As a 5-year-old growing up in Stockholm, Sweden, Anna Krakus learned English by watching The Sound of Music.
“I became obsessed with the film,” said Krakus, who has Polish parents and spoke Swedish and Polish at home. “I watched it over and over and over again. I memorized it and somehow English just stuck.
“I sing really well in English,” she said with a laugh.
Her love of film grew with her interest in literature. She’s currently turning her dissertation into a book about Polish cinema and literature during late communism. For the book, she nabbed a rare series of interviews with Polish film director Andrzej Wajda.
Wajda was the most prominent member of the famous Polish Film School of 1955 to 1963, and the recipient of an honorary Oscar. He gave Krakus unlimited access to his personal archive spanning 60-something years.
He saved everything. He dated and filed quotes he jotted on napkins. He did the same for written decisions that came down from censors over the years, along with his responses.
“In some instances he was so forceful and just said, ‘No, I will not cut that scene, end of story,’ in a way we don’t tend to imagine artists of that era taking a stand against politicians or censors.”
Krakus read letters to Wajda from Ingmar Bergman to Steven Spielberg and Wajda’s personal diaries, which contain entries from nearly every day of his adult life. This gave her direct insight into the conditions under which he lived and worked during tumultuous years in Polish history.
She found secret reviews that filmmakers and film critics wrote of movies before they were sent to censors.
“Those were an amazing treat,” Krakus said. “They offered some of the best film writing I have ever read, and these documents were never published, just collecting dust in archives.”
Illustration by Bill Sanderson