Holland, Agnieszka

Holland, Agnieszka
   Prominent director-scriptwriter whose films made in Poland and abroad received numerous awards. After graduating in 1971 from the Prague Film School (FAMU), Holland began her career assisting Krzysztof Zanussi on his Illumination (Iluminacja, 1973). Between 1972 and 1981, she was a member of Andrzej Wajda's film unit X and the leading representative of the Cinema of Distrust. She started her career with two television films, An Evening with Abdon (Wieczór u Abdona, 1975) and Sunday Children (Niedzielne dzieci, 1976). During the Cinema of Distrust period she directed several films that were thinly veiled metaphors for Poland's politics. In Provincial Actors (Aktorzy prowincjonalni, 1979), awarded the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1980 Cannes Film Festival, Holland depicted a group of discontented young actors unable to fulfill their artistic dreams. In Fever (Gorączka, 1981), a story about terrorism, she dealt with the young Polish revolutionaries fighting the tsarist regime in 1905. In 1981 Holland produced for Polish television one of the darkest and most brutally honest films ever made in Poland: A Woman Alone (Kobieta samotna, released in 1988). Unfolding in a series of episodes, the film concerns a single mother, the postal worker Irena (Maria Chwalibóg), who struggles in a joyless Polish reality. Her new relationship with the equally unhappy, young but handicapped ex-miner Jacek (Bogusław Linda) offers her a short-lived chance to change her life.
   Holland also worked as a scriptwriter for several films directed by her mentor—Wajda—among them Festival of Polish Films winner Rough Treatment (Bez znieczulenia, 1978) and Korczak (1990). She scripted Yurek Bogayevicz's Anna (1987) and collaborated closely with her friend Krzysztof Kieślowski, for example on his Three Colors Trilogy (she is acknowledged as a "script consultant"). In addition, Holland appeared in supporting roles in Ryszard Bugajski's Interrogation (1982) and Kieslowski's The Scar (1976), among others.
   After the declaration of martial law in December 1981, Holland decided to remain in France. Later she directed a number of internationally acclaimed films in Germany, France, and the United States. In Germany she made Angry Harvest (Bittere Ernte, 1985), a Holocaust drama examining the relationship between a gentile farmer and a Jewish woman, for which she received an Oscar nomination in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Even more successful was her next Holocaust film, Europa, Europa (1991), the story of a young Jewish man who survives the war by concealing his identity, for which she received several awards, including a Golden Globe. Holland's French films include To Kill a Priest (1988), the political story based on Polish priest Jerzy Popiełuszko's tragic death; Olivier, Olivier (1992); and Total Eclipse (1995, French-English coproduction), the latter film dealing with the homosexual love affair between Arthur Rimbaud (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Paul Verlaine (David Thewlis).
   Holland's Hollywood films include two adaptations of classic literary works: The Secret Garden (1993), an adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett's novel, and Washington Square (1997), a faithful adaptation of Henry James's novel. Her list of films also includes The Third Miracle (1999), an unusual religious film dealing with the nature of miracles and spirituality, and the television drama Shot in the Heart (2001, HBO). Holland's Canadian-German-Polish coproduction Julia Walking Home (aka The Healer), which was released in 2003, received mixed reviews.
   Other films: Something for Something (Coś za coś, TV, 1977), Screen Tests (Zdjęciapróbne, 1977, with Paweł Kędzierski and Jerzy Domaradzki), Largo desolato (TV, 1991, France), Golden Dreams (2001, United States), Copying Beethoven (2006, United States).
   Historical Dictionary of Polish Cinema by Marek Haltof

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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