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The Lamp (1959)

Lampa (original title)

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In waning winter light, a doll maker works in his shop, a kerosene lamp beside him, a jumble of dolls and doll parts, whole and broken, surrounding him. There are noises, too: a cuckoo ... See full summary »

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In waning winter light, a doll maker works in his shop, a kerosene lamp beside him, a jumble of dolls and doll parts, whole and broken, surrounding him. There are noises, too: a cuckoo clock chirps the workday's end. The artisan completes a repair and leaves, shuttering the shop from outside. Back inside, whispering begins. What else is in store for the shop's seemingly lifeless denizens? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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November 1988 (Italy)  »

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The Lamp  »

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Made in Polanski's final year at the State Film School in Lodz. See more »

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Referenced in L'armadio (2002) See more »

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not too sure why Polanski doesn't like this one, unless for purely obsessive reasons
14 November 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The Lamp, apart of the short films collection on the Criterion DVD of Knife in the Water, distills a lot of the great visual madness and absurdism in his films into one silent short film. It's a really quick punch of 'why not' movie-making, where there is a sense of total control over the movement of the camera, and where it rests on its life-less (yet somehow lifelike) subjects. Maybe Polanski didn't end up liking it for a reason that, as a fellow filmmaker myself, I can understand. The subject matter here is very thin- a guy who makes dolls makes one, leaves, and the place gets set on fire when a fuse burns out. How to film it must have seem like the challenge to the director, and I could maybe see where he must have obsessed over the pans and direct close-ups of the angles. There was a lot of work put into it, so at the least it's hard to call it a half-assed attempt at making something out of little. But taking aside the director's own take on the material, I have to say that it really struck me how instinctual all of the movements and angles felt, and also how the design of what was there was dead-on. The dolls are just there, but there's a spooky tone to it too, a kind of underbelly that is reached in the darker parts of the room, mainly when the owner leaves and things are left in a noir-like tone. I loved seeing the close-up of the fuse itself too, which looked almost robotic in its stature, and also in hearing the crazy sound effects, as if out of a horror movie or something. It's basically like that, a horror movie only with dolls and a cuckoo clock in place of teenagers and such. It's a superb little shot of 8 minutes on film- and truly a kind of 'film-film', one that should be shown in most film classes to get an idea of what can be done with the camera if given the chance to use it over digital.


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