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Still Life in Lodz (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 27, 2023


Featuring Lilka Elbaum, Paul Celler, Roni Ben Ari, Elzbieta I Boguslaw Biskcupscy, Ryszard Bonislawski, Stefan Brajter, Felicja Chorazkiewicz, Krystyna Gorecka, Lilliana I Jankiel Mitelmanowie, Patrycja Ulanska, Lilka Ulevic, Joanna Zielinska-Ulevic, Theresa Zielinska and Jan Zielinski.

Written by Lilka Elbaum and Slawomir Grunberg.

Directed by Slawomir Grünberg.

Distributed by Log TV. 75 minutes. Not Rated.

Still Life in Lodz looks back at the Nazi occupation of Poland through the lens of a long-lost work of art.

It is not – like so many other stories you have heard of about artwork being horded by the Nazis during World War II – about a famous or overly valuable work of art. It is a simple still life of flowers and fruit on a table, done by a long-forgotten painter, which was not so much stolen as it has just changed hands over the decades since the war.

Yet this still life is as important to Lilka Elbaum as one of the finest masters. She has become somewhat obsessed by this painting and spent most of her adult life looking for similar pieces, even though she offhandedly acknowledges that she knows where the particular artwork ended up and the woman who has it now is happy to have her visit to see it.

However, it’s probably not so much the actual painting that fascinates her – although it certainly does – it’s what it stands for in her memory and her life. It is symbolic of the twenty or so years that her family spent in an apartment compound from the latter days of war on into the 1960s.

She grew up in that small, slightly squalid apartment, going from a little girl to a grown woman, finding a safe space – well, relatively safe – after the horrors of being a Jewish family in Poland during World War II. Now, many years later, she revisits the apartment and the building – which seem to be mostly empty but is still standing – a monument to a difficult moment in world history and her own personal growth.

The still life hung on the wall of the apartment. To this day she has vivid memories of studying it, losing herself in it, dreaming about it, learning from it, and yet never quite understanding it all. (What is that tan item on the table?)

It is a physical and a symbolic representation of a period of her life which still fascinates and haunts her.

Still Life in Lodz shows not only Elbaum returning to her childhood home, but a couple of other people she runs across whose family history is intertwined with Lodz and this same old apartment building. They also visit to find answers from their past and to better understand the lives of their ancestors.

And through their eyes, and the eyes of the people who came before them, we get a better understanding of our own histories – and the history of the world.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2021 All rights reserved. Posted: March 12, 2021.


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