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Franciszka and Stefan Themerson
Przygoda Człowieka Poczciwego (The Adventure of a Good Citizen) (An Irrational Humoresque) (there won't be a hole in the sky if you go backwards).

All of the 1930s films by the Themersons were lost during the war. Around 1960, a solitary, heavily-worn copy of this film discovered (somewhere near Moscow?) found its way to Warsaw, and then to the Film School in Łodź. (It is said that when Polanski was a student there, he made his Two Men and a Wardrobe as some sort of homage). The Film Archive in Warsaw later made a 16mm reduction print of it, and the version in the LUX collection is a print from this.

The lyrical sequence towards the end of the film, in the woods, with birdsong and falling leaves, that appears in negative, was originally hand-coloured.

There are no subtitles and the only two sentences in the film were spoken in Polish. The main character, sitting at his desk, overhears the sentence: 'there won't be a hole in the sky if you walk backwards' (i.e. the world won't come to an end, if you walk backwards). And, at the very end, the same man, now playing a flute from the rooftops, turns to the viewers and says: 'You must understand the metaphor, Ladies and Gentlemen!'.

The film is a fable of escape from convention, a social satire delivered with such delightful and homogeneous lightness of touch that it's hard to believe the hostility that greeted the first screening in March 1938. But like much of their work in all media, The Adventure of a Good Citizen questioned the status quo, and Stefan understood the weight of that. When the hero of the film walks backwards out of his office and down the street, he is pursued by protesters with placards proclaiming 'Forward march!', 'Walking backwards is wrong!'. The good citizen's dream-like escape from urban conventions into a natural world, where he flies free as a bird, must have appeared in 1938 more dangerously subversive than we can appreciate today. When Stefan was told of the film's survival in a letter of May 1960, he wondered, in his reply, whether its meaning had also survived.

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