The Skiers | Natalia Brzozowska
documentary, Poland, 1958
Kilar’s debut as a film composer came in 1958, when the 26-year-old artist composed the soundtrack to Natalia Brzozowska’s short documentary. He wrote over eight minutes of music, which can be heard from first to last shot in the film.
Jump | Tadeusz Konwicki
drama, Poland, 1965
When we think about one of Tadeusz Konwicki’s most important films, we immediately think about the final dance scene. The protagonist, a charismatic liar presenting himself as Kowalski-Malinowski, rouses the townspeople to dance.
Music to Andrzej Wajda films
Even if Wojciech Kilar wrote fewer soundtracks to Andrzej Wajda films than to films by Kazimierz Kutz or Stanisław Różewicz, the fact is that, to an impressive extent, Kilar themes from Wajda films have become part of the Polish film-music canon, and that the energy emanating from the particular combination of sounds and images the composer and the director created has remained compelling to this day.
The Revenge | Andrzej Wajda
comedy, Poland, 2002
Riding the wave of success of Pan Tadeusz, Wajda and Kilar embarked a few years later on adapting yet another work from the Polish “national canon”, this time choosing the 19th-century playwright Aleksander Fredro’s most popular comedy.
No One Is Calling | Kazimierz Kutz
drama, Poland, 1960
The first film encounter between Wojciech Kilar and director Kazimierz Kutz, who will then form a haromonious tandem as two great lovers of Silesia. It was only the composer’s second feature film, preceding his great concert successes at the Warsaw Autumn Festival; for the director it was an important confrontation with post-war myths.
Music to Kazimierz Kutz films
After Krzysztof Zanussi, Kazimierz Kutz was the director for whom Kilar wrote the most soundtracks. Many of these still impress us with their modernity and complexity.
While dances Wojciech Kilar composed for Polish films became hits straightaway, and enjoy a life of their own outside cinema, the question of his marches seems more complicated.
A Chronicle of Amorous Incidents | Andrzej Wajda
drama, Poland, 1986
There was only one such summer – in 1939. For Witek, the main protagonist of Andrzej Wajda’s film, a young man just graduated from high school, it was also a summer of love. We meet him on a train rushing through luminous borderlands to the accompaniment of the Cavalry March – one of the most famous motifs in Kilar’s film music.
The Beads of One Rosary | Kazimierz Kutz
comedy, drama, Poland, 1979
The third part of director Kazimierz Kutz’s so-called Silesian trilogy. This time, the director transfers the action to the present. The main protagonist, Karol Habryka, is an old man. He took part in uprisings and strikes, which makes it even more difficult for him to come to terms with what is going on around him.
The Leper | Jerzy Hoffman
romance, Poland, 1976
The third film adaptation of novelist Helena Mniszkówna’s inter-war melodrama was directed by Jerzy Hoffman. Kilar’s famous waltz comes from this film, and became a hit at wedding receptions in Poland, although in the film its role is by no means unequivocal.
Music for Films with Religious Themes
As we browse the catalogue of Kilar’s concert and film works, we quickly notice that some are clearly religious
Bram Stoker's Dracula | Francis Ford Coppola
horror, USA, 1992
Kilar’s music performs several important functions in this Francis Ford Coppola film. First, it is used to characterize the main dramatis personae. Secondly, it is to make the action more dynamic, which means frequent overlapping of various motifs. In addition, the film's musical layer is a model example of so-called sound design.
The Shadow Line | Andrzej Wajda
drama, Poland, UK, 1976
The Shadow Line, which Andrzej Wajda usually lists among his less successful film ventures, contains one of Kilar’s best-known film themes.
Dances top the list of Kilar’s greatest hits composed for cinema. It suffices to to start with two famous Viennese waltzes: from Jerzy Hoffman’s The Leper and Andrzej Wajda’s The Promised Land – both appearing frequently at wedding receptions in Poland.
The Promised Land | Andrzej Wajda
drama, Poland, 1974
When Andrzej Wajda decided to film Władysław Reymont’s novel, the director asked Wojciech Kilar to work with him for the first time. In his extraordinary epic The Promised Land, music plays an important role both in the diegesis and off screen; the rich sonic world of the film is complemented by the phonosphere of the industrial city of Łódź.
Music to Foreign Films
In most of posthumous tributes to Kilar, writers scrupulously stress – with a hint of chips on their Polish shoulders – the success he enjoyed abroad, composing film music for directors including Jane Campion, Francis Ford Coppola and Roman Polański.
Concert Music and Songs Used in Cinema and TV Productions
Reviewers writing about Kilar’s music, especially from the mid-1970s onwards, often found an interesting convergence between his concert and film music, sometimes using expressions like “music to non-existent films” for the former.
Silence | Kazimierz Kutz
drama, Poland, 1963
Wojciech Kilar and Kazimierz Kutz’s third film together is a story about moral dilemmas of a young boy, Stach, whose schoolboy prank is taken for an attempt on a priest’s life, as a result of which the whole town turns against him.
Korczak | Andrzej Wajda
biography, drama, Poland, 1990
Andrzej Wajda’s black-and-white film is not a complete biography of the great teacher, but a chronicle of the last years of his life, when Korczak was forced to move his home for Jewish orphans to the Warsaw ghetto, then decided to stay with the children till they were transported to the Treblinka extermination camp and to die with them there.
The Doll | Wojciech Jerzy Has
drama, romance, Poland, 1968
Unfortunately, this is the only film featuring both Kilar and director Wojciech Jerzy Has, who had earlier got on very well with Krzysztof Penderecki, until the latter practically stopped writing film music in the late 1960s.
Pan Tadeusz | Andrzej Wajda
drama, romance, history, Poland, 1999
In terms of audience attendance and number of awards, this score was undoubtedly the composer’s greatest success apart from the Hollywood film Bram Stoker's Dracula. In Wajda’s adaptation of Poland’s national epic in verse, music is omnipresent, taking up about a quarter of the film's duration.
Quarterly Balance | Krzysztof Zanussi
drama, Poland, 1974
If ever music dominates the images in cinema– quite rarely! – it is certainly the case with this particular film.. Despite director Krzysztof Zanussi’s intelligent script, Maja Komorowska’s inspired acting and Sławomir Idziak’s varied camerawork, it is Kilar’s three motifs that seem to unite Quarterly Balance into a whole.
Lokis: A Manuscript of Professor Wittembach | Janusz Majewski
horror, Poland, 1970
Another film, after The Criminal Who Stole the Crime, in which Janusz Majewski worked with Wojciech Kilar. This time we are transferred to 19th-century Samogitia, toured by the eponymous hero, Professor Wittembach, a pastor and amateur ethnographer.
Illumination | Krzysztof Zanussi
drama, Poland, 1972
It wouldn't be a great exaggeration to say that Kilar’s soundtrack to director Krzysztof Zanussi’s Illumination contains the most complex, multidimensional music not only in the context of the two artists’ long collaboration, but perhaps even in the composer’s film oeuvre.
The Pearl in the Crown | Kazimierz Kutz
drama, Poland, 1971
A continuation of Kutz’s Salt of the Black Earth, which had been devoted to the 1920 Silesian Uprising. Although the action of The Pearl in the Crown takes places over a decade later, Kilar’s music and the film images have a lot in common with the first part of the director's Silesian trilogy.
The Wolves’ Echoes | Aleksander Ścibor-Rylski
western, crime, Poland, 1968
Kilar and Aleksander Ścibor-Rylski’s second film together is a "Western", the action of which takes place after the Second World War in the Bieszczady Mountains. The main protagonist, a belligerent officer of the border guard, Piotr Słotwina, is on the trail of robbers impersonating policemen and looking for treasure hidden by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.
Blind Chance | Krzysztof Kieślowski
drama, Poland, 1981
Blind Chance is director Krzysztof Kieślowski’s only film featuring music composed by Wojciech Kilar – with No End, Kieślowski began regular collaborations with composer Zbigniew Preisner.
Giuseppe in Warsaw | Stanisław Lenartowicz
comedy, war, Poland, 1964
A comedy of errors set in wartime, with the Italian soldier of the title as the main protagonist. Trying to recover his stolen weapon, Giuseppe Santucci, an Italian soldier from the Eastern front, finds himself in a flat occupied by quarrelling siblings – a timid painter, trying to lead a normal live in occupied Warsaw, and his younger sister, active in the Polish resistance.
Death Like a Slice of Bread | Kazimierz Kutz
drama, history, Poland, 1994
The return of the Kutz-Kilar team to the topic of Silesia, after over a decade, was a response to dramatic events following the introduction of martial law in 1981: nine miners were killed during the pacification of the Wujek mine, which had been on strike.
The Cruise | Marek Piwowski
comedy, Poland, 1970
The most classic of cult classics, Marek Piwowski’s film was not Kilar’s first encounter with comedy – at that time, the composer already had the music to Giuseppe in Warsaw under his belt. This time the task proved more difficult, because the director decided to include a number of pieces by other composers in his film.