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The Mask

The Quay Brothers
Poland 2010 / 25’

In relation with the project Polska! Year, the Polish Cultural Institute in London and the Adam Mickiewicz Institute asked Brothers Quay to adapt one of the Stanisław Lem’s collections of stories entitled Mortal Engines. The Quays used the American edition of the cycle where they found The Mask incorporated to the collection along with a few additional stories. They were more interested in a story of Duenna (a merciless female cyborg who more distinctly than Terminatrix resembles a complex eighteenth century automaton) than in the actual stories. They noticed a dark love story as well as a intriguing duality captured in the English title of the Mortal Engines collection (where mortal stands for ‘lethal’ and ‘fatal’) as opposite to the Polish title which is The Robots’ Fables. Brothers Quay used Krzysztof Penderecki’s music (De Natura Sonoris I) which had previously been used by them in a lost film, Ein Brudermord (1981), an adaptation of Kafka’s story (interestingly enough, the same work was later on used by such directors as Stanley Kubrick in The Shining and David Lynch in Inland Empire). Duenna’s doll is in fact a Portuguese Madonna’s figure. In other places, we can notice references to designs of Viennese Secession puppeteer Richard Teschner who in his works used aesthetics and solutions of the Javanese puppet theatre.


Jakub Mikurda

Bracia Quay

Twins, born in 1947. They studied in Philadelphia and continued their education at the Royal College of Art in London, where in the 1970s they directed their first short films. In the 1980s, they made commercials (for Honeywell, Walkers Crisps, and Dulux Wood Protection), music videos (the most famous one - for Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer), and animations which made them popular – The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer, Street of Crocodiles. In 1995, their first feature film premiered: Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream That One Calls Human Life, winner of the Bronze Horse in Stockholm and the jury’s award at the Fantasporto festival. Another full-length live acting film by the brothers is The PianoTuner of EarthQuakes. Their art is inspired by literature, especially by prose by Bruno Schulz and lately - Stanisław Lem.

Cast & Crew

director The Quay Brothers
screenplay The Quay Brothers
cinematography The Quay Brothers
editing The Quay Brothers
music Krzysztof Penderecki
cast Magdalena Cielecka (voice)
producer Marlena Łukasiak, Zbigniew Żmudzki
production Se-Ma-For Produkcja Filmowa, Instytut Kultury Polskiej w Londynie, Instytut Adama Mickiewicza, Atelier Koninck QBFZ, Narodowy Instytut Audiowizualny, Estrada Poznańska, Render 305
language Polish
colouration colour