Let’s take a trip back in time to the 1890s. Movies are just being born; one of the first of these being made by controversial inventor Thomas Edison. Some credit him with the first hand-tinted film, which was made back in 1895. Before that however—if you wish to believe the estimates—there was Ślizgawka w Łazienkach, or “Ice Rink in Łazienki”.
Believed by some to believe the very first Polish film ever made, this four minute long silent film was filmed between 1894 and 1896; the exact date isn’t known, though it was first shown in either 1901 or 1902.
Let’s start with the film itself: it was filmed by Kazimierz Prószyński on his new invention, which was called the “pieograph”. To simplify that: it was a very early type of camera that could film and to shamelessly quote the Polish Wikipedia page: “the frame format was also non-standard. It counted 45 × 38 mm and was larger than the ones used later in the film.”
I’m not good with frames and whatnot, so don’t blame me for copying Wikipedia.
Storywise, Ice Rink—which clocked in at somewhere between a minute and three minutes long—was centered on people ice skating in Warsaw. While that’s nothing special nowadays when we can create enormous alien robots that can transform into vehicles, monsters larger than skyscrapers, and many other fantastical creatures, this movie was one of the biggest things to happen in Poland back then. Prószyński held numerous showings of the film for both the press and the public, the earliest of which were held in Warsaw itself—and later all across Poland.
Needless to say: Ice Rink was a landmark in both cinematic and Polish history. So, one would think that the film is on display somewhere in a museum. To think that would be wrong however as nobody knows exactly what happened to the film.
Many suspect that the film was either lost to time or succumbed to film degradation, which has claimed many old films and whether or not any survive depends on how many copies were made and survived. Others suspect that the film is in the possession of a private collector—which is more common than one would think. Several films thought to be “lost” have been found by either knowing or unknowing collectors, be it in the attic, the basement, or in a garage. This happened in the case of the legendary film “Metropolis”, which despite being found still has several scenes missing.
However, given that this was over a century ago and Poland was the sight of history’s most relentless war, the likelihood of any surviving is slim to none. While some may find this story to be a dull one, Ice Rink was a landmark in both a country’s history and cinematic history. As for the film itself: all that remains are these four frames, which were handed out to the press to advertise the film.