To fully appreciate My Nikifor, the second offering in the Filmhouse’s Contemporary Polish Season, it probably helps to have some knowledge of the Polish art scene in the 1960s.
As noted by Wikipedia, Nikifor, also known as Nikifor Krynicki and Epifaniusz Drowniak, was a Ukrainian folk and naïve painter who painted over forty thousand pictures – on sheets of paper, pages of notebooks, cigarette cartons, and even on scraps of paper glued together.
The topics of Nikifor’s art include self-portraits and panoramas of Krynica, with its spas and Orthodox and Catholic churches. Underestimated for most of his life, in his late days he became one of the most famous primitivist painters.
Coming to the film armed with this information does help, but it doesn’t necessarily make the film any better or worse. Following Nikifor (played by actress Krystyna Feldman) through the last few years of his life as seen through the eyes of his “adopted” carer, Marian Wiosinski, this 2004 biopic is a beautiful looking, often thoughtful, look at the relationship between two men of different ages but with similar passions in life.
Confining itself to a short period of time in Nikifor’s life does mean that any sense of how he has come to be where he is is perhaps unclear, though watching him paint and interact with Marian as his future is decided is always intriguing.
Finally, it’s worth noting that the performance of the late Krystyna Feldman as the old man of the title is exceptional and she is worth the price of admission alone.
Review by Jonathan Melville
My Nikifor is showing at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse cinema on Sunday 20 July at 6.15pm – see the website for full details.
Image courtesy Filmhouse.