The avant-garde masterpiece, entitled Europa, was made by surrealist Warsaw artist Stefan Themerson and his wife Franciszka in 1931. It went missing during the war but was retrieved in 2019 by Poland’s Pilecki Institute.
A copy of the film, which has gained legendary status over the years, was found in Germany’s national archives.
On behalf of the Themerson estate, the Commission for Looted Art in Europe negotiated the film’s restitution. Europa was then donated to the British Film Institute’s National Archive and will get its premiere in London on October 6.
Franciszka and Stefan Themerson met in Warsaw in 1930. They married a year later, initiating a lifelong romantic and artistic partnership. They made Europa, their second film, in their Warsaw apartment and conceived it as an “outcry against the rise of fascism in Europe,” the BFI said in a statement on its website.
The film was later looted by the German Nazi forces in Paris, where the surrealist couple moved from Warsaw in 1938, and, along with four other films by the Themersons, had been thought to have been lost.
The film, which is based on Polish poet Anatol Stern’s 1925 futurist poem of the same name, “utilises an incredible array of avant-garde film techniques … that articulate the horror, inequality and moral decline that the artists witnessed from Poland,” the BFI said.
According to the British institute, Europa “was among the greatest achievements of European avant-garde film of the time.”
Ben Roberts, chief executive of the BFI, said: “We are honoured to be part of this valuable film’s incredible story, by preserving Europa’s original nitrate film in our collection and helping to make this significant piece of anti-fascist work available now and for the future.”
The restored version of the 12-minute film, with a new soundtrack by Lodewijk Muns, will have its Polish premiere at Warsaw's Iluzjon cinema on October 16.
Source: Polskie Radio, BFI, theguardian.com