Mania: The Story Of A Cigarette Factory Worker (1918)


Last Thursday I had a chance to watch a silent movie “Mania: The History Of A Cigarette Factory Worker” with Pola Negri, which for many years was considered lost. The only copy was found in 2006 in Czech Republic and bought from its collector by Polish National Film Archive. Then the film was under reconstruction process, thanks to the project “Preservation and digitalisation of pre-war movies in Warsaw’s Filmoteka Narodowa – a project co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund as part of the XI Priority “Culture and cultural heritage” of the Infrastructure and Environment Operational Programme. Under this project many Polish movies are being digitalised and preserved. Indeed, Polish movies. So why the National Film Archive decided to reconstruct not a Polish, but a German movie? Obviously because of the biggest Polish movie star Pola Negri playing in it. So a German movie was saved by the Poles thanks to EU funds – that’s why I love European integration.

The film had its re-premiere in 2011 in Warsaw and then it visited couple of European capitals along with the Wroclaw Chamber Orchestra LEOPOLDINUM whose conductor Jerzy Maksymiuk wrote a music especially for this picture. I waited impatiently for almost two years to finally watch it in my city of Gdynia, under the blue sky, on a very cold evening of May 2nd, 2013.

944654_479173545487786_1309053464_nphoto belongs to Muzeum Emigracji w Gdyni,

The film tells a story of a cigarette factory worker Mania Walkowska who falls in love with a talented composer Hans. His art patron Morelli is interested in Mania and when he sees their happiness and when Mania doesn’t agree to become his mistress, he stops supporting Hans and blocks his opera from being bought by National Opera. Hans blames Mania for everything and breaks up with her, which makes her so desperate that she decides to become Morelli’s mistress as long as he agrees to help Hans with the opera. The only condition she makes is that Morelli cannot touch her until the premiere night of Hans’s opera. Hans (as a silly man!) thinks Mania chose Morelli for money and he despises her, even when she finally reveals that she did all this for him. He doesn’t want to believe that he was recognized not because of his great talent but because of Mania’s sacrifice. All that leads to a tragic finale at the end.



The audience was laughing from time to time, looking at exaggerated facial expressions and emotions of actors, but to me it wasn’t funny at all, it was a real drama made in the standards of the early cinema. Those who laughed should watch more silent movies to get used to the style of those days, since it was really annoying to hear them laughing whereas I was truly impressed and saddened by the plot. The plot showed the low position of women at that time, women who must sacrifice themselves for men who don’t even deserve nor appreciate it. I was also impressed by the live music which was absolutely stunning, I could imagine that it’s really 1918 and I’m sitting at a cinema watching a new blockbuster with Pola Negri.

To sum up, I’m waiting for more events like this, I believe that there’s still many forgotten movies hidden somewhere in private collections and sooner or later they will be found.