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When Angels Fall (1959)

Gdy spadaja anioly (original title)
| Short, Drama | 1959 (UK)

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A church bell chimes. An old woman stops to feed pidgins on her way to work in the men's lavatory in the basement of a public building. She sits all day by the lavatory door as little ... See full summary »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Barbara Lass ...
(as Barbara Kwiatkowski)
...
Old woman
Henryk Kluba
Andrzej Kondratiuk ...
(as Andrzej Kondratiuk)
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Storyline

A church bell chimes. An old woman stops to feed pidgins on her way to work in the men's lavatory in the basement of a public building. She sits all day by the lavatory door as little dramas play out -- of illness, assignation, and routine -- a few tips her only acknowledgment. The sound of footsteps on the floor above her brings a reverie of her youth, when she was a beauty, the day a platoon of soldiers marched into her valley. As the day in the basement proceeds, she completes a set of memories that takes her from passion to maternal love to rejection and tragedy. Could there be more awaiting her on this day of remembering the fruit of her womb? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Plot Keywords:

lavatory | bell | love | memory | old woman | See All (13) »

Genres:

Short | Drama

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Release Date:

1959 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

When Angels Fall  »

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1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The idea for Roman Polanski's short movie (his diploma piece from Lodz Szkola Filmowa and his first one in color) was taken from a short story "Klozet Babcia", written by Leszek Szymanski and published weekly "Kierunki" in Warsaw, Poland. See more »

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User Reviews

 
"I am trying to pay"
4 October 2007 | by (Ruritania) – See all my reviews

This was Polanski's graduation piece when he finished film school at Lodz, and it bears some striking differences to both his previous shorts and his later features. At the same time, it shows a maturing of his style and certainly was his most ambitious work up to that point.

Perhaps the most obvious difference is its beauty and sentimentality. Polanski films can of course be deep and emotional, but they don't tend to wallow in emotional sentimentality. The bittersweet tale of an elderly toilet attendant daydreaming about the memories of her youth hits a similar note to Kurosawa's Ikiru or even Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. This isn't a bad thing by any means. Polanski's attempt is a little obvious and heavy handed, but he demonstrates an ability to evoke emotions, and does create a truly beautiful film.

The fact that this was his graduation explains perhaps why Polanski seems to have been going for a universal appeal, as well as covering all his bases as far as technique and style go. There are touches of neo-realism, but mixed in with stylisation and pure fantasy. Significantly he also switches back and forth between monochrome and colour. For me one of Polanski's greatest strengths is his restraint in using colour. Look at Tess for example – a 170 minute film with absolutely no vivid colours until the final ten. And this same talent for colour composition is on display in his very first use of it, with plenty of deep greens and browns later to be offset by blood red.

More than in any of his previous shorts you really get to see here that Polanski simply had a natural talent for film-making. Where Angels Fall has a rhythm to it that some directors never achieve. Furthermore he tells a story across twenty minutes using only one line of dialogue – everything else is conveyed in characters and situations we can instantly grasp without words.

For me the biggest wrong note in Where Angels Fall is the war section. It shifts the narrative from the woman to the soldier, and events which she never witnessed – which is strange since the rest of the film is so intensely personal, in fact about half of it is point of view shots from the woman's perspective. This is also the most obvious and unoriginal part, making it look tacked on.

All in all, Where Angels Fall is a very well made and watchable short feature. It shows a side of Polanski rarely seen in any of his other work. On the other hand, it's not totally atypical Polanski, for example the public toilet where much of the action takes place is one of the earliest examples of his trademark claustrophobic interiors. If you're not put off by the sentimentality, it's a very enjoyable twenty minutes.


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