"Grabinski's stories are passionate, intense, and hallucinatorily vivid--even at times overwrought. They are all genuine stories, to grip devotees of narrative and character, as well as of philosophising." -- China Mieville





Kochanka Szamoty (Szamota's Mistress, 1927)



D: Leon Trystan. S: Leon Trystan, based on the short story "Kochanka Szamoty" (Szamota's Mistress). P: Seweryn Steinwurzel. Cast: Helena Makowska (Jadwiga Kalergis), Igo Sym (Jerzy Szamota). Facts: Premiered March 17, 1927. Grabinski attended the premiere. Length 1000 metres, silent black & white. Shown with another short film, "Buntem krwi i zelaza." Currently considered a lost film. The above poster was the work of painter and graphic artist Stefan Norblin.


Helena Makowska (photo not from film)


Igo Sym (photo used to promote the film)


Review: KOCHANKA SZAMOTY is a lost film (at this point), but a search of Polish newspapers at the time of its premiere should reveal more information about the film and contemporaneous reviews. Years ago, I did come across, in a Polish newspaper or journal on microfilm, the fact that Grabinski attended the premiere. There was even a photograph of Grabinski at the premiere, but the quality of the reproduction on the microfilm was extremely poor. Unfortunately, I've misplaced my notes from this time.

Director Leon Trystan's real name was Chaim Lejb Wagman. He was born in either 1900 or 1901; the data conflicts. As he received a film award from Przemysl in 1938, one can assume that he was from the same Galician area of Poland as Grabinski and would have been aware of this "provincial" writer years before filming KOCHANKA SZAMOTY. Trystan died in 1941, when the ship he was on during an evacuation of Odessa was torpedoed.

Actress Helena Makowska was a silent film star in both Italy and Germany, and made a few films in Poland also. KOCHANKA SZAMOTY was her last Polish film. During the 2nd World War she was interned in Germany in a prison camp and released to England in an exchange of prisoners. Her post-war years were spent in Italy, where she chiefly appeared in bit parts, as in FABIOLA and QUO VADIS, the latter film based on the epic novel by fellow Pole, Henryk Sienkiewicz. The blog "European Film Star Postcards" has more on this actress.

Austrian-born Igo Sym served in the Austrian-Hungarian Army and later in the Polish Armed Forces, before turning to cinema in roles in the 1920s that took advantage of his good looks. His credits include films in Poland, Austria and Germany. Sym died in 1941, the same year as his SZAMOTA director, but under quite different circumstances. Durring the 2nd World War (and probably before) he became a collaborator with the Nazis, and during the German occupation of Poland, living and working in Warsaw, he was part of the propaganda machine of the Third Reich. On March 7, 1941, the Polish underground assassinated Sym. In retaliation, the German forces executed 21 hostages they had taken and sent other hostages to Auschwitz.

The brutality of the war years raises the question of how Stefan Grabinski would have survived during this time had he not died in 1936. In my opinion, Grabinski could not have lasted, either spiritually or physically.

The fact that a film was made from a Grabinski story during the author's lifetime indicates that Grabinski did have a measure of success at a period in his life. Certainly a second printing of DEMON RUCHU (THE MOTION DEMON) in 1922 confirms such an opinion. Despite this, Grabinski was unable to leave his teaching profession to devote himself solely to the written word, so his success must have been luke-warm at best and certainly passing. Eventually, Grabinski's freedom from mandated work-for-a-living came about solely due to his poor health and the need to retire and try to exist on a small pension.

Grabinski's connection with this film should motivate explorations into the author's awareness of cinema in general, and most particularly the expressionistic and horror cinema that arose in Germany during the Weimar Republic. Did Grabinski "go to the movies"? Did he watch such films as DAS CABINET DES DR. CALIGARI and DER STUDENT VON PRAG? Was he inspired, at all, by such films if he saw them? Or did he see in them a possible cinematic opportunity for his own writings? He certainly must have been aware of both the 1913 and 1926 versions of DER STUDENT VON PRAG, as the script had been written by someone Grabinski did not hold a high opinion of--Hanns Heinz Ewers. One can only assume that Grabinski had some ambitions of upstaging his German rival and that he considered cinema a possible venue for his creative energies, however much these energies were chiefly taken up with more intellectually stimulating work on short stories, novels and plays.

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Slepy tor (The Siding, 1967)


D: Ryszard Ber. S: Krzysztof Teodor Toeplitz,, based on the short story "Slepy tor" (The Siding). Cast: Jacek Woszczerowicz (Wior), Jan Koecher (Professor Edward Ryszpan), Kazimierz Rudzki (Journalist). Facts: Premiered on Polish television February 4, 1968. 27 min. In black and white. Part of the TV series OPOWIESCI NIEZWYKLE (Unusual Tales).


Kazimierz Rudzki


Review: "Slepy tor" was part of the TV program OPOWIESCI NIEZWYKLE (Unusual Tales), a run of six black-and-white shows, from 1965 to 1968 that began with an adaptation of Prosper Merimee's "The Blue Room." That premiere show was produced by Zespol Filmowy Kamera; all the others by Zespol Filmowy Studio. The five short films from Zespol Filmowy Studio distinguished themselves by being based on the writings of Polish authors and having a prologue and epilogue inside the top floor apartment of a journalist (played by Kazimierz Rudzki). This journalist would be usually visited by an apparition who would relate the story of the show. In "Slepy tor," the journalist, getting ready to embark on a train trip for inspiration, is visited by the ghost of Professor Ryszpans. After Ryszpans' story, the journalist decides against the train trip.


Part One (Polish language only):

Part Two (Polish language only):

Part Three (Polish language only):

Further filmography forthcoming


Original content copyright by M. Lipinski