The Avant-Garde Films of Stefan and Franciszka Themerson
Truly one of the most important film rediscoveries of recent years . . . [Europa is] a major lost work of the European avant-garde and an affirmation of Stefan and Franciszka Themerson’s important contribution to cinema history.Benjamin Cook, LUX
Surrealist husband-wife duo Stefan and Franciszka Themerson were pioneers of the Polish cinematic avant-garde of the 1930s. Stefan, an architecture student, and Franciszka, a fine-art student, met in Warsaw in the late 1920s and began an innovative, collaborative film practice that parlayed trick photography, photograms, and collage techniques into radical works of experimental moving-image art. Of the five films they created in the prewar period, Europa, made in 1931, was their masterpiece: a kinetic condemnation of creeping fascism across Europe, based on Anatol Stern’s 1929 futurist poem of the same title. Until 2019 it was thought lost forever. Miraculously, a print was discovered in Germany’s national archive. Restored and featuring a newly commissioned soundtrack by Dutch musician-musicologist Lodewijk Muns, Europa forms the centerpiece of this tribute to the trailblazing Polish avant-gardists. The program also includes their three other surviving shorts, as well as reconstructions by artist Bruce Checefsky of two of their still-lost early films.
— Polish Cultural Institute
Presented in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute New York, with thanks to Tomek Smolarski. Preceded by a reading of selections from Stern’s 1929 poem “Europa” by film historian Russell Merritt.
Films in this Screening
Bruce Checefsky, United States, 2001
Stefan Themerson, Franciszka Themerson, Poland, 1931
Bruce Checefsky, United States, 2006
Adventures of a Good Citizen
(Przygoda człowieka poczciwego)
Stefan Themerson, Franciszka Themerson, Poland, 1937
Calling Mr. Smith
Stefan Themerson, Franciszka Themerson, United Kingdom, 1943
The Eye and the Ear
Stefan Themerson, Franciszka Themerson, United Kingdom, 1945