Wislawa Symborska, Cracow (Poland), October 23, 2009, Foto: Mariusz Kubik, http://www.mariuszkubik.pl"End and Beginning: meeting Wisława Szymborska" -
at the Haifa International Film Festival 2011

Nurit Kahana, October 2011:

Some highlights of the unique personality of the poet Wisława Szymborska, the renowned Nobel Prize winner, are revealed in the new documentary, "End and the Beginning – meeting  Wisława Szymborska". The film, created by the Dutch filmmaker John Albert Jensen, was launched in Israel at the Haifa International Film Festival (13-21/10/11). Szymborska, an enigmatic poet, does not like to be interviewed. For many years she kept herself remote from the Media.

One of the lines she wrote in her poem "Options" –

 "I prefer myself liking people / over myself loving mankind" - expresses her preference to remain authentic, to avoid a build up of an artificial Media persona. Szymborska's clear- cut, transparent language is inspired by all kinds of routine experiences - like reading the newspaper, attending events, traveling, looking at paintings in museums, watching television and listening to the radio. Her clear, transparent poems, innocent of pathos and with few metaphors, are accessible to large audiences, even those who usually do not read poetry. Everyday life events, situations and characters are loaded in the blink of a word with deep messages:

"Reality demands/
We also state the following:/
life goes on./
It does so near Cannae and Borodino,/
at Kosovo Polje and Guernica."

(From: "Reality Demands", a poem translated from Polish by Joanna Maria Trzeciak)

"Why am I not giving interviews? Answers facetiously the poet to filmmaker Jensen, "Because I signed a non – interviewing contract on the day I was born… Only if you tell something about yourself in an interview it is considered as valuable, but I do not like to do it".

Jensen respected Szymborska's privacy. He combined a noninvasive interview with the poetess and interviews of friends and key figures in the Polish cultural scene today: Ewa Lipska, Andrzej Szczeklik, Andrzej Wajda, Marta Wyka, and Kora. Each of them shed some light on her personality. The director synchronized the musical light motive of the film by the poet's readings of her poems: "End and Beginning" - ( the film was named after it), "Nothing twice", "A cat in an empty apartment," "Still" and other poems. The readings are followed by images relating to the poems content.

The opening scene shows the poet sited on a remote, isolated bench, surrounded by the natural beauty of the countryside.  A girdle of trees, a river flowing between them, and than, beyond her view, over the mountain – a bustling city overlooks the scene.

Her best friend, the poet Ewa Lipska, says in the film: "I met Wisława Szymborska when I was 18 years old. I am apparently the only one who knows Szymborska so many years. She maintains her privacy in order to be able to write her poetry."
Szymborska reads her iconic poem "End and the Beginning", which depicts a postwar routine: "After every war / someone has to clean up. Things won't/ straighten themselves up, after all. "... On the other hand, the last lines of the poem define the poet's role:

"In the grass that has overgrown/
causes and effects/
someone must be stretched out/
gazing at the clouds."

"When I was young I was active in politics, even in writing some of my poems," says Szymborska. Today she believes that the role of  poets is different  and requires observation, research and enough time for deciphering reality:  She says it is better to write  as little as possible on political matters in real time, a distance of time is needed in order to grasp them accurately.

The film continues to expose more of her personality - a playful, happy woman, who enjoys little surprises, small gifts and gadgets.
Andrzej Szczeklik, a doctor who wrote a book about the soul from a medical point of view, says that Szymborska's poem under the name, "Soul"- fascinated him already as a young boy. He appreciates her contribution by exposing the reality beyond the gray, massy, noisy world in which we live.

A fascinating chapter in the film is the vocalist Kora performance of Szymborska's Poem "Nothing happens twice". Kora says in the film that the directness, short sentenced, clear poem, makes a perfect pop song. "When you talk to Wisława Szymborska you realize a youthful, up to date lady," she says.

Jensen uses different techniques to overcome the difficulties of making a documentary about poetry:  young and old couples read Szymborska's poetry about relationships, the future etc.

"I think she's a very charming, discrete woman, who keeps her own privacy and independence – she is not the type for idle conversations and gossip- and it's not out of pride but by virtue of restraint," says Andrzej Szczeklik.

"There is more truth in the poetry of Szymborska than in any prose written today," says the renowned Polish film director Andrzej Wajda. He defines her poetry as "Prose in a constricted throat". The film ends with a view of a snowy landscape - the poetic illustration of "End and beginning".

This is the second film documentary about Szymborska which was made in the last years. The first documentary film, created in 2009 by the journalist Katarzyna Kolenda- Zaleska - "Sometimes Life is Bearable" shed some light on her life. Jensen's new movie reveals more, and might enlarge Szymborska's readership.

The launch of "End and Beginning" at the Haifa International Film Festival was attended by 250 people, many more were unable to get in. It was one of the best Poetry events in Haifa - but it leaves doubts about the chances of less-known poets events, to attract more than a few people.

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