05_palmer_chopin_dvdThe Strange Case of Delfina Potocka –
The Mystery of Chopin
Directed by Tony Palmer

This is a thought-provoking, intriguing film about an extremely controversial subject. The argument of this DVD is set down in the enclosed notes: “It was a matter of national and socialist pride when, in November 1945, the new Communist Government of Poland asked for, and received, the heart of Chopin previously buried in Paris. Against this background, a woman called Paulina Czernika approached the Polish Minister of Culture, claiming to have some love letters from the composer to her great-grandmother, the Countess Delfina Potocka. At first curious, but eventually alarmed, the Ministry began a witch-hunt against Madame Czernika. For while it was true that there was an historic figure called Delfina Potocka – she was the only lover to whom Chopin dedicated any music – these letters were said to be pornographic, anti-Semitic and thoroughly damaging to the image of the composer as a Polish hero which the Communist government wished to promote. Czernika ‘committed suicide’ on October 17, 1949 one hundred years to the day after the death of Chopin. Or was she murdered, and if so, why? Were the letters in fact forgeries? And what was the truth about Delfina Potocka?

As Czernika encounters publishers and persons in authority, we are privy to selected personal, confidential and intimate details from the composer’s letters. The events revealed in the letters are enacted, in chronological order, by a thoroughly believable cast.

In his book Chopin the Unknown, Polish music scholar, conductor and composer, Matteo Glinski delves deeply into the Delfina Potocka affair (Assumption University of Windsor Press, 1963). Glinski’s credentials are impeccable and of this book, Roman V. Ceglowski, President of the International Chopin Foundation, wrote “I think it is the most provocative study on Chopin in our times” and commended it to Chopin scholars. Glinski quotes convincing evidence of Chopin’s character and his “elusive secret” all lending authenticity to the Delfina letters.

Is Palmer tipping his hand by entrusting the roles of Paulina Czernika and Delfina Potocka to the same actress in this unusual production?     

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