My Nikifor (Mój Nikifor) is a Polish film from 2004 directed by Polish-born director Krzysztof Krauze. The film is a dramatized account the last few years of the self-taught, “primitive/naïve” painter Nikifor Krynicki seen from the point-of-view of fellow painter Marian Włosiński. Włosiński became Nikifor’s daily companion and dedicated caretaker until the latter’s death in 1968. Particularly noted for the trans-gender acting of female actress Krystyna Feldman in the title role, the film chronicles the relatively uneventful life of the eccentric and anti-social painter and the life-enriching influence he had on Włosiński, a talented painter but whose work was, up until this point, thought of as soulless. The score, released by Kronos Records/MovieScore Media in 2014, is by talented Polish composer Bartek Gliniak, who has fashioned a score that, in his own words, “views [Nikifor] with affection”, “emphasising his talent, temperament and great individuality.”
In terms of the music itself, the score is based around a main theme which is set out in the opening track, “The Main Theme”. It’s a deceptively simple theme that’s instantly catchy, using building blocks of 4-note motifs in various combinations and featuring a variety of orchestrations. This underlying structure to the theme establishes an innocent, child-like feel to the score and the reliance on a small ensemble of instruments and a heavy use of pizzicato strings only adds to this overall effect. Gliniak’s score is whimsical and humorous and in keeping with his attempt to instil a feeling of affection for the eccentric painter. Gliniak’s use of the cimbalom throughout the score enphasises the Polish roots of the film, as does the appearance of the recorder – an instrument I associate with the scores of Polish composer Zbigniew Preisner – in the final track (“Farewell My Friend”).
As mentioned previously, the score revolves on this main theme, but variations in the theme through different orchestrations – e.g., combinations of cimbalom, solo strings, woodwinds, piano, etc. – keep it sounding fresh and prevents it sounding repetitive. Variations in the theme’s tempo also maintains interest: quickening (“The Excursion”) and slowing (“Tears”) highlight the theme’s versatility. The slower tempo heard in “Tears” takes the theme that has been, to this point, light-hearted and affectionate and transforms it to a surprisingly emotional piece of music: a particularly expressive statement of the main theme in “Return To Krynica” showcases Nikifor’s feelings on his return to his home town after an enforced absence. My Nikifor does not rely one-hundred percent on this theme though. The opening half of “Nikifor’s Waltz” offers an alternate theme which, though seemingly distantly related to “The Main Theme”, does give a bit of a respite to the numerous statements of the pizzicato strings and cimbalom of the opening theme. A slow piano passage (“Agony”) is particularly sombre after the preceding lightness of the score. Interestingly, the complete absence of the main theme in “Rescuing The Marriage” reinforces the isolation of Włosiński from his wife because of his choice to looking after Nikifor (who has tuberculosis, a disease which, at the time, was a killer). But the score comes to a satisfactory close with the final track, “Farewell My Friend”, where there’s a full-blooded closing statement of the main theme that pays tribute to a painter whose talent was underestimated for most of his life.
Bartek Gliniak’s My Nikifor is a great example of what Mikael Carlsson’s label, MovieScore Media, does best – it brings to the attention of a wider audience, scores to films that would otherwise be missed by the majority of people who have a love for film music. Gliniak’s score is probably a great example of a “monothematic score” but the main theme is so strong and is so malleable in the hands of a talented young composer such as Gliniak that, by the end of the 30-minute album I found myself humming along with the theme and tapping out the various 4-note motifs. The theme is that catchy! The album and the quality of Gliniak’s music goes beyond just highlighting this composer as one to watch for the future. The music and the nice touch of using one Nikifor’s own paintings as a backdrop for the album artwork (taken from the film’s publicity upon release) has prompted me to look into the work of a painter who, up until hearing this score, I knew nothing about.
My Nikifor has been released by Kronos Records and MovieScore Media both as a digital album and as a physical CD and can be purchased from the usual digital and physical media outlets. Audio clips can be heard HERE.
Rating: *** ½
- The Main Theme (1:53)
- The Vernissage at Zacheta Art Gallery (1:16)
- The Excursion (0:52)
- Tears (2:30)
- Digging In The Past (0:43)
- Where Is Mr. Nikifor? (1:20)
- Agony (1:38)
- Return To Krynica (1:59)
- Nikifor’s Waltz (4:27)
- Uncomfortable Friendship (1:55)
- You Should Ask For Color (1:46)
- Difficult Relationship (1:09)
- Rescuing The Marriage (1:11)
- Krynica 1967 (0:37)
- The Cemetery (0:35)
- Dr. Rozen’s Sleight (1:17)
- Alone (1:11)
- The Promenade In Krynica (1:47)
- Appreciated At Last (1:15)
- Farewell My Friend (1:55)
Running Time: 31:23
MovieScore Media/Kronos Records MMS14011/KRONCD043 (2014)