This unique Polish horror thriller was a massive success in its
native land. There is, however, a definite reason this film is barely
known in the rest of the world!
So successful was 1985’s MEDIUM that it was reportedly
ripped off by many subsequent Polish films. Its director Jacek Koprowicz
went on to make another horror-tinged thriller, 1988’s ALCHEMIK (also
released in miniseries form as ALCHEMIK SENDIVIUS), which at the time
had the distinction of being the most expensive film ever made in
In the early 1930s the parapsychologist Wagner uses his
telepathic sister to psychically uncover the presence of a nearby
medium. This shadowy individual, named Orwicz, is amazingly powerful,
simultaneously controlling several people who under his influence do
things against their will--and immediately lose all memory of what they
One day the young Nazi sympathizer Krank and his police
investigator superior Selin investigate Orwicz’s house. There’s no sign
of Orwicz, but Krank and Selin discover that a number of the house’s
previous residents were brutally murdered and, even more startling, that
Orwicz himself died 30 years earlier. They determine that Orwicz has
achieved immortality of a sort by projecting his consciousness into
other peoples’ bodies, and pay a visit to Wagner to inquire how they
might stop Orwicz.
The three conclude that the best way to take down
Orwicz is through a SCANNERS-like psychic duel between him and another
equally powerful medium. But where to find such a person? And how can
they stop Orwicz’s psychically controlled subjects from battling Krank,
Selin and Wagner through seduction, murder or worse?
This film’s success, I’m guessing, was due to its
resolutely fast paced, plot driven aesthetic. The film, in short, is
markedly entertaining, something Polish films generally aren’t. It’s
also extremely well visualized, and unique in its audacious mixture of
period drama and psychic horror. Yet there are problems.
The opening scenes are plain confusing, plunging us
into the action, which from the start is extremely complex and
exposition-heavy, without properly setting up the characters.
Furthermore, it takes some time for things to come clear amid the
multiple protagonists and interwoven plot strands.
Another complaint is with the actors. All are
technically proficient but sorely lacking in charm or charisma, which
isn’t helped at all by the fact that nearly every character is evil or
distant--the closest thing to a “hero” is the Nazi sympathizer Krank,
while the villain doesn’t show up until the
Final thought: MEDIUM is a rare film that could
actually stand to be remade by Hollywood, albeit with more charismatic
leads and a clearer narrative.
P.P. Film Polski
Director: Jacek Koprowicz
Screenplay: Jacek Koprowicz
Cinematography: Wit Dabal, Jerzy Zielinski
Editing: Miroslawa Garlicka
Cast: Wladyslaw Kowalski, Michal Bajor, Jerzy Zelnik, Jerzy Stuhr,
Graznya Szapolowska, Jerzy Nowak, Ewa Dalkowska, Piotr Machalica, Ewa
Kasprzyk, Hanryk Bista, Zygmunt Zintel