Szamanka ("She Shaman")
"An amazing film!… frenzied, subversive and cinematically invigorating, at once a provocative art film and a lurid thriller… one of the most striking films of the 1990s" – Adam Groves, FRIGHT.COM
“Zulawski is a creature of extreme experience. For him, there is no edge, only the abyss…No other filmmaker has gone so far in creating his own personal outland.” — Film Comment
Brutal sex. Drug-induced visions. Cannibalism. Nuclear apocalypse. Four things that do not readily come to mind when you think about Polish cinema. However, that is exactly what is on offer in SZAMANKA, undoubtedly one of Zulawski's most outrageous films.
A young anthropologist (Boguslaw Linda) embarks on an obsessive affair with a beautiful, deranged engineering student (Iwona Petry) from the provinces after a chance meeting at Warsaw’s seedy Central Railway Station. Shortly afterwards, he is confronted with the withered body of an ancient shaman. As the relationship between professor and student grows first passionate and then savage, our hero comes to realize his fate has become intertwined with that of the thousand-year-old medicine man...
After two films exploring both the period and musical genres (BORIS GODUNOV, 1990, and THE BLUE NOTE, 1991), SZAMANKA marks Zulawski’s return to the fearless, fever-pitch cinema for which he is (in)famous. Based on a screenplay by Catholic feminist Manuela Gretkowska, SZAMANKA is to date Zulawski’s only film to be directed in Poland since the collapse of Communism in the Eastern Bloc. Whereas his previous films hid behind the guise of genre — war, horror and sci-fi — Szamanka is, in the director’s own words, “a film without a mask”. It presents a startlingly direct look on life in Poland after the fall of the Berlin Wall, in which the tyranny of Communist rule is displaced by ruthless protection rackets and a hopeless faith in the Catholic Church. Featuring Bogulsaw Linda, who graduated from early roles in the films of Andrzej Wajda (MAN OF IRON 1981) and Krzysztof Kieslowski (BLIND CHANCE, 1982) to being a star of popular post-Communist Polish cinema, SZAMANKA is most notable for the first and (to date) last performance by Iwona Petry. Petry, whose barbaric manner, sensual temperament and unconventional looks underscore a ferocious performance on par with both Isabelle Adjani in POSSESSION (1981) and Sophie Marceau in L’AMOUR BRAQUE (1985). Without a doubt the most scandalous Polish film of the 1990s, SZAMANKA is slowly being recognized (albeit reluctantly), as a key film in post-Communist Polish cinema, not least for its fearless attitude towards the Catholic Church, sexual frankness and feminist mettle... Comparable to POSSESSION, SZAMANKA is further proof of Zulawski’s use of the fantastic to explore themes and issues existing in a very real and concrete reality.
— Daniel Bird