you can get it, but only in a way which could be compared to Lynch, Tarkowsky, Jodorowsky or Argento which means that the film doesn't want to be understood but to be re-shot in your head, coloured with your individual paint."

Well said, I agree!

"Don't worry about the images - my version was in pretty bad state and loaded with VHS-damage (though in the correct AR of 1,66:1) but the film didn't lose any of its strength."

True. And you're right: the correct AR is 1.66:1. The Polart/Facets release is listed as 1.33:1, but I think it's slightly better than that (more like 1.55:1[?]). In any case, the image/sound quality is good enough; the subtitles are fine; the film is 157-minute long.

What is maddening, however, is the state the film was left in by the Polish authorities. Unlike most famous examples of neglectfulness, On the Silver Globe wasn't merely missing a few scenes or an ending. It's quite obvious that the film was systematically raped and mutilated before it was thrown back out into the world as to prove what could happen if a certain line is crossed. It's difficult to fathom that as a result, a filmmaker such as Zulawski was forced to explicate the matter and act as a connective tissue between the inordinate amount of missing sequences on the film's "original" audio track!

"I guess I have to give the film to A, so he can join the discussion with his enthusiastic comments (or not)."

That'd be nice.
arsaib4
 

Re: Andrzej Zulawski's On the Silver Globe (Poland / 1987)

Postby arsaib4 » Sun Nov 04, 2007 8:08 am

A couple of screenshots from the U.S. DVD (Polart/Facets).



Not perfect, but this is definitely the best subtitled edition currently available on the market. Zulawski's The Devil has also just been released in the U.S. by the same distributor(s).
arsaib4
 


Return to Film Talk

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 8 guests

cron