Just like The Storming Brigade/Brygada zaczyna szturm (1953), this documentary short demonstrates Kozicka’s skill in constructing partisan film messages. Heralded as a socialist realist report from Bolesław Bierut Palace of Youth in Katowice, it opens with two cyclists, father and son, on an empty field road with an industrial background.
The first shots immediately set the mood for the whole film where the trip to a nearby city becomes a journey to a dream-come-true land of opportunities, which is now on everyone’s doorstep.
The opening sequence, just like the rest of the film, plays to Andrzej Łapicki’s (1924-2012) voice-over that highlights the innovation the Communist regime brought to the region.
When the bikes of the father and his little son enter the city’s streets, the narrator preaches: ‘Remember boy that for many years Silesia fought against violence to make your life richer and better’. To prove that, Kozicka explores the spaces of the Palace from the title; all full of light and good-humoured children.
Klaudiusz, the cycling boy from the opening sequence, follows the narrator who gives him the first tour around the venue. The camera observes children in scout uniforms on the stairs and in changing rooms. Then, with an expression of amazement on his face, Klaudiusz passes through some well-populated exhibition spaces and libraries, when we hear an off-screen comment: ‘This Palace is your best fairy tale’.
After a quick scan through different workshop areas, where smiling boys construct models of aeroplanes and boats, Klaudiusz’s father completes his membership form.
However, the tour doesn’t stop there. Together with the child, we visit a whole kaleidoscope of classrooms with club meetings and classes, as well as exercise spaces, where children make sculptures and train models, learn geography and biology, play musical instruments, swim and dance.
Here and there, the camera pauses on a propaganda poster, a photo of Bierut in the company of children or on an architectural element to spotlight the grandeur of the Palace and its sponsor.
When at the end of the day, Klaudiusz leaves filled with the joy of having visited ‘this Palace of Dreams’, Łapicki reassures the viewer: ‘He will come back, not just once or twice, to meet many of his new friends.’
Beside its quick, suggestive edits of observational shots and its obtrusive commentary, which are reminiscent of the Polish Film Chronicle from the early 1950s, In the Palace of Youth also effectively serves as propaganda for gender equality. Instead of a mother, Kozicka uses Klaudiusz’s father to bring him to the Palace, packaging a model division of parental responsibilities in the post-war Poland.
Furthermore, the child’s perspective softens the adamant tones of the narrator. A fabricated message is camouflaged as human experience. For the viewer, it is hard to argue with the boy who is overwhelmed with all the opportunities the regime offers to the young, even if those were only available to a few lucky children of his age.