Bankruptcy Estate is a work inspired by the unusual life of Georges Melies (1861–1938), who was a French illusionist, director and film producer. First and foremost, however, he was a key figure in the pioneering period of the development of cinematography. He came from a rich family – his father owned shoe factories. Having inherited his family’s wealth, Melies produced almost 500 films between 1896 and 1913, established one of the first film studios in the world and won international renown. In spite of initial success, Melies’s film productions quickly became anachronous and failed to catch up with the progress of cinematography. In 1913, as a result of breaking off his contract with Pathe-Freres, Melies lost his house, his film studio in Montreuil, and gradually sank into oblivion. Four years later, the French army converted the studio into a military hospital and turned Melies’s cinematographic oeuvre (over 400 films) into army boot heels.
At the end of the 20th century, Poland’s largest production facilities underwent restructuring and were sold to new owners (just like Georges Melies’s studio and films). The era of inefficient, centrally-planned economy came to an end. Free market rules sealed the fate of state-owned companies. From that time on, management would be the domain of a new social class – marketing specialists. Many of them were forced to reduce the number of employees and get rid of unprofitable investments. Buildings, production floors, machines and tools disappeared, as did holiday centres owned by factories and vocational schools. An entire world disappeared, a world whose contours are still visible in places such as the Lathing Tools Factory.
This world will not return. An army of managers turned it into leather shoe heels.
Bankruptcy Estate is a classic example of found footage cinema. It consists of fragments of films about using and maintaining lathes and lathing machines. Although intended as educational material, the colour or black-and-white reels documented a world of production floors, monotonous metal processing, and emotionless silhouettes of workers. It is particularly apparent today, when both the format of the film (16 mm) and the then state of affairs are no longer relevant or needed by anyone.
> Maciej Bączyk
photo: Małgorzata Kujda