DOXA 2013: The Palace explores a relic of Poland's Communist past

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      When tiny, pitiless Soviet ruler Joseph Stalin was in a giving mood, he was lavish, especially if the gift inflated his name. And clearly you were in no position to refuse. So it was with the Joseph Stalin Palace of Culture and Science, the hulking brick skyscraper that the Kremlin bestowed on Warsaw, Poland, in 1952. The 230-metre-tall, many-winged structure has bullied the city’s skyline ever since.

      Tomasz Wolski’s film about this grand, weathered memento of a collapsed ideology takes us through a day in the life of the building as it now stands. Wolski uses no interviews, no accompanying music—only echoing marble surfaces, the hum of ducts and generators, and fragments of overheard speech, as his cameras look impassively into every corner. Footage of workmen moving through a low, pale-green basement hallway trails into images of a woman vacuuming the stage of a plush theatre and lifeguards preparing the Palace’s austerely colonnaded indoor pool. One minute, maintenance engineers clamber about in an elevator shaft; the next, a Polish hipster checks his tattoos in a lobby mirror.

      Slowly, the cells of the organism come to life, as children arrive for diving lessons, a Russian army choir sets up for a concert, a council meeting grows heated. At the heart of both building and film are blocky security guards in a cramped office filled with monitors, training their cameras on the small-time vandals and pretty women that catch their eye.

      As it circulates from scene to scene, The Palace develops its own peculiar rhythm, copied from the structure it explores, and expressing, often wordlessly, the uneasy relationship between Poland’s democratic present and Communist past.

      Watch the trailer for The Palace.

      The Palace screens on Monday (May 6) at the Cinematheque (1131 Howe Street) at 8:30 p.m.

      Comments

      3 Comments

      kalinin

      May 5, 2013 at 12:04pm

      Typical right wing capitalist trash trying to discredit J.V.STALIN and the COMMUNIST MOVEMENT.Does he forget that it was J.V.STALIN who saved Poland from being totally oveverun by the the Fascist hordes in 1939,it was the Glorious Soviet Red Army who finally liberated Poland from the Fascist hordes at great cost of lifes,J.V.STALIN bestowed the magnicant Palace of Culture to the ordinary working people of Poland to be enjoyed at their leisure.Eternal Glory to J.V.STALIN

      Bernie Fredman

      May 6, 2013 at 5:09pm

      Stalin sent 1.7 million Poles into the gulag (soviet concentration camp system) This building is not much as far as compensations goes, the whole issue of reparation from Russian the successor state to the soviet union needs to be addressed.

      Rob

      May 10, 2013 at 1:01am

      This building isn't about compensation at all, rather symbol of conquering Poland as same "palaces" are doted around Moscow (...) Kalinin forgot to mention liberation of Poland by Soviets resulted also with incorporation of 1/3 of Poland teritory into Soviet Union and implementing pupet regime backed militarily by Stalin.