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Can be found on the Criterion Knife in the Water DVD.
One of the most impressive Polanski shorts. I can't believe how exquisite these look, this, Meurtertwo, Teeth Smile in particular. Shot in such exquisite light, these shorts contain usually one episode, one vibrant, yet dark and dizzying moment. Lampa, probably my favourite after Meurtertwo and Two Men and a Wardrobe (which has a plot, surrealist cynicism and is hilarious), is about a dollmaker's shop. There is no dialogue, it consists simply of Polanski's camera caressing the room, lingering over the faces of the broken dolls, then focussing on the dollmaker putting some eyes and hair onto a doll's head. We feel strongly that there is something perverse about the way the dollmaker reaches inside the head of the doll, and that the doll stands for a child. Which is what makes what happens afterwards so disturbing.
Polanski shorts give you one striking little episode, without dialogue, of exquisitely lit and filmed cinematic gold.
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.
Polanski has pretty much disowned this short, which is strange as it's
not at all bad, although perhaps this was one of his Lodz works which
was most heavily prescribed and censored by the film school. It is
certainly one of the only Polish pictures of his that does not appear
to covertly criticise the regime.
Polanski's cinematic technique was really coming along here. This is one of the most claustrophobic and haunting of his early works. His camera prowls around the set in the same way it would years later to great effect in The Tenant. He also creates a wonderful sound collage out of the opening music and the noise of the doll maker working.
This is a typical student piece, with a single, memorable idea that can fill a short but wouldn't work in a full-length film. It's also arguably the most like his later work of all his shorts. In particular, it reminds me of Rosemary's Baby and The Tenant in that there is a kind of ambiguity as to whether we are really witnessing supernatural events, or if this is just something explainable that appears sinister.
Lampa is a nice little short, and one many young directors would be proud of. It's perhaps not very subtle, or maybe the subject matter could be considered silly, but it seems strange to me that Polanski would write this one off altogether.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have to agree with filmmaker Roman Polanski, who didn't especially
care for this early effort of his. I didn't either, although I did
appreciate the wonderful shadows of the many dolls' faces and the eerie
whispering later in the film. Outside of that, it wasn't anything that
Basically, the film is an exercise in camera panning. We are inside a toymaker's shop where we see a man fixing a doll's head. He's working at night with the light of lamp aiding him. Then, for most of the rest of the movie, the camera slow scans at all the dolls in the store, some completed, some worn and beaten up, but most with haunting expressions. None of the faces move but we hear whispers and it's as if these little things are real and having conversations. Hopefully, they weren't planning arson. If you see the film, you'll know what I mean.
You can see this early Polanski effort on disc number 2 of the "Knife In The Water" DVD.
Lamp, The (1959)
** 1/2 (out of 4)
Surreal film from Roman Polanski about a doll maker. There's really no "story" here but instead we get various strange images. The images are nice but overall the film somewhat drags.
When Angels Fall (1959)
** 1/2 (out of 4)
An elderly woman works a lousy job but she's capable of seeing things like no other. This short from Polanski has a lot of good moments but it really doesn't work well enough for the running time. The use of color was nicely done and the war scenes were very good.
Fat and the Lean, The (1961)
** (out of 4)
Another Polanski short has him playing "Lean", a servant to the "Fat" man. I guess this thing was trying to be funny but it certainly wasn't. Some nice camera-work however.
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