Poland’s interwar years were good for Eugeniusz Bodo. He found success on the Warsaw stage shortly after WWI, and acted in, directed and/or wrote thirty films in the fourteen years preceding WWII. Yet the fame and adulation that he enjoyed in Poland amounted to nothing when the country was invaded by both Germany and the Soviet Union in September 1939. As fate would have it, Bodo was a citizen of neutral Switzerland.
Covering 28 years of Bodo’s life, this limited series aired over 13 one hour episodes on Poland’s national broadcaster TVP. The first four episodes feature an engaging performance by Antoni Królikowski as the younger Bodo, whose dreams of being an actor go against the wishes of his protective mother. Leaving home to seek his fame and fortune, each of these early episodes opens in a new town as Bodo progresses from usher to performer to undertaker (?!). Bodo’s growing disillusion coincides with Tomasz Schuchardt assuming the role. More sullen in his interpretation, Schuchardt portrays a character who finds success on stage and screen, but whose personal life is debased by the unrequited love of his childhood sweetheart Ada.
Remarkably, this limited series manages to maintain interest over its long running time (696 minutes), providing many delightful moments along the way. There is an authentic feel to its depiction of theatre life, where the hectic cramped conditions backstage belie the lavish numbers performed on stage. Agnieszka Branska’s choreography, which recalls the halcyon days of movie musicals, is enthusiastically performed by an ensemble cast who, more often than not, are up for the challenge. Offstage, Roma Gasiorowska gives a touching performance as the tragic Zula Pogorzelska while Patricia Kazadi is luminescent as Tahitian actress Reri.
Apart from touching on the political upheaval of Poland’s Second Republic, the depiction of the country’s film industry is also enlightening. Not only did the gradually increasing budgets allow for location shoots and synchronised sound, it meant filmmakers could grant their actors the unheard of luxury of a second take. Actual footage from some of these films, including Bodo singing “I’m Simply a Cold Bastard” in Piesniarz Warszawy and ‘Sex Appeal” in Pietro wyzej, are featured throughout the series.
One year after its premier on television, a condensed version of this series was released to theatres as a 106 minute feature film.
Bodo’s lifelong love Ada and lifelong friend Moryc are both fictional characters.
Series includes many scene recreations from Bodo’s filmography, including Pawel i Gawel, Czarna perla, Glos pustyni and Rywale (not included in clip below).