Apteka (Pharmacy)

a film by Bruce Checefsky

Hungary, USA, 2001, 4 min. 34 sec., 35 mm, black and white
photograms, objects and lights animation
Image and animation:Andrea Kiss & Zsuzsanna Szabó
Production:See Saw Productions & L. László Révész

A stunning black and white abstract film, Pharmacy is a chaotic, anarchic assemblage of chemistry lab measuring cups and spoons, various size test tubes, tweezers, eyeglass lens and a cornucopia of mostly transparent glass pharmaceutical equipment seen as shadows only. Filmed in Cako Studio in Budapest.
Pharmacy is a plotless experimental film made in 1930 by Stefan and Franciszka Themerson, who produced it using a “trick-table” of their own design. Departing from the traditional way of making photograms, they introduced certain modifications: instead of building images by placing objects on photosensitive paper, they put them on translucent paper and photographed from below using positive film. The unique artistic expression of the film was determined by the play of lights (soft, dancing shadows obtained by the movement of lamps over the “trick-table”) and effects resulting from the juxtaposition of the negative and positive film. According to Franciszek Themerson, Pharmacy was the first film to tap into and set in motion the static photogram technique, previously reserved exclusively for photography. Although similar projects had actually been attempted before (e.g. by Man Ray or Hans Richter), the missing Pharmacy made a landmark in the history of the Polish experimental cinema as the first production of the Themersons. Bruce Checefsky invested his efforts to reconstruct the film on the basis of the preserved descriptions.
References: M. Giżycki, Awangarda wobec kina. Film w kręgu polskiej awangardy artystycznej dwudziestolecia międzywojennego, Warsaw 1996; Stefan i Franciszka Themerson. Poszukiwania wizualne, exhibition catalogue, Łódź 1981.

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