Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Jump (orig. Salto) [1965]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (4+ Stars)

IMDb listing
Filmweb.PL listing* article

Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema: [MSP Website] []

Jump (orig. Salto) [1965] [IMDb] []* [] (written and directed by Tadeusz Konwicki [IMDb] []* [] [pl.wikip]*) is IMHO a truly excellent allegorical, psychological, bordering on horror film that would remind American/Western viewers of the Twilight Zone [1959-1964] [IMDb] [en.wikip] television series, Stephen King's / Stanley Kubrick's The Shining [1980] and especially the less successful/lesser known Jim Carrey film The Majestic [2001].  The film played recently at Chicago's Gene Siskel Film Center as part of the Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema.

Given Poland's enormous suffering / traumatization during World War II (per capita, no country in Europe suffered more during the Second World War and most of the most ghastly aspects of that War including the Nazi Death Camps took place on its soil), I find a film like this having been made in Poland all but inevitable and perhaps even psychologically cathartic.  (Honestly, _anyone_ who wishes to understand Poland in the years after the War ought to see this film along with Ashes and Diamonds (orig. Popioł i Diament)[1958] (also shown as part of Martin Scorcese's series on Polish Cinema) to which the current film serves as arguably a sequel).  
So ... set in rural Poland on "the exact day after the war's end," the current film begins with a young man dressed in black, with a black leather coat and dark-shaded sunglasses (played exquisitely throughout by Zbigniew Cybulski [IMDb] []*[] [en.wikip] [pl.wikip]*, Poland's "James Dean" and the same actor who played the tragic / tortured protagonist of Ashes and Diamonds [1958], a character that arguably _died_ at the end of that film) traveling on a train passing through the Polish countryside.  Is there _anybody else_ on that train?  We don't know.  The camera's focus is solely on him.   What is clear is that this mysterious figure seems agitated and appears to be running (running from what?  running from whom? we don't know).  At some point, standing by the door of the train compartment in which he is in, he spots a not-awful-but-not-particularly-good-place to jump from the train (there's a slope that would probably break his fall, but there are also all sorts of trees there), crosses himself and ... jumps. 

Surviving apparently uninjured this jump from the train, he brushes himself off from any dirt, wipes clean his glasses, and proceeds then to walk again a not-altogether-simple-journey to a small, seemingly random Polish village.  I write "not altogether simple" because when he comes to a stream, a not particularly large stream but a reasonably deep one (up to the hips) and a fast moving one, the previous small bridge that had been standing there seems to have been knocked out.  No matter, he simply fords the stream, apparently unconcerned that he was going to be soaked now up to his hips. 

As he crosses the stream he spots a couple of young women bathing, naked, someways upstream.  They also notice him, giggle (or scream slightly) in surprise and run off up-the-riverbank and away from him out-of-sight.

He comes to the village at night fall.  It appears that no one in particular is expecting him.  As he walks through the village he (and we, the viewers) are given glimpses through the windows of some of the houses, of what's going on in the random village that evening:  There's one who later we come to understand as the village's local heartthrob / playboy (played by Zdzislaw Maklakiewicz [IMDb] []*) having a shot of vodka with some new conquest  There's an old man (played by Jerzy Block [IMDb] []*) who seems to be sharpening his razor (but one gets the sense that he's _not_ sharpening it to give himself a shave but rather to try to kill himself).  And down the street he spots younger/middle aged woman who turns out to be the town's "card reader" / "fortune teller" (played by Irena Laskowska [IMDb] []*) in her window busy "setting out the cards" to discern the answer to some question.

He arrives at his destination, knocks on the door of the house.  There doesn't seem to be an answer ... Again no one seems to be expecting him.  Finally, the (current?) owner of the house (played by Gustav Hloubek [IMDb] []*) comes to the door.  "Who's there?" "You don't recognize me?"  "I'm sorry, I don't." "But I used to live here.  CERTAINLY you recognize me."  "I'm sorry I don't"  "I was Malinowski or perhaps Kowalski to you when I was here."  "Oh, perhaps I remember you."  "I need a place to stay."  "I really don't have anything for you."  "I used to stay in a room upstairs."  "I keep a lot of junk up there now.  It'd be a mess."  "That's okay, it'd serve for the night."  The owner of the house reluctantly agrees.

There is a small bed in the room along with said assortment of junk (bicycle parts, etc ... it's a storage closet now).  In the middle of the night, this mysterious figure Kowalski or Malinowski is awakened by a nightmare -- soldiers of some kind at the door.  He screams so loudly that the host is awakened and comes to the door "Is everything okay?"  "Yes, I thought there were soldiers at the door."  "Well there're not  Go back to sleep."

The next day, the mysterious man asks the host for a shovel, telling him that he'll bring it back afterwards but that he has to dig up something just outside of town.  The host reluctantly gives him said shovel, assured by the man that he'll bring it back okay. 

As this mysterious man Kowalski or Malinowski leaves the premises he runs into the host's daughter Helena (played by Marta Lipińska [IMDb] []*).  He recognizes her as "Maria."  She doesn't recognize him by sight and tells him that she's Maria's daughter, now grown, (It's been a while apparently since Kowalski / Malinowski's been in town).  She does indicate though that she knows something of him perhaps from her now (deceased?) mother.

As he passes through town to the field where he's going to dig (for something ...) the mysterious man Kowalski or Malinowski _does_ run into a man who recognizes him.  The man introduces himself as Blumenfeld (played exquisitely by Włodzimierz Boruński [IMDb] []*) a _Jewish_ actor from Warsaw from pre-War days.  He tells Kowalski or Malinowski that they met somewhere during the war.  Kowalski or Malinowski tells him that sorry he does not remember him.  The man tells him that's okay because he's spent the years hiding and hiding, changing his identity seven times (!) and that he himself is confused at times about who he really is.  But he is, in fact, "the famous pre-war actor" Blumenfeld (the name, of course, meaning of course "Field of Flowers").  Kowalski or Malinowski is not altogether convinced (perhaps he's some poor soul who having changed his identity so many times, believes himself to be Blumenfeld ...) but shrugs and takes his word for it.

Blumenfeld is the first to invite Kowalski or Malinowski to "an anniversary celebration" that the town's having sometime that evening ...

Kowalski or Malinowski comes to a field outside of town and starts to dig, for something.  As he digs, we hear industrial sounds of some kind of other digging, coming from somewhere, apparently from just over the horizon.  As he digs, the owner of the house (or perhaps current/new owner of the house) where he was staying comes up to him (apparently he had been following him) and asks him: "Are you digging for the Treasure?  They say that there's some sort of treasure here outside of this town.  They say that this is why the Nazis left our town alone during the War and didn't destroy it.  It's supposed to be valuable, life changing.  Tell us if you find it."  In the meantime, Kowalski / Malinowski seems annoyed by the incessant and vaguely foreboding industrial banging coming from over the distant horizon.  The (current?) owner of the house in which Kowalski / Malinowski had spent the night explains: "Oh, that's coming from a uranium mine that they've started digging some time ago.  They say it will eventually extend to here ..."

The (current?) owner of the house in which Kowalski / Malinowski had spent the night then proceeds to invite him to the "anniversary" celebration that's going to take place in the town later that night as well.

What's the "anniversary" of?  We don't know.  Who the heck is Kowalski / Malinowski?  Who is the (current?) owner of the house in which he stayed?  Who is the man introducing himself as the famous pre-war actor "Blumenfeld?" Who is Helena the daughter of the (current?) owner of the house where Kowalski / Malinowski had spent the night who Kowalski/Malinowski had initially believed to be her mother "Maria?"  Who were ANY of these people (as well as others) from this village seemingly untouched by the War seemingly "blessed" by some Treasure buried in the ground outside of it but now also vaguely condemned to be destroyed by a uranium mine approaching it from just past the horizon? 

The Anniversary party DOESN'T offer any real answers either.  Indeed the obvious question that a viewer ought to be asking (and a reader here ought to be asking) is ARE THEY ALL DEAD?   Is the town itself simply a remnant/figments of someone's (WHOSE???) memory or imagination?

The film ends with the mysterious black leather-jacketed, dark sun-glass wearing figure named Kowalski or Malinowski leaving the town the morning after the "Anniversary" celebration, crossing the same fields, fording the same stream by the broken bridge, spotting the same two naked giggling young women, who on spotting him run off into the same woods, arriving at the same point where he had jumped off the train, just in time to meet the dark rumbling, perhaps _empty passenger_ train arriving at the same point again.  As the train approaches, he starts running to get up to its speed ... and jumps ... on to the train, which then heads off into the horizon, presumably to another town, where the same chain of events repeats itself....


This film is currently available _without English subtitles_ on YouTube by the Polish studio KADR (the studio that made the original film). It's also available for rental-by-mail _with English subtitles_ in the United States at, and presumably for purchase on

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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