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The Philosophical Stone of Animation
Piotr Dumala

First of all I would like to say what made me write the present text and explain why I chose this particular title. A stone is a symbol of existence, coherence and accord with oneself. Seemingly changeless and inanimate, it nonetheless contains -- symbolically -- the deepest creative power. It is an abode of the gods and has prophetic qualities. For the alchemists the philosophical stone represents a union of opposites. According to Jung, alchemists did not look for a deity in matter but "produced" the deity through the process of transmutation.

I would hate to ascribe exaggerated significance to what the making of an animated film essentially means to me. However, the first impression from twenty five years ago, when the cat that I had just drawn came alive, as well as many thoughts that keep coming to me during my solitary work under a camera, make me feel more and more strongly that I am dealing with something close to magic. That "something" consists in discovering or rather producing existence, motion, life; in extracting motion from between the grains of immobility, since motion is but an illusion, a conjecture produced by our mind through the medium of the eye. When I saw the cat built from dozens of motionless pictures run across the screen, cower before a boy who was offering it a bowl of milk and finally run away, leaving the youngster disappointed, I felt the joy of a scientist whose experiment has worked. At that time I called it, "The first twitch of the hand of Frankenstein's monster." A miracle had happened, one form of energy was transformed into another, immobility gave rise to the motion of figures endowed with the qualities of sentient beings.

The comparison with alchemy has dawned on me just recently, while I was busy getting prepared for my next film, inspired by the life of John Dee, a sixteenth century magician and scientist. All at once I saw my work as an activity akin to alchemy in more ways than one.

Sitting with a camera in my basement and drawing the last scenes of Crime and Punishment I suddenly wrote on the backside of the screenplay: "Animation is alchemy. For if we admit that the world is revealed to us through motion and change (even Buddhist texts say that change is the essence of existence, that nothing is permanent), it is the animator who finds his way to the mysterious machinery from which all motion results; it is the animator who employs that machinery to his own ends (...). The real world enters the realm of change and is transformed therein. Using motionless pictures in lieu of elementary particles the animator builds the kind of motion that has never happened in reality but is now revealed to us on the screen due to a visual illusion. In a live-action movie the camera registers real motion, 'fishing out' of its continuous flow the necessary number of phases. In an animated film it is the other way round: the author builds motion from individual, motionless images and it is only the viewer who provides the impression of continuity. The emotions and feelings present in such an animated picture, as well as the extreme condensation of time that occurs, make it very intense; although the viewer may find that intensity exhausting, it helps the author put a lot of substance into a surprisingly short projection. Of course, I am only concerned with films in which the author takes himself, his subject and the viewer very seriously. Commercials or movies of little artistic value, made as an entertainment for children or adults, can be likened to stands in a market where charlatans traffic in their cheap wares."

Alchemy began to develop in the third and fourth centuries as a symbolic process in which the obtaining of gold was tantamount to a transformation of the secular into the spiritual. Gold symbolised enlightenment and salvation. The alchemical process can be summarised as follows: analyse that which you are, perform the dissolution, do not be discouraged by the enormity of your toil and when you finally obtain the power, use it to carry out the union. Incidentally, what I find quite striking is an analogy between this principle of alchemy and a tendency that has become quite widespread nowadays, but had always been vital to humans, namely, the desire to discover in oneself the deepest religiousness and to attain enlightenment -- this being effected by various techniques of meditation -- or to free oneself from neuroses and become psychologically integrated in the course of a long, difficult and painful process of psychotherapy or psychoanalysis.

I have to admit that I am quite surprised and even embarrassed, seeing where my reflections on the modest profession of an animator have led me. However, the work to which I have devoted thousands of hours is not merely something that I do for a living, so I feel strongly moved to comprehend its deepest essence and mystical dimension.

Having compared the making of an animated film to the process of an alchemical transformation, I now notice another similarity between the two.

When we create motion and in this way tell a story, we can show a particular unreal situation and by the same token directly present a vision taken from imagination, employ a language which is normally used by our thoughts and dreams, make the impossible physically visible and thus -- possible. We allude here to the language of symbols, metaphors, fairy tales. We make childish dreams come true, those dreams where objects (or toys) come alive, changing their shape and identity before our very eyes, the laws of nature are transgressed and magical events take place.

As a child I always preferred animated films to live-action movies. In an animated film the magician does not wear a fake beard and no actress has to pretend to be a princess: the princess is real and so is the magic. The very stuff that such films are made of is magical. Besides, I experience all the old silent films as horrors, since not a single person who moves around on the screen is still among the living.

The singular language of animation can be defined as a very primeval form of communication which does not originate from the intellectual or linguistic thought structures. It is a language of the gesture, image, pantomime, a plastic symbol subjected to a very strict regime of temporal sequence, that is, to editing. Unlike live-action movies, it is disconnected from reality, in which it has no direct equivalents; it tells its own truth, nevertheless, as an emanation of pure imagination. Just like Chinese script, which has grown out of a particular image and through a process of abstraction which has given it universal meaning.

For me the language of animation is a direct expression of our psyche — of the world of myths, dreams and metaphors hidden within us. It expresses something that one can define as the sort of spirituality proper to the psyche of a child, to primitive peoples, to schizophrenics, but also to the wise seekers of the philosophical stone, who (like many artists) profess an attitude of eternal amazement and childishly believe in miracles. Their belief is evidenced by their insane occupation as a magician -- or animator.

During the reign of King Rudolph II, black magicians confined to the cramped cubicles in the Golden Lane (also called the Street of the Alchemists) in Prague used their sooty kettles to melt quicksilver so that it changed into gold. That image seems pretty close to the weird studios of such contemporary animators as the Quay brothers in London, Yuri Norstein in Moscow, Barry Purves in Manchester -- or even to my own basement in Warsaw -- where an invisible force makes us conjure whole worlds pulsating with mysterious life, using scraps of paper, paint, static dolls and objects as well as the lifeless texture of plaster of Paris.

On the one hand it is a fulfilment of the childish dream to make one's toys come alive, to enter a depicted, invented, fairy-tale world. On the other hand it is an obsessive urge -- well-known to magicians and mad scientists -- to create an artificial man: a homunculus, a Golem, Frankenstein's monster, a cyborg, a clone.

In the early twentieth century Karol Irzykowski, a Polish thinker and film theorist, intuited that animation would develop into "the real cinema of the future," pure cinema defined as a movement of forms hatched from under the animator's hand, setting no barriers to his imagination. Indeed, even at that time animation did appear in films, employed as magic through which the limits of what was feasible could be transgressed in live-action movies by Méliès or in Fritz Lang's Metropolis. In the pioneering work of Winsor McCay, the animator recreated the catastrophe of the steamship "Lusitania." The animals in the uncanny puppet films of Ladislaw Starewicz were also brought to life and made more human through animation. It was the flame of animation that emanated pure energy in Len Lye's abstract films. Nowadays, due to the staggering range of possibilities that computers offer, animators evoke the extinct world of dinosaurs and the breathtaking horror of the sinking of the "Titanic." Whenever high-budget feature films enter the realm of fantasy and overstep the limits of what is possible, the results suddenly make me think of Karel Capek's 1922 novel The Absolute Factory, where a scientist's invention gives rise to a large-scale production of the absolute -- a substance which catalyses parapsychological qualities, turning those hitherto unique phenomena into common events. Anyone who has read the novel knows that a world-wide cataclysm followed.

Now let us focus our attention on the modest work of animators who spend their days in solitude, sitting in their attics, basements or some such places -- that is, naturally, at the fringe of the world.

When Yuri Norstein visited Warsaw more than ten years ago and someone from the audience asked him -- in a doubtful tone -- about the future of animation, he answered: "Animation is just beginning to develop." I have to admit that those words, or rather Yuri's certainty, made me realise there and then the infinite possibilities at the threshold of which I stood at that time. A direct result of that insight is the film Franz Kafka in which I not only had the effrontery to show an animated Kafka but also -- to put it more precisely -- saw animation as the most perfect medium for the evocation of his spirit. It took two years in a dark basement to produce a sixteen-minute long flash of magnesium and thus tear out from the darkness of non-existence bits and scraps of the writer's life which lasted forty one years. I have fed those images with my own energy during several thousand hours of voluntary confinement.

This recollection of my work on Kafka leads me to the last question that I would like to discuss -- namely, to certain animated films in which the very subject matter clearly proves how self-aware their authors are, showing that they are quite conscious of the aspect that I am dealing with in this text. In other words, they do not overlook the connection between their work and alchemy. I have to limit myself to just two examples.

I remember how Miroslaw Kijowicz, the outstanding Polish animator, commented on The Street of Crocodiles by the Quay brothers, having seen it at the 1986 festival in Zagreb: "This is no longer animation but some kind of a mystery play." Indeed, what we see in that film is a long-extinct world resurrected on the screen, or perhaps brought to life by a drop of saliva from the mouth of an old man (could it be God?); that world describes itself as a town filled with "cheap human material," a shoddy imitation, "a photo-montage composed of clippings from stale, last-year's newspapers." The above sentence might perhaps serve as a credo for the Quay brothers who -- enchanted with the early works of Jan Svankmajer and inspired by them -- devoted their talents to the conjuring of life out of everyday objects and crippled dolls. Surrounded by dusty stage-sets that whisper in our ears scraps of long-cancelled meanings, the Quays weave patterns of connections which escape our perception like paths dissolving inconspicuously in a forest. Their expert use of scarce light and the depth of focus is akin to the effects employed long ago in silent films.

I am tempted to quote now what Joël Magny, the French critic, said about Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau's films: "It is as if the shadows acting in his theatre arose from the screen itself, from the film-strip, to dissolve in darkness later on. Those wavering figures and their ephemeral adventures seem to have been extracted for just one brief moment, with supreme effort, from nothingness and darkness." Murnau was not an animator in the proper sense of the word, of course. But his fascination with the uncanny as well as the precision work that such films as Nosferatu, Faust or even The Vogelöd Castle obviously required seem quite close to an animator's way of thinking in terms of individual frames. Graf Orlok, or Nosferatu, as he appears in the film of the same title, has an aura of singular mystery and horror. Some commentators will have it that the character in question was played by a real vampire passing as Max Schreck, meaning "fear." His name cannot be found on any roster of actors' names of that time. His uncanny movements are almost identical to those of an animated puppet.

Experimenting with the movement of inanimate objects, light and optics in their animated films, the Quay brothers have noiselessly crossed over to the realm of live-action movies, working with undiminished concentration and studying the mysterious relationships between the world of live humans and their acquired gestures on one hand and the surrounding stage-sets made of objects on the other. All of this is done in the brothers' feature film The Institute Benjamenta.

The Quay brothers were inspired by metaphysical European writers: Bruno Schulz, Franz Kafka and Robert Walser. Yuri Norstein decided to recreate the fantastic atmosphere of Gogol's stories. He made Akakij Akakijewicz Baszmaczkin, the main character from The Overcoat, genuinely, pulsatingly alive. The subtle psyche seems to shine through the figure that Norstein has created on the screen. Just a few seconds into the projection we forget that there is any "animation" involved and start feeling as if we were spying on some living creature in its intimate world, where it goes about its business with singular innocence, like a tiny animal deep in its little burrow.

Yuri Norstein once declared in an interview that he felt more like a magician than an avant-garde artist. I can readily empathise with the passion hidden in that statement, with the desire to give life to the beings that one creates, not caring to place oneself in any sort of context with regard to the general trends along which art develops. I think that the above-quoted remark made by Murnau fully reflects an important quality of Norstein's work in which the author by the power of his talent reveals to us "with supreme effort" and concentration a live world that no human eye has seen. The creative properties of darkness quite obviously come into play there: as soon as a dim beam of light briefly illuminates the ceiling, detecting a small cat-like animal that runs across a girder, the viewer feels that the whole zone of darkness is saturated with an invisible presence which can take shape at any moment due to a sudden flash of light.

The characters of Akakij Akakijewicz, his housekeeper and his cat, as well as the snowy streets of St. Petersburg, seem like a vision produced through the alchemical process of transmutation. At the bottom of a black kettle a gleam of pure gold appears.

One could quote here the names of other artists: Susan Pitt, Igor Kovalyov, Raoul Servais, David Borthwick, Piotr Kamler, Jerzy Kucia or my ex-students, Agnieszka Woznicka and Annica Gianini. All of them -- just like those mentioned earlier -- treat animation as a medium of metaphysical inquiry, proving the seriousness of their work with titanic effort and concentration. Whoever begins to compile such a list runs an obvious risk: it is difficult to stop adding new names, but the only people I can talk about are those whom I have come to know closely. I am sure that everyone would present a slightly different circle of artists with whom he or she feels connected to by some kind of affinity.

I have noticed that none of the films that I had in mind when writing this essay uses dialogue or any sort of commentary; some of them are completely silent. Maybe words are too unequivocal, maybe they disrupt the mood of mystery, defile the purity of a process which is as self-governed as flowing water, growing plants, moving animals, a chemical reaction, an alchemical transmutation.

Although my thoughts on the connection between animation and alchemy are naturally biased, I hope that the above comments can be interpreted as universally valid. I also believe that they can inspire further reflection on this subject. But here is where my own reflections end.

Translated by Michal Klobukowski

— Animation World Magazine

Beyond Good and Evil:
Piotr Dumala's Crime and Punishment

"...[C]an it be that I will really take an axe and hit her on the head and smash her skull....slip in the sticky, warm blood....Lord, can it be?"

Turning books into animation is nothing new. Virtually all of Disney's early features were adapted from books. The Russians were also especially apt at adapting books without getting the rights first (e.g. Fedor Khitruk's Winnie the Pooh and Alexei Karaev's Dr. Seuss takes, Welcome and The Cat in The Hat). More ambitious adaptations include Jan Lenica's bizarre take on Ionesco's absurdist classic, Rhinoceros, Svankmajer's Faust and Alexander Petrov's recent The Old Man and The Sea. Some work well, others do not.

Now it's one thing to adapt fairy tales, plays and novellas, but it's an entirely different task when one is dealing with a mammoth work like Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. Cinema has already attempted a number of adaptations most notably by Josef Von Sternberg and Aki Kaurismaki. Most recently, Polish animator Piotr Dumala, already well known for existential films Kafka and The Gentle One (based on a Dostoevsky short story) tried his hand, literally, at Dostoevsky's novel. While it's not the first animation attempt at Crime and Punishment (in 1999, student Zack Margolis made a short but inspiring take on it called A Trip to the Building), it is by far the most ambitious.

The cinematic temptation is obvious. For all its multi-layered philosophical, social and economic critiques of Russian society and humanity in general, Crime and Punishment contains all the tension and suspense of a Hitchcock film. As with Shadow of A Doubt, Rope, Frenzy, or even North By Northwest, to name a few, we know almost immediately who committed, or in the case of North by Northwest, who didn't commit, the foul deed. Like Dostoevsky, Hitchcock implicates the viewer in the crimes (e.g. the voyeurism in Rear Window, the shower scene in Psycho or the murder in Rope). Throughout the course of the works, the viewer/reader must live with what it knows. The tensions evolve out of this self-awareness. With our implication comes a variety of mixed messages that shuffle and confuse our own moral values and sense of right and wrong. Despite his monstrous actions, we (well, at least I) do not want Raskolnikov to get caught. Not only are we a witness to the crime, but also aware of the motivations behind it. The same can be seen in Psycho and Shadow of a Doubt. And despite its mythical and intimidating reputation, Crime and Punishment reads like a mystery novel. Indeed, the book was originally a serialization for newspaper readers.

"Man gets accustomed to everything, the scoundrel!"

The Distillation of Story

Dumala it seems also picked up the Hitchcock theme. Crime and Punishment opens with a marvellous Saul Bass inspired credit sequence. Thumping, repetitive piano notes accompany the reddish brown visuals that appear in and out of shadows. In between, we see what is almost an overture of images (including the murder) revealing in an almost Brechtian style what exactly we can expect to see in this film. The fusion of red and brown throughout the film captures the violence and griminess of this sick world, while the elliptical, paranoid, dimly lit images perfectly capture the increasingly blurred line of dream and reality in Raskolnikov's disturbed mind. As with the novel, the crime is very much an afterthought. What interests Dumala is less the crime and more the emotional and mental state of this troubled soul before and after the murder. This is not Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment and nor should it be. Adaptations, like essays, should attempt to be personal re-creations of the feelings inspired by the adapted work.

Unfortunately, Dumala has been criticized for his apparently unfaithful translation. "People wanted a standard adaptation. People expect to see what they read in the book. This is something else so they feel cheated. It was not my aim to copy the book. I was really close to the book. I took one level of the book. It's not possible to show everything from this book. I got what I wanted." Dumala's film takes only the main plots: the killings and meeting Sonia. This is not a tale of evil or the like in St. Petersburg. "This is about love and how obsession can destroy love. In our life we are under two opposite influences to be good or bad and to love or hate."

Dumala limited the film to five characters: Sonia, Raskolnikov, the old lady, and the old man who is always peering from the shadows. He also created a new character based on the dream that Raskolnikov has of himself as a young boy trying to save a horse from a severe beating. "I felt that I could make another hero who can exist like an angel representing his innocence."

"Occasionally he would stop in front of a summer house decked out in greenery, look through the fence, and see dressed-up women far away, on balconies and terraces, and children running in the garden. He took special interest in the flowers; he looked longer at them than at anything else."

An Affinity

Dumala worked for 3 years on Crime and Punishment, but he was introduced to the book in secondary school. "I was very moved when I read this story about a 20-year-old good guy who wanted to kill someone without any reason." The idea of a young man struggling to find his limitations appealed to Dumala, who in typical teenage fashion, was drinking too much, causing trouble and fighting with his parents. Beyond the juvenile attraction, there was something much deeper in the book that embraced the young Pole. The atmosphere in Crime and Punishment is one of dirt and scum. Everyone is dirty. They live in dirty houses with dirty children and have dirty thoughts. We see criminals, prostitutes, low lifes; the dark side of society. This was a world very familiar to Dumala. He grew up in a poor district of Warsaw with "lots of criminals living in the court." The courtyard was built in 1938 but was destroyed during WW II. "Many people were killed in this area. My childhood was among these surroundings. It was dark poetry. People were living in ruins. A single mother with two kids lived in the basement, while another family occupied the top part. Criminals were fighting everyday. There was blood everywhere. Prostitutes lay in the stairway shitting on the stairs." At the same time, Dumala, in love with a school girl, had his Sonia within this landscape of darkness. In Crime and Punishment, Dumala "found a book about my life."

At 15, Dumala was not mature enough to make a film of Crime and Punishment. Ten years later, Dumala had started making comics consisting of about 300 drawings. "It was the best drawings I'd ever made in my life, so after I thought about a film. My professor said, 'You should do Crime and Punishment,' but it was too early for me." It would take Dumala another 17 years, making hundreds of films before he was ready to make the film of his life.

The Technique

Dumala is, of course, already a well-known artist on the international animation circuit and his work is acclaimed for its philosophical themes but especially for his innovative plaster technique. His technique involves the use of slabs of plaster covered with normal glue (with hot water to make the surface stronger and smooth). Once dry Dumala scratches on the plaster with sandpaper and paints it with oil paint. "It goes very fast. I put the paint on the surface and it's absorbed very quickly. I scratch on it with a sharp tool and can achieve very nice effects from dark tones to white plaster. The animation goes onto one piece so I make one drawing and change it on the same plaster and re-paint it."

Dumala invented the technique in 1983. "I had a piece of wood covered with a special preparation -- I kept it as a lesson of technology from art school -- and I covered the wood with brown oil paint as background -- I always liked Dutch painting and I knew they covered their paintings with black -- I really liked this and scratched it with a needle. It was an illumination. It was possible to scratch and make a drawing. I could continue this and make a film." After one year at the Academy of Fine Arts, Dumala made two films [The Black Riding Hood (The Black Hood) and Lycantrophy] using a traditional drawing style, before using the new technique on his next film, Flying Hair. "It was a fantastic technique. Everything was influenced by this technique. It was smooth and poetic and black." While the first two films were done on a white background, Flying Hair was made on a black background. "This started my series of black films. So all films take place at night or between night and day. It's not possible to explain the time of day. Is it real light or dark sun?"

The process is time consuming and Dumala never quite achieves the most desired effect. "There are no line tests. Everything is done the first and last time." With the life of a new image, comes the death of the old one. "It's really destroying my mind. It's like killing your own children. Only what I get is the effect on the screen. The movement. I'm very much linked to my drawings. Sometimes you still have some of the past drawing and parts of the next one. It's something really interesting, but you can't keep it. I work slowly to keep it as long as possible. So I'll go to the bar and eat something and then it's time to destroy it. It's a punishment."

If there is a crime to go with this punishment, it comes courtesy of the film's soundtrack. Faced with deadlines, Dumala had only days to complete the soundtrack. "There were technical problems and I couldn't start earlier. When I finally went to the studio I had two nights. I couldn't see the result until Ottawa [where the film premiered in September 2000]."

Fortunately, the completion of Crime and Punishment was mildly therapeutic for Dumala. "When I was finished I felt like after the crime. I knew that something was passed. I am free of an idea that I was keeping for twenty years. It is done. It's over. I felt free to make something else." Old women the world over are rejoicing.

Chris Robinson

— Animation World Magazine


Film etudes:

- Przemiana / The Metamporphosis

1977 - Śmierć Hindenburga / Hindenburgh's Death

1980 - Scenka rodzajowa / A Genre Scene

Animated films:

- Lykantropia / Lycantrophy; combined technique; black humour. A story of werewolves who prove to be people turned into beasts. Based on a grotesque idea: a pack of hungry wolves is waiting for a tasty morsel - a man. Suddenly one of them drops the wolf's skin, revealing he is a man. This is his undoing - he is eaten by his companions. Other wolves do the same one by one and each one meets the same fate" (Krzysztof Biedrzycki, "Kino" 10/1986). Awards: 1986 - Stanisław Wyspiański Award at the Lubuskie Lato Filmowe in Łagów, together with Łagodna and Latające włosy.

1983 - Czarny Kapturek/ Little Black Riding Hood; cartoon. Black humour. An alternative version of the popular fairytale. The Black Riding Hood boy is a black character who devours the wolf. The wolf then eats up the hunter who, however, gets out from its stomach. The end is less bloody and fantastic and more human. The wolf discovers a naked woman in bed and throws himself on her, demonstrating his 'male organ' to the audience. "The success of the film is built on the way it was drawn. Dumała contrasts his 'black' version of the fairytale with extremely simple, almost childlike drawing. This clash between the pictures and the content is the key source of humour" (Marcin Giżycki, "Nie tylko Disney: rzecz o filmie animowanym", Warsaw 2000). Awards: 1983 - 2nd Award in the 5 to 10 minute category at the 3rd International Animated Film Festival in Varna; 1984 - honorary mention at the 12th International Huesca Film Festival.

1984 - Latające włosy / Flying Hair. A poetic, impressionistic work about a girl and a boy in love with each other who go out for a walk. Suddenly a storm breaks out. The girl's hair turns into sharp needles which fly around attacking and destroying everything. Only the couple are safe. Dumała's first film using his own technique of engraving in plaster to produce fascinating artistic effects and flowing movements. "It is a symbolic film. All of it is a symbol. It acts on the subconscious" ("Film" 16/1986, Krzysztof Biedrzycki's interview). "It is not a perverse fairytale, it is a poetic tale of the redeeming power of love" (Krzysztof Biedrzycki, "Kino" 10/1986). Awards: 1984 - Artistic Merit Award at 24th National Short Film Festival in Cracow; 1986 - Stanisław Wyspiański Award at the Lubuskie Lato Filmowe in Łagów, together with Łagodna and Lykantropia.

1985 - Łagodna / The Gentle One. A free adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's short story by the same title. A study of jealousy, love, hatred and alienation of two people, a young woman and an older man. Dumała's first psychological film in which his plaster board technique proved highly successful. Janusz Zaremba wrote ("Ekran" 25/1985) that Dumała achieved "a very evocative artistic equivalent for Dostoyevsky's short story". "His 'Łagodna' ... is made of chiaroscuro, dark sepia images with a single source of light, producing the impression that Rembrandt's etchings have come alive" (Jacek Dobrowolski, "Kino" 6/2002). Zygmunt Konieczny's moving music accompanies the characters' retrospections. "'Łagodna' is one of the most interesting achievements of Polish animation. It is a gripping film - and a wise one, too" (Krzysztof Biedrzycki, "Kino" 10/1986). Awards: 1985 - Cinematography President Animated Film Award for photography; Brązowy Lajkonik at 5th National Short Film Festival in Cracow; Golden Dragon Grand Prix Award at 12th International Short Film Festival in Cracow, 1st Prize at 3rd National Animated Film Competition in Cracow; Golden Ducat at 34th International Film Festival in Mannheim; Best Animated Film Award at International Short Film Festival in Tours; Silver Dancer Animated Film Award at 13th International Short Film Festival in Huesca; 1986 - Special Prize in the 5 to 15 minute category at International Animated Film Festival in Hamilton, Canada; 1st Prize at the Lubuskie Lato Filmowe in Łagów; Stanisław Wyspiański Young Artist Award, together with Latające włosy and Lykantropia; 1987 - Award of 2nd ANIMAFILM Animated Film Festival in Zamość.

1986 - Nerwowe życie kosmosu. Black humour. A strange world, populated by characters from frightening fairytales, somewhere in the universe. Awards: 1987 - Honorary Diploma at 24th International Short Film Festival, Cracow.

1986 - Academy Leader Variations (dir. David Ehrlich), sequence of an American film made collectively by artists from Poland, USA, China and Switzerland. Awards: 1987 - Animation Award at 40th Cannes International Film Festival.

1987 - Ściany / Walls. A story of a man locked in a room without an exit and failing to find a way out. Someone drops in a coin through a hole and switches off the bulb. A study of claustrophobia and a gloomy parable interpreted as an allusion to the situation of Poles living within the confines of a communist country. A metaphor of a society living in a totalitarian system. With evocative music by Przemysław Gintrowski. Awards: 1988 - 5 to 10 Minutes Best Film Award at Espinho International Animated Film Festival; mention at Oberhausen International Short Film Festival; 2nd Prize at Mottawa International Animated Film Festival; Spanish Federation of Film Debating Clubs and Silver Dancer for the Best Animated Film at Huesca International Short Film Festival; Golden Dragon Grand Prix at the Cracow 25th International Short Film Festival; Grand Prix at 2nd Animated Film Festival in Zamość; Special Prize at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival; 1989 - Grand Prix for a 5+ Minute Film for Adults at Animated Film Biennial Fazy '89.

1988 - Wolność nogi / Freedom of the Leg. A dream-like story of a sleeping man whose body parts live their own lives at night to return to him in the morning - all except one leg which has chosen freedom. Its owner as well as a crowd of homeless men chase the leg, but it grows feathers and flies away as a bird. A grotesque tale with a poetic ending and with interesting music by Janusz Hajdun. Awards: 1989 - Grand Prix at 1st Animated Film Biennial FAZY'89 in Bielsko-Biała; Brązowy Lajkonik at 19th National Short Film Festival in Cracow; Professional Prize at the Kiev KROK Festival; 1990 - 1st Prize for a 5 to12 Minute Film at the Zagreb World Festival of Animated Films.

1988 - Declaration Of Human Rights, sequence of a film made for Amnesty International, USA.

1990 - Horse - made for MTV.

1991 - Franz Kafka. A film about a few years from Kafka's life, based mostly on his Diaries. "Their language, more chaotic and direct, differs from that of the novels - it is expressive, vivid, often crude, but more than anything very detailed and good at conveying the sensuality of the world. It is Kafka whom we do not know from his short stories or aphorisms - one who loves immersing himself in corporality, in people's physiognomies and smells, in the pathological details of their bodies and dress, and in his own, grotesquely enlarged thinness and his body's proneness to illness ... Here is not the author of well-known novels, but, first of all, a man" (Barbara Kosecka, "Kwartalnik Filmowy", 19-20/1997). Barbara Kosecka's praise for the film: " 'Franz Kafka', a sixteen-minute masterpiece of animation" ("Kino" 2/2002). Awards: 1992 - Polish Filmmakers Association Award for the Best 1990-1991 Animation; Bronze Dragon for Animated Film and International Federation of Film Clubs (FICC) Don Kichote Award at 39th Cracow ISFF; Grand Prix at the Zagreb World Festival of Animated Films; Grand Prix at IAFF in Espinho, Portugal; First Prize for the Best Animated Film and the title of Europe's Best 1991-1992 Animated Film at IFF in Madrid; 1st Prize in the 15-30 minute film category at 4th Animated IFF in Hiroshima; Special Mention at IAFF in Stuttgart; The Young Award for Best Animated Film at ISFF at Oberhausen; Best Drawn Animation Award at International Animation Festival in Ottawa; 1993 - 3rd Prize for the Most Original Film at 10th Odensee IFF; 1st Film Poster Prize at the Annecy IFF.

1993 - Nerwowe życie I. A series of twenty-one fifteen-second-long cartoon jokes made for the Łódź Television Centre and including Śniadanie, Mucha, Fryzjer, Ikar, Palec, Ketchup, Zeppelin, Sąsiadki, Papieros, Odwiedziny, Cień, Kapturek and others.

1993 - Charlatan - made for MTV. Awards: 1994 - Golden Statuette of the Broadcast Design Festival in Orlando, Florida; finalist of 36th New York Festival.

1993 - MTV is everywhere - made for MTV. Awards: 1994 - Silver Statuette of the Broadcast Design Festival in Orlando, Florida.

1994 - Nerwowe życie II - three-part animated TV series. Awards: 1994 - Premio Mister Linea at the Treviso Festival.

1994 - Stop Aids - three-part series, 10 seconds each. Awards: 1994 - joint first prize in Slovenia.

1995 - Wieje piaskiem od strony wojny - video-clip for the group Maanam.

1995 - Kafka meets Dostoyevski. Awards: 1996 - Broadcast Design International, Los Angeles, Gold Award.

1996 - Absolut Panushka - 10-second sequence for the US film. Awards: 1996 - Best Animated Campaign at the Holland Animation Film Festival, Utrecht; 1997 - Best Animation Produced for Internet at the World Animation Celebration in Pasadena, California.

1997 - 14 Bajek z królestwa Lailonii - trailer of the series. After a book by Leszek Kołakowski. Each film was made by a different director.

2000 - Zbrodnia i kara / Crime and Punishment. Adaptation of the homonymous novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Thirty-four minutes' long, no dialogues, with music by Janusz Hajdun. "My film is a kind of a dream. It is as if someone has read 'Crime and Punishment' and then had a dream about it" ("Gazeta Wyborcza", 29 August 2997, interview by Katarzyna Bielas). Jacek Dobrowolski ("Kino" 6/2002) wrote: " 'Crime and Punishment' is Piotr Dumała's opus magnum. His mastery in conveying the truth about the human mind is worthy of Bergman's. Although not a single word is said, the perfect narration makes the plot, the states of the killer's mind and St Petersburg's scenery into a unity, and the simplest objects, such as a watch or an axe, speak for themselves as well as for Raskolnikov. The result is an accurate account of the states of the killer's mind and a psychological portrait as penetrating as the one which Dostoevsky made with words." Awards: 2000 - Złota Kreska at National Animated Film Festival in Cracow; 2001 - Korona Króla Kazimierza Animated Film Audience Award at Lato Filmowe in Kazimierz Dolny; Grand Prix at 2nd Biesiada z Filmem Krótkiego Metrażu DAF in Szczecin.


Dumała's other accomplishments include art direction on the feature and TV series Przyjaciel wesołego diabła ["Friend of the Jolly Devil"] (1986, dir. Jerzy Łukaszewicz) and on Bliskie spotkania z wesołym diabłem ["Close Encounters with the Jolly Devil"] (1988) by the same director; photography for the trailer of the documentary celebrating 50 years of the Łódź Film School, 50 lat Łódzkiej Szkoły Filmowej (1998); art supervision for the films Gra (1988, dir. Wojciech Witkowski) and Polowanie (1997, dir. Dorota Łuszczewska); special effects in Gospel According To Harry (Ewangelia według Harry'ego), dir. Lech Majewski, 1993. Dumała is also an actor in Jan Lenica's animated film Wyspa R.O. (2001).

Dumała's numerous TV trailers include the ones for the TV programmes "Chimera", "Magazyn Literacki" and "Magazyn Teatralny", the TV quiz "Miliard w rozumie", the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia and the Canal Plus logo to celebrate the centenary of the cinema. He has also made a number of commercials, notably for the airlines LOT, for the coach operator PKS BUS, for the radio station RMF&FM (1991-1996) and others.

Dumała is the hero of Joanna Dylewska's documentary Świat według Piotra D. ["The World According to Piotr D."] (2001).

Jan Strękowski, July 2004.