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WITKACY & MALINOWSKI: a cinematic séance in 23 scenes

(Witkacy i Malinowski: seans filmowy w 23 scenach)


41 min film, 5.1 sound 2019
or installation 3m x 5m with video projection, 5.1 or binaural sound, 45 min loop 2018

English or Polish subtitles

I've always dreamt of something extraordinary happening, like in a film ... but in the end it means death.    The Crazy Locomotive  



Haunted by the recent suicide of his lover, the artist and visionary playwright Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (known as Witkacy) took a train through the Australian countryside in 1914 with his friend, the anthropologist Bronisław Kasper Malinowski. WWI had just been declared, and the pair have a heated, friendship-ending argument about the political, the personal, and the power of rationality versus the transcendent power of art. Intercut with the expertly acted and beautifully shot experimental drama, unfolding on the train are scenes from Witkacy’s own avant-garde play The Crazy Locomotive, as both the speeding train and the relationship between the two friends hurtle inevitably towards disaster.    Sydney Film Festival

Nowhere in the film is the potential of cinema better demonstrated than in the film’s ending. In its otherworldly grace and scorching memorability, Jadwiga’s closing monologue (and Gillies’ film as a whole) serves as a resurrection of the supernatural and a celebration of the corresponding powers of cinema.    Tyler Patterson review

The boundaries are blurring ... but it's worth seeing it with your own eyes and see for yourself if you get the impression that, "you woke up from some strange dream".    Tatra Museum

The conflict between art and science, materialism and metaphysics, is personified in the rupture between Witkacy (Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewcz ), ‘the most universal artistic figure in Poland in the first half of the 20th century’, and Bronisław Malinowski, 'the father of contemporary anthropology', on a train in Australian at the very beginning of World War 1.


Using adaptions from their writings, including a new translation of Witkacy’s play The Crazy Locomotive, the conflict between the friends is evoked in the context of Australian colonialism and the outbreak of technological mass suicide. An experimental docudrama, the work can be viewed in a cinema or incorporated into an immersive installation that seats the audience as passengers/cinema spectators within a carriage/cinema traveling into the future.


Pollyanna Nowicki    (Jadwiga Janczewska) 

Tom Pelik    (Witkacy)
Matej Busic    (Bronisław Malinowski) 

Richard Hilliar    (Nicolas)  
Craig Meneaud    (Mr Tengier)
Paul Dwyer    (William Bateson)
Liam Megarrity    (Prisoner)
Chris Ryan    (Queensland Policeman)

Clare Grant    (Tea Lady)  
Hugo Larsen    (Young Witkacy)
Oscar Clarke    (Young Malinowski)

Meg Clarke (Young Woman)
passengers: Josephine Barton, Juno Butler-Cole, Max Butler-Cole, Katia Molino, Zilla Gillies-Plate, Rory Potter, Finn Potter, Rose Purse, Laura Turner, 
Madelene Veber, Nitin Vengurlekar


written, adapted and directed:  John Gillies
with excerpts from Szalona Lokomotywa (The Crazy Locomotive) 1923 by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz
and words adapted from Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, Bronisław Malinowski and William Bateson


sound and vision: John Gillies

co-producer: Laura Turner
consulting producer: Lech Mackiewicz 
translation:  Izabella Mackiewicz, Lech Mackiewicz, Marek
camera assistants: Joseph Florio, Thomas Robertson
sound recordists: Joseph Florio, Laura Turner, John Gillies
makeup and dresser: Madelene Veber
construction: Robert Cooney, Jacob Gawlick, Willy Hall, Louis Pratt
location manager: Willy Hall 
visual FX: Orbitvfx 
visual compositors: Chris Leaver, Kanin Phemayothin
accounts: Auspicious Arts


Ghan Tracks
composed and conducted by Jon Rose
Claire Edwardes: vibraphone
Cazzbo Johns: sousaphone
Lamorna Nightingale: pic
colo, flute 
Jason Noble: bass clarinet

Damien Ricketson: plectraphone
Clayton Thomas: double bass
Jennifer Torrence: percussion
Eugene Ughetti: vibraphone


The People's Music
composed and conducted by Jon Rose

Orchestra of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts 


On the Queensland Railway Lines (Trad)

lyrics: Queensland Realist Writers Group

Clare Grant: vocal


all other music and sound design: John Gillies

Produced with the assistance of the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council

Bibliography and links
Tracking down Witkacy in Australasia: sources, race, productions, context & speculation by John Gillies 2021
Szalona lokomotywa po przeglądzie by Marek Średniawa 2021
John Gillies in conversation with Peter McKay 2020

Review by Tyler Patterson 2019

Love, Materialism and Metaphysics by Keith Gallasch

Witkacy in the Mirror by Stella Rosa McDonald

Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane 2019

Exhibitions and Screenings

Museum of Katowice History, 2023
Urodziny Stasia: 136. rocznica urodzin S. I. Witkiewicza, Słupsk Cultural Centre, 2021

Gra w i z  Witkacym, Tatra Museum, Zakopane, 2020
Brisbane International Film Festival, Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane 2019
Bushflicks, Worrowing, 2019
Sydney Film Festival, 2019
People's Republic, Sydney, 2018

Immortality, Murray Art Museum Albury, 2018 (3 screen installation)

previews: 'Witkacy pod Strzechy', Słupsk; Grotowski Institute, Wrocław; 'Podwodny Wrocław' Wrocław











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