Bauman and the Cross of Valor

“Lawnswood Gardens”, 
a portrait of Zygmunt Bauman

As Marlan Warren, a screenwriter for my teaching reading video series “The Reading Planet” wrote in one of its episodes - “Don’t knock ignorance till you've tried it!” The line comes form a Lethard, an inhabitant of a planet Lethargia, where everybody hates reading.

Back on the planet Earth:

The frame above is from a 2011 documentary I made about prof. Zygmunt Bauman a giant world class intellectual figure of the past several decades, who for the current political regime in Poland became the archenemy. They claim that Bauman received the Cross of Valor, the highest military honor in Poland, for his work in the military communist internal security forces.

“Lawnswood Gardens” makes clear the Cross of Valor was given to Bauman for his participation in a May 1945 battle against Germans. Since 2012 the film has been shown a dozen times in Poland on television (Planete +.) Wikipedias (English and Polish) also correctly identify the 1945 origin of the medal. Yet, many still attack Bauman with the misinformation about the source of his military honor. Clearly for some ignorance is politically more useful than knowledge.


The Master's Style

Carlito’s Way
A perfect match of a narrative set-up (the story takes place in a mind of a hero as he lays dying) with the stylistic choices for many scenes which often emphasize slightly detached, dreamy POVs.

Particularly one scene sticks in my mind: the palatial garden party conversation between a conniving lawyer-Dave Kleinfeld and Carlito. In this scene the fate of Carlito is set: Dave begs Carlito to assist him in helping a gangster to escape from prison, which just has to end up badly. The talk between the two man is preceded by a long, wide take of Dave’s girlfriend walking toward the alcove where the two men will be talking. For now however she finds there only Carlito and asks “What are you doing here by yourself Carlito?” The question has a double meaning should one seek it.

Everything in this one minute set up foreshadows the impending doom. It is however done in a subtle way. It’s realism, as if filtered by the memory of a dying Carlito who remembers the key situations in his life but does not allow the memories to dwell on the outcome to the point of narrative vulgarity, balances on the representation and interpretation of what’s being told through the camera. I find this balance fascinating and very satisfying as a storytelling devise.

Brian dePalma said somewhere that he considers Carlito’s Way his perfect work. I can see how this movie could be considered the ideal crafting of a subjective story.