The Big Animal

  • 2000
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Comedy, Drama

The late Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski wrote the treatment for this sweet fable in 1973, but it took his friend and one-time leading man Jerzy Stuhr to rescue it from oblivion after Kieslowski's sudden death in 1996. At first glance, Stuhr's film, which follows the fortunes of a gentle bank clerk, his schoolteacher wife and their adopted pet camel,...read more

Where to Watch

Available to Stream

  • Watch on
Reviewed by Ken Fox
Rating:

The late Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski wrote the treatment for this sweet fable in 1973, but it took his friend and one-time leading man Jerzy Stuhr to rescue it from oblivion after Kieslowski's sudden death in 1996. At first glance, Stuhr's film, which follows the fortunes of a gentle bank clerk, his schoolteacher wife and their adopted pet camel, has little in common with the kind of metaphysical tale for which Kieslowski became best known, but it's nevertheless a deeply affecting parable. The camel, left behind by a traveling carnival, arrives on the doorstep of Zygmunt (Stuhr) and Marysia Sawicki (Annay Dymna) one night while they're eating supper, and Zygmunt takes it in as one would a stray cat. He proudly walks his new friend on a leash through the town streets, and creates quite a stir among the townsfolk. They're initially delighted at the sight of such a fabulous beast, though Marysia is somewhat less thrilled with her garden-grazing guest; when representatives from the fire brigade come to her door soliciting raffle contributions, she momentarily considers donating the camel. But Zygmunt grows deeply attached to it, and in time Marysia does as well; she even organizes a "Name that Camel" contest among her students. Just as this unusual domestic arrangement settles into a cozy routine — the as-yet-unnamed camel joins them at the kitchen window while they dine, and grunts along when Zygmunt practices his clarinet — the attitude of the townsfolk grows increasing sour. The more conservative element of the town council worry what threat this "foreign element" might pose to the health of the village, parents no longer allow their children to attend Marysia's class and the town clerk insists Zygmunt pay a proper tax on the animal, even though there's no such thing a camel tax. Worst of all, Zygmunt's beautiful camel serves no purpose, and uselessness — no matter how splendid — will not to be tolerated. It's easy to read the moral in Kieslowski's fable, but its simplicity in no way detracts from its power; in its own modest way, Stuhr's film is nearly perfect. Shot in beautiful black and white by Pawel Edelman, winner of the 2003 Academy Award for his spectacular work on Roman Polanski's THE PIANIST, every frame gleams and the camel — a double-humped wonder whose unusual majesty and quiet mystery drives this wonderful film — is magnificent to behold. (In Polish, with English subtitles.)

Cast & Details See all »

  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: The late Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski wrote the treatment for this sweet fable in 1973, but it took his friend and one-time leading man Jerzy Stuhr to rescue it from oblivion after Kieslowski's sudden death in 1996. At first glance, Stuhr's film,… (more)

Show More »