Papusza: Review

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC Papusza: Review

By Donna Darling.

Papusza is a film based on the life of Bronislawa Wajs (Jowita Budnik), a Polish Romany gypsy who became known for her poems and songs. Papusza is the name she goes by. We follow the gypsies on their travels across Poland in Papusza’s early years and throughout World War II. Filmed in black and white the scenes are put together like snapshots. The camera remains still making the scenes look like a painting. We see the travelers at a distance, theirs being the only movement across the screen, bringing it to life

We see Papusza’s uncommon early interest in being able to read and write being frowned upon by her family. If she’s seen with a book they take it away from her. Even those who are willing to teach her see her as unique but they try to dissuade her from learning by telling her a woman who has knowledge leads a life of misery. Unfortunately for Papusza those words haunt her and play out in her life. She is made to marry Dionizy Wajs (Zbigniew Walerys) a man much older than she is. Her knowledge and her unhappiness combined inspires her creativity. She writes and sings songs but she doesn’t see her words as poetic.

On their travels they are joined by Jerzy Ficowski (Antoni Pawlicki) who is on the run from the authorities. He hears some of Papusza’s songs and encourages her to write them down. When he no longer fears being captured he leaves the gypsy community but he stays in touch with Papusza by post.

She sends her poems to him. He endeavors to get them published so more people can appreciate her talent. His intentions fail to come across as good to the gypsies. They see it as exposing their culture to the rest of the world and that’s not what they want. Their desire is to be left to their own devices and they feel Papusza is responsible for showing the rest of the world their way of life. The songs that she enjoyed singing are turned against her and used to cast her out from the life she loved to sing about.

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