The Prince and the Dybbuk (2017) Germany/Poland
Directed by Elwira Niewiera & Piotr Rosołowski (Germany/Poland)
English, Italian, Spanish, Polish & German with English subtitles, 82 minutes
A dybbuk in Jewish folklore is a restless wandering spirit who cleaves to the soul of the living. For enigmatic director-producer Michał Waszyński (born Mosze Waks), this haunting figure was a recurring spectre throughout his life, first in the form of his iconic 1937 film “The Dybbuk (Between Two Worlds),” later as an obsession to recover his first forbidden love from the shtetl, and finally as a metaphor for his own ever-shifting and turbulent identity, balanced between incompatible worlds. Like a real-life version of Zelig, Waszyński lived as many different people: a black sheep cast out by his Orthodox family; an incorrigible liar and cheat; a Hollywood heavy-hitter who made over 40 films with the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren and Orson Welles; a distinguished gentleman and a “Polish prince.” He is credited with igniting the golden age of Yiddish cinema and yet was reviled for converting to Roman Catholicism. He married an Italian countess and yet was openly homosexual. Tracing Waszyński’s footsteps from Poland, Ukraine and the United States into Italy, Israel and Spain, directors Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosołowski take us on a cinematic journey into the life of a human chameleon, constantly changing names, religions, titles and countries to write his own life story as if it were a film. Winner of the Best Documentary on Cinema prize at the Venice Film Festival, this mesmerizing biographical film brings us closer to understanding a life filled with multiple contradictions.