Biopic Review: Papusza

Last night I saw the Polish film Papusza, a black and white period biopic about a poetess who belonged to a band of Polish Roma (Gypsies.) She suffered incomprehensible loss of innocence and love in her lifetime, until she finally turned her back on poetry and in fact, books themselves. From the sanitarium late in the film she declares, “If I had never learned to read, I would have been happy.”

Not for the faint of heart, this film. Serious and sad, it is also masterfully shot and edited, unfolding like a cinematic poem, in short, rhythmic waves. In this way, form follows function, as all great films based on true stories must, and a deep personal feeling is evoked, much like the emotional impetus of poetry itself.

In the end, we’re left of a deep and compassionate understanding of this woman and her tight-knit and often persecuted culture. Written and directed by the husband and wife duo Krzysztof Krauze and Joanna-Kos Krauze, the film is part of the Women+Film Voices slate of offerings at the Starz Denver Film Festival, and screens again this afternoon. More information on the film and the festival can be found here.

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