Born in Warsaw in 1939, Zanussi studied at the National Film School in Lodz, Poland, but even before enrolling he was making amateur films, winning awards at various festivals.
His directorial debut, “The Death of a Provincial” (1966), with cinematography by Jan Hesse, foreshadowed the central themes of his work – the juxtaposition of the sacred and the profane, youth and old age, life and death.
After making several medium-length and documentary films, Zanussi directed his first feature, “The Structure of Crystal” (1969), with Stefan Matyjaszkiewicz as DP. The picture is considered part of the so-called third wave in Polish cinema, which combines asceticism, lack of a traditional plot and a profound sense of realism, reflected in the cinematography – all defining characteristics of the director’s early work.
In the 1970s, Zanussi created a series of films that have become integral to the history of Polish cinema. “The Illumination” (1973), lensed by Edward Kłosiński; “Camouflage” (1976), with DP Kłosiński, awarded with the Gdańsk Lions at the 4th Polish Film Festival in Gdańsk; “Family Life” (1970),with cinematographer Witold Sobociński; and “The Spiral” (1978), shot by Kłosiński.
Zanussi’s “The Constant Factor: (1980), with DP Sławomir Idziak, received the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
In the 1980sZanussi began to undertake more projects abroad, especially in West Germany. “In A Year of the Quiet Sun” (1984), lensed by Sławomir Idziak, won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.
Since the 1990s, Zanussi has connected with new audiences, often by experimenting with different film genres. Titles from this later period include “At Full Gallop (1995), with cinematographer Jarosław Żamojda,” and “Life as a Fatal Sexually Transmitted Disease (1999), with Kłosiński behind the camera. Zanussi also worked on movies such as “Foreign Body” (2014), “Ether” (2018) and “The Perfect Number” (2022), all lensed by Piotr Niemyjski.
Zanussi will visit Camerimage, which will take place in Toruń, Poland, from Nov. 11-18, to receive his trophy.