Together with Climbing/Na Wspinaczce (1958), this short marked Brzozowska’s return to directing documentary films, nine years after The Congress of Filmmakers in Wisła. Both titles were also her final attempts at the craft. At the close of her film career, in The Skiers, Brzozowska confirmed her virtuosity in an imaginative juxtaposition of sound and image. With unprecedented fluidity, she created poetic sequences of on-screen movement to the notes of a powerful musical score.
The film compresses one day of a snow adventure in the Tatra Mountains into nearly nine minutes of its screen time. As the sun rises, the camera catches six fully equipped athletes who walk up the hill. The voice-over narrator informs us that the ascent is long and tiring because the downhill ride will be ‘the longest’.
Approaching clouds and some shots of a blizzard add to the tension already established by the music written by Wojciech Kilar (1932-2014), for whom collaboration with Brzozowska was his first ever shot at composing for film.
Once the skiers reach the summit and start descending, their movements synchronise with an orchestra playing off-screen in a symphony of sound, Herculean effort and dangerous scenery.
The dramatic montage of various camera angles to Kilar’s score transforms the documentary into a classical music video, in what we can identify today as the director’s pioneering effort. Unusually for her time, she turns the rivalry of humans and nature into visual poetry. The last shots of empty slopes play to the narrator’s words, ‘People rush home… Mountains are left alone’.
Both the imagery and the powerful rhythm of Brzozowska’s edit make The Skiers one of very few Polish documentary films that don’t require translation. You can watch it here.