Writer/Artist: Danusia Schejbal
Writer/Artist: Andrzej Klimowski
Release Date: 26th March, 2015
Behind the Curtain, the latest release from London-based publisher SelfMadeHero, tells the story of Danusia Schejbal and Andrzej Klimowski, a pair of young newlywed art students who made the bold, unconventional decision to move from West to East back in the 1970’s, choosing to live, work and study in Poland at a time of great social unrest and upheaval for the country.
An impressively balanced blend of politics, art and human interest, this autobiographical account of Andrzej and Danusia’s life proves to be intriguing from the very first page, and while a significant amount of the book deals with the minutiae of their relationship, the cultural backdrop of the story adds some much-needed emphasis to some of the otherwise innocuous events.
That said, the biographical style actually works against the book in places, with the lack of any real narrative for the most part occasionally hindering the reading experience. Sometimes it’s difficult to ascertain whether a particular event or moment is being included due to some greater significance, or simply to add flavour. Thankfully however, once the book reaches its midway point things start to pick up significantly, with the events starting to take on more of a flow, and Andrzej’ increasingly vivid daydreams framing the story in a whole new light.
As the book nears its conclusion, the drama is ramped up considerably. With the trade unions stirring up increasing civil unrest, the food shortages reaching a critical point, and – finally – tanks and soldiers appearing on the streets as martial law is declared, it’s difficult not to find yourself drawn into Andrzej’ struggle and anxiety as he desperately tries to get home to his heavily pregnant wife.
The artwork itself is somewhat sketchy, and comes across as fairly uneven in places. Certain panels are picked out for closer inspection and increased detail, but the majority is undeniably basic – although still expressive in its own way. The dialogue also comes across as occasionally uneven, stilted almost, and can feel a little exposition-heavy at times rather than flowing naturally. There are certainly some choice moments, particularly during some of Danusia and Andrzej’ more humorous observations and conversations that provide us with a better understanding of their relationship, but a significant amount of the explanation of the ‘bigger picture’ tends to feel a little clunky.
Overall however, while the execution can be a little rough around the edges at times, Behind The Curtain still provides a thought-provoking look at a truly unique couple who remain utterly devoted to their sense of artistic expression, even as the country they live in goes through one of the most turbulent times in its history. Fans of politics, art, history or good old-fashioned human drama are likely to find something to enjoy here, and while it never allows itself to veer too far towards melodrama, the story of Danusia Schejbal and Andrzej Klimowski still makes for an utterly intriguing read.