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The Law and the Fist

Jerzy Hoffman, Edward Skórzewski
Prawo i pięść
Poland 1964 / 93’
Eastern Bloc Hits

The Law and the Fist was made in 1964, amidst a somewhat uneventful period in Polish history called ‘little stabilisation’. Poles were encouraged to enjoy the relative prosperity, stability and given a degree of individualism. However, this freedom to enjoy life created a void in a nation of ‘natural heroes’, as Poles tend to perceive themselves. The Law and the Fist, in its retelling of a not-so-heroic history in heroic fashion, is a way of filling this void. The film appeared as the aptly-named ‘Polish School’ paradigm that dominated Polish cinema over the previous decade began to decline, permitting a degree of experimentation. The makers of The Law and the Fist took advantage of this, transplanting the Western into the Polish ‘Wild West’, the so-called ‘recovered territories’, from which the previous German inhabitants had been expelled following Germany’s WWII defeat.

The Law and the Fist has a fine assemblage of actors, especially Gustaw Holoubek in the role of the lonely hero, Kenig. Although regarded as the leading intellectual among Polish post-War actors (as exemplified here by his nickname, ‘Professor’), Holoubek proves he is also able to shoot a gun and fall in love.

Ewa Mazierska-Kerr / Rotterdam IFF

The National Film Archive (Filmoteka Narodowa) encourages everyone to join the screening of a cult Polish western, Prawo i pięść (The Law and the Fist), directed by Jerzy Hoffman and Edward Skórzewski, with a brave role of Gustaw Holoubek. Last year, thanks to a subsidy from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, under the supervision of the National Audiovisual Institute, and in cooperation with the Polish Society of Cinematographers, the National Film Archive undertook to preserve the greatest works of Polish cinematography and to make the digital copies of these, using the processes of digitalization and digital reconstruction. The copy of The Law and the Fist required an urgent conservatory action and needed a reconstruction. Thanks to digitalization and a multi-stage process of digital video reconstruction and sound re-mastering, all the defects have been removed. As a result, we can now admire this more than 40 years’ old story in the form the audiences watched it in the 60s. And a wonderful song with music by Krzysztof Komeda and lyrics by Agnieszka Osiecka, which is performed by Edmund Fetting, will not be easily forgotten by us after the screening, and we will not be able to resist to croon the following lyrics: In a day or in two // in one night or in three // even if not today, but in a night, a day // you’ll wait until daylight comes…

Jerzy Hoffman

Born in Krakow in 1932. Along with his family, he was deported to Siberia in 1940, by Soviet authorities. He returned to Poland after the war. He later studied film direction at the Gierasimov Institute of Cinematography in Moscow. Hoffman directed his first film in 1955, teaming up with Edward Skórzewski to make Look Out, Hooligans!. Jerzy Hoffman and Edward Skórzewski made 27 documentaries together. Their feature film debut was Gangsters and Philanthropists, made in 1962. In 1983–1987, Hoffman held the position of Vice-president of The Polish Filmmakers Association and, in 1987–1989, he was a member of the State Cinema Committee. He has also been the artistic director of Zodiak Film Studios (1980–1997) and, since 1997, Hoffman has directed the Zodiak–Jerzy Hoffman Film Production studios. He is best recognized for his epic film trilogy based on the historical novels of Henryk Sienkiewicz.

Selected filmography

1955 Uwaga, chuligani! / Look Out, Hooligans! (co-dir., doc., short)

1963 Gangsterzy i filantropi / Gangsters and Philantropists (co-dir.)

1964 Prawo i pięść / The Law and the Fist (co-dir.)

1969 Pan Wołodyjowski / Colonel Wolodyjowski

1974 Potop / Deluge

1999 Ogniem i mieczem / With Fire and Sword

Edward Skórzewski

Skórzewski was born in Łódź in 1930; he passed away in 1991. Skórzewski graduated in film direction from the Gierasimov Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) in Moscow. In 1954, he began working as a documentary director at the Documentary Film Production Company in Warsaw. Between 1954 and 1965, he collaborated with Jerzy Hoffman to make 27 documentaries and 3 feature films. In later years, the directors went their separate ways, after which Skórzewski made over 20 documentaries, as well as the feature film Romeo i Julia z Saskiej Kępy (1988).

Selected filmography

1954 Czy jesteś wśród nich? / Are You Amongst Them? (co-dir., doc., short)

1955 Uwaga, chuligani! / Look Out, Hooligans! (co-dir., doc., short)

1958 Pamiątka z Kalwarii / A Souvenir from Calvary (co-dir., doc., short)

1963 Gangsterzy i filantropi / Gangsters and Philantropists (co-dir.)

1964 Prawo i pięść / The Law and the Fist (co-dir.)

1986 Życie jest… / Life Is… (doc.)

1988 Romeo i Julia z Saskiej Kępy

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Cast & Crew

director Jerzy Hoffman, Edward Skórzewski
screenplay Józef Hen, based on his novel
cinematography Jerzy Lipman
editing Ludmiła Godziaszwili
music Krzysztof Komeda
cast Gustaw Holoubek, Zofia Mrozowska, Hanna Skarżanka, Wiesław Gołas, Zdzisław Maklakiewicz
producer Wilhelm Hollender
production Zespół Filmowy „Kamera”
sales Filmoteka Narodowa
language Polish
colouration b&w