9 December 2007 | marcin_kukuczka
How a pauper became wealthy
There are not many great works of Polish cinema known worldwide, which is caused by little interest in them. If world's audiences hear of Polish films, they usually refer the works by Kieslowski, sometimes Wajda, Polanski or Zanussi, directors who have become international. Yet, our more "national" movies constitute a totally different matter. And that can be said about KARIERA NIKODEMA DYZMY, a 7-part TV series based on the novel by Tadeusz Dolega Mostowicz which became a cult series in Poland in 1980. On the one hand, it may seem too specifically Polish vague for "foreigners"; yet, on the other hand, it is a universal story and a perfect satire.
The action takes place in Warsaw in the early 1920s when Poland experiences the first years of independence. Nikodem Dyzma (Roman Wilhelmi) immigrates from the eastern part of Poland to the capital in the hope for possibilities to make a living somehow. He is in need, very poor and forced to look for basic food and shelter. Yet, on a day when an unexpected invitation appears, his life changes dramatically. Nikodem becomes fabulously rich. Moreover, he is admitted a respected position and management of one rich man's budget. To this comes the very "inappropriate and politically incorrect" romance Nikodem takes up. How does he react to such a shocking upgrade? How does he behave to those who used to be his "superiors" but are sheer "inferiors" now?
The film, similarly to the novel, is a perfect satire on the flaws that existed and still do exist among governing powers and people who easily and quickly become wealthy. It's a clear presentation of cynicism, snobbery, hypocrisy, materialism, naiveness, stupidity that appear to be their everyday bread. Dyzma is the example of a character who believes that he is alive thanks to the money he got not the people or coincidences that were the driving motors for his upgrade. He serves himself, his desires and all "instincts" that appear in his "ego." He behaves like a dirty beggar who gains gold remaining filthy and does not mind the dirt any longer. There is gold so there is everything... Therefore, it's, on the one hand a particular story set more than 80 years ago but on the other hand, a story that may take place at any time and anywhere.
But the content is one case and the way it is executed is another one. The series is filled with numerous funny moments that prove a comically flawless aspect. Consider for instance, Dyzma's behavior and mimics at the party with the "eminent". The script is also brilliant and though it sometimes has clear connections with Polish reality and Polish history, it's not that vague not to be viewed as "unendurable". However, KARIERA NIKODEMA DYZMY was a cult series not only due to the wonderful content and its timelessness.
At the end of my review, I'd like to focus on one more fact. KARIERA NIKODEMA DYZMY is a film in which one man reached the real stardom thanks to true talent, Roman Wilhelmi. The late Polish actor who did not gain world fame was a man of undeniable flair for specific roles. Although he worked in many movies of the time, this role was his best one and deservedly the most appreciated. Similarly to the fact it appears with great stars of cinema, he was constantly, up to his death in 1991, associated with Dyzma. He almost achieves the perfection in his performance and if you are a sort of viewer who expects a fine job from the cast, you should see Wilhelmi in this film. Really splendid job! One among the top notch performances ever!
I'll say one thing at the end: if you are looking for good Polish films of various genres, KARIERA NIKODEMA DYZMY should appear on your list as an interesting story, an accurate satire and a marvelous vehicle for the leading cast. 8/10