One doesn’t have to be a visual arts fan to appreciate the easy charm of Marcin Latałło’s Behind the Poster, a documentary about the evolution of the poster art in Poland as it reached its apogee when the country was still behind the iron curtain. Latałło traces the formation of Polish design to the first poster exhibition in 1898 in Kraków. But it wasn’t until the late 1940s that one could speak of the Polish Poster School, which ran, not accidentally, parallel to the thriving Polish Film School. The art that sprung up as a creative response to the severe limitations of socialist realism would eventually spread to other parts of Europe, most notably to France, where a new crop of illustrators who received education in the East blended their passion for design with political activism.
Latałło keeps the feel of the documentary mostly conversational, interviewing directly or providing archival footage of the interviews with a handful of renowned designers, such as Henryk Tomaszewski, Wojciech Fangor, who designed the poster for Andrzej Wajda’s iconic Ashes and Diamonds, and Jan Lenica, who in turn designed the original poster for Wajda’s earlier masterpiece, Kanal. Museum directors and filmmakers, including Wajda, Krzysztof Zanussi, and Agnieszka Holland, chime in on what made the Polish poster art so vital.