Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Warszawa 1935 - must-see for all Warsaw lovers

For my father, Bohdan Dembiński, who at that time was 12 years old, living on ul. Filtrowa, in Warsaw's Ochota district.

Not a long film, running time a mere 18 minutes, but a long time coming, the much-heralded Warszawa 1935 is required viewing for anyone with an interest in Our City. [Polish Wikipedia page about the film here.] It's a long way from perfection, but it does makes for fascinating viewing - the first animated computer-graphic recreation of Warsaw before the devastation that visited it from 1939-45. The level of detail is extraordinarily high and the overall impression is breathtaking.

Over the film, which aims to show the glory of Warsaw in 1935 (and a beautiful city it was too), hangs a looming sense of martyrdom and impending doom. The music is  Wojciech Kilar-style 'generic Polish film score'. Some lively tunes by Mieczysław Fogg or other popular entertainers of the day would have been preferable. I question the authenticity of the number of cars (especially luxury and sports cars) on Warsaw's streets; though the trams, buses and horse-drawn cabs feel right compared to photos from the era. (I'm looking through an album of photos of pre-war Warsaw and can see only a handful of cars.)

Do take a look (if you've not yet been) at the trailer...

Here's the second official trailer from the film that gives a good flavour of the whole...

What could have been done better? It's all too easy to criticise, but these comments are meant in a helpful spirit. In the film, buildings' windows reflect a uniform light; in reality some would have curtains, other nets; some would be dark, some lit - different colour lamp-shades - this is what makes a city look inhabited. And at street level - more fruit and veg stalls, more bakeries, cobblers, furriers, ironmongers; passers-by, shoppers, people hurrying, lingering, carrying, chatting. This would use up even greater amounts of computing power, but is what would make the film even more effective. As it is, to render the animated 3D film, the producers had to use the supercomputers in Poland's National Centre for Nuclear Research in Świerk.

I believe the producers of the film should make the source-code public so that over the years, enthusiasts of 3D modelling can polish the virtual city to greater levels of realism. The amount of work that's gone into it already is immense, but still to render the scenes with even greater levels of accuracy. As old photos come to light, revealing new textures and detail, I hope to see an ever-more accurate depiction of Warsaw. The 3D model should be released as walk-through software, allowing users to download the virtual city to their hard drives so that they can move virtually at will along Warsaw's streets.

Worth looking at  Miasto ruin (City of Ruins), the shorter 3D computer-graphic recreation of Warsaw as it looked in 1945.

In the meanwhile, if you have an interest in Poland, in Warsaw, in history, this all-too-brief film is worth seeing - I shall certainly be buying it when it comes out on DVD, to savour slowly on the small screen.

Finally - colour footage of Warsaw just before the outbreak of war.

I hope the release of Warszawa 1935 will inspire a new generation of Varsovians to take a deeper interest in the history of Our City, and that digital technologies will be used to create ever more life-life historical depictions of what Warsaw was like before it was barbarically destroyed.

This time last year:
Cats and awareness

This time three years ago:
Why did this happen?

This time two years ago:
Britain's grey squirrels turning red

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately one can't see how beuatiful all the buildings and palaces looked form inside. This is where the loss was even bigger.... and of course the people who died.