Wojciech Pszoniak was born 80 years ago. One of the most important Polish theater and film actors. The unforgettable Moryc was born from the movie “The Promised Land” by Andre Oujda. Acting is the art of understanding another person, he told PAP years ago.
Wojciech Pszoniak was born on May 2, 1942 in Lviv. However, he only spent his early years there. At the end of the war, as a result of forced evictions by the Russians, more than 90 percent of the population was expelled from the city. The Polish population, the Pszoniak family went to Gliwice. The future actor left his hometown of Lviv, he was four years old.
“In Gliwice, as a child, I came out of lousy cattle carts; I learned here, I experienced what a young man can experience. The most important things happened to me, everything was practical; I lived here for a long time Come here, I have friends here, And parents in the cemetery, I left here a piece of it ”- he said during the premiere of a documentary film dedicated to him in Gliwice.
The actor often emphasized in interviews that Gliwice was one of the most important places in his life. The city in which he grew up and where his theatrical charm was born, when he watched musical and dramatic performances at the then Silesian operetta. Years later, he recalls: “I made the decision to become an actor in Gleeves.” It may also have been important to meet Tadeusz Różewicz and Adam Zagajewski, who was his neighbour.
In 1960, he founded with Jacek Gruca Estrada Poetycka, which later became the STEP Student Poetry Theatre. A year later, the cabaret “Czerwona Żyrafa” was created. Plays with the participation of Pszoniak collect good reviews. The young actor is very involved, performing at the STU Theater.
In 1968 he graduated from PWST in Krakow. He performed with success at the Stary Theater in Krakow. He made his debut in “The Curse” by Stanisław Wyspiański, der. Konrad Swinarsky (1968). Years later, he stated that it was thanks to Swinarski that he made his name as an actor. Then he joined the troupe of the National Theater and the Powszechny Theater in Warsaw, where in 1974-1980 he gave lectures at the local PWST. At the end of the 70s, he also began performing in French theaters, and in the 80s he settled permanently in Paris.
“I belong to a cultured family. We were not millionaires, but we were very successful. Grandfather was a manager of the Baczewski factory in Lviv, was a chemist by education. He had an opera box. My mother played the violin and painted. We read how to eat, how to behave. As You know, we lost everything after the war. What is left for us? Only books, music and theater. Perhaps that is why I went in this direction, ”- he told PAP in an interview on the fiftieth anniversary of his artwork.
Pszoniak’s movie adventure begins with the role of a French police inspector in the Bulgarian TV series “Proizszestwia na Sljapata ulica” (1965). Five years later, he made his debut on the Polish screens in the film Zbigniew Chmielewski “Twarz anioła”.
It seems that the year 1971 was a breakthrough in his career, as at that time he collaborated with Andrzej Wajda for the first time. On the stage of the Stary Theater they present “Demons” based on Fyodor Dostoevsky. Pszoniak plays Piotr Wierchowieński with great success.
Wierchowieński, from his point of view, is violent, exhausted by inner fire, and prone to wind and unusual gestures. Pszoniak. […]throwing a torrent of words, with burning eyes – this is a representation of the highest level, a constantly drawn character, worthy of such an extraordinary performance ”- wrote Maciej Karpiski in the book“ Pszoniak ”.
The actor convinced the director so much that he was offered the dual role of Stańczyk and journalist in The Wedding (1972). To this day, it is one of the most important literary adaptations in the history of Polish cinema, but the real breakthrough comes two years later, and thanks to Wajda, a real world masterpiece was created – “The Promised Land”. According to Ingmar Bergman, it is one of the ten most important films in the history of cinema. Many critics believe that Wajda’s picture is superior to Władysław Reymont’s novel. Jerzy Zelnik was initially auditioned for the role of Moryc Welt, which Pszoniak played in an amazing way. Wojda saw Pszoniak more in the role of old Zucker, the film’s husband to Kalina Jędrusik. In the end, however, he decided to cast him for the role of Welt, despite the fact that – as the actor would say – he “looked terrible in the test shots.”
Pszoniak was the type of actor who didn’t like demo shots, so he had a rule that he didn’t participate in it. Here, however, an exception was made and it turned out to be true. The film Welt he made has moved into Polish cinema law. He kept the golden lions for this performance at the festival in Gdansk, which is why the Polish audience loved him and it was she who opened the way for a European career.
“In fact, every appearance of Pszoniak-Welt on the screen becomes another great scene in a film full of great sequences and with many excellent roles” – we read in Maciej Karpiński’s book “Pszoniak” (1976) . He was on the verge of getting an Oscar. A slightly anti-Semitic tone in Raymont’s book played a negative role here, which put some critics in a bad mood, who did not even decide to read Wajda’s works.
“It’s not easy being an actor. In fact, it’s a big risk. That’s why you have to be very, very strong to go through all these falls, potholes, blues. Not only that, to be in this tragic state of the soul, you have to go out every evening. To Theater, play and play well” – explained in “Głos Pomorza”. He says a lot about his attitude to the profession.
In 1979 he appeared in “The Tin Drum”, Der. Volker Schlöndorff. The film is based on the famous novel by Guenther Grass with the same title. Three years later in Austria, directed by Jerzy Koelerowicz, after Julian Strejkowski, and in the Polish-French co-production “Danton” Lugda. He played Robespierre and won an award at the Montreal Film Festival for this role.
Another important role was in “Korczak”, which once again defines the essence of the work under the watchful eye of Wajda Pszoniak. Interestingly, as in the case of “Promised Land”, he was not the director’s first choice. “First, it was to be performed by Henry Fonda, and then by Richard Dreyfus. In the end, Wajda decided to entrust this role to Bzoniak, who, after a little makeup, would look a lot like Korczak” – critic Prof. Tadeusz Lubelski.
In this context, the statement of Pezuniak himself, revealing his idea of acting, is interesting in this context: “Although it seems indecent, I think it would be good that Dreyfus gave up this role. He would have played it for Andrzej. Fully professional , but I’ve tried to limit acting resources to the absolute minimum. You can’t play such a character, you have to be.”
Pszoniak’s representation was not limited to the game itself, but was looking for something deeper, its core. The actor admitted to PAP on the fiftieth anniversary of his artwork: “There is no good and interesting acting without sensitivity and wisdom. Acting is the art of understanding another person, even though it is written as a role.”
Director Janusz Majowski said: “He was an actor worth his weight in gold. He was fully aware of all the means that he used. He mobilized other actors to the limit, wresting from them things they did not even know they had” – said director Janusz Majowski in one of the interviews.
Wojciech Pszoniak was undoubtedly one of the most important and distinguished Polish representatives. He was comfortable on stage and on the set. In this regard, he had no limits. He was appreciated, among others, by Gustaw Holoubek, Tadeusz Łomnicki and Zbigniew Zapasiewicz, who recognized him as one of the greatest Polish theater actors after 1965 (along with Andrzej Seweryn and Piotr Fronczewski).
When, after the success of the film “The Promised Land”, he received an offer from the French director Claude Rigé to play in the play “Intelligent Persons at Death”, he did not yet know French. During the phone call, he read the answers indicated by the Roman’s sister-in-law. I have mastered the text by heart. “Over time, my French was better. Then I said clearly that I didn’t understand. At the end of the tour, Reggie said I was speaking much worse than I had at the beginning!” – He said.
Living in the West, I have never lost touch with Poland. I still have an apartment here, my NIP and PIT. I have friends here. My parents raised me to believe that Poland is the best and most beautiful country. The end It is true that there are more beautiful and richer countries. But the love of country It is like a mother’s love. One must love and respect her for being. The poor and tormented she is, the more she needs love – Zoniak admitted in an interview with “Rzeczpospolita”.
Towards the end of his life, his talent wasn’t put to good use, Lublinski asserted: “Wojcic Pzoniak’s talent was relatively rarely used in the later period. He played some great supporting roles – Ubek in + Crete + Rafael Lewandowski or Gomułka in + Black Thursday + Anthony Cruz ”- noted the critic.
Wojciech Pszoniak died in Warsaw on October 19, 2020. He appeared in dozens of theater productions, in more than a hundred films and more than seventy times in radio plays of the Polish Radio Theatre. (PAP)
Author: Matthew Widerka
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