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Przekładaniec is a 1968 short science fiction comedy film directed by Andrzej Wajda based on the screenplay by Stanisław Lem, which was a loose adaptation of Lem's 1955 radio play Czy pan istnieje, Mr. Johns? (Translated into English as Are you there, Mr. Jones?[1]). The title was variously translated into English as Layer Cake (literal meaning),[2] Hodge Podge,[3] and Roly Poly.[4]

Lem's radio play was also published in Przekrój in 1955. As Are you there, Mr. Jones? it appeared in a short-lived magazine Visions of Tomorrow in 1969. According to the translator, it was the first work of Lem translated into English.[1]

The central idea is the problems related to organ transplantation, namely, what is the legal identity (and the associated legal rights) of a person whose body includes many transplants and that of a person whose body was used for many transplants?[4]

The film is a rare example when Lem was pleased with an adaptation of his work.[4][5] Lem wrote that Wajda's film was the only adaptation which had satisfied him (Lem) completely.[1]

Lem's screenplay was first published in 1968 in film magazine Ekran [pl] and included into Lem's 1971 short story collection Bezsenność [pl]. The original radio play was published in the 2000 collection Przekładaniec [pl] of Lem's scenarios.


Wajda's film is the story of two brothers, Richard Fox, rally racer, and his brother Thomas, who had terrible car accidents.[4][6] In the original Lem's work they were Harry Jones, a racer after series of car accidents, and his unnamed brother, who suffered a plane crash.

Radio play versionEdit

In this version, the dilemma is posed in the domain of advanced prosthetics bordering with robotics.[1]

Harry Jones has a series of grave accidents, after each of which Cybernetics Company adds prostheses to his body until virtually all his body, including a half of his brain, becomes artificial and Jones accumulates a huge debt to the company. The company sues him for return of all prostheses, but the lower court rejected the claim because it would be equivalent of killing Jones. The company tricked him into replacing the remaining half-brain and then sued with the demand to acquire Jones as its property in lieu of debt. The court is confronted with the dilemma: if Jones is machine, he/it cannot be sued, otherwise, if he is still a person, he cannot become company's property. Harry called his brother as evidence, but it turns out the latter one after plane crash is in the same predicament...

Film versionEdit

This version is framed in the domain of transplantology.[1]

Richard Fox badly hits his brother during a race. The surgeon transplants 48.5% of Toms' body into Richard, and a tragicomedy starts. The life insurance company refuses to pay off Tom's benefits, because he is "incompletely deceased". Tom's wife demands Richard either pay for Tom or recognize himself as Tom and "rejoin the family". Richard's lawyer is not helpful.

At the next rally Richard smashes into his sister-in-law, two more women and a dog...

After the third catastrophic rally the lawyer tries to tell Fox that he did not manage to do anything yet, but it turns out that Fox is no longer Fox, but his survived co-driver full of transplants from Fox's body parts...

Wajda's filmEdit

The film premiered on August 17, 1968 on Polish Television.[7]

The film was Wajda's first comedy film, first TV production, and the only science fiction work.[1]



  • "Golden Screen" Award (Złoty Ekran) by Ekran magazine[7]
  • Polish Radion and Television Committee awards for director (Wajda) and screenwriter (Lem)[7]
  • Special recognition at the 1970 Sitges Film Festival, Spain[8]

Other adaptationsEdit

Roly PolyEdit

Roly Poly is also the title of a 1969 TV play from the BBC Television Thirty-Minute Theatre adapted from Lem's screenplay.[9] It was aired on 15 May 1969, in Series 4, cycle The Victims. The episode recording is missing from the archives.[10] It was adapted by Derek Hoddinot and directed by Michael Hart.



In 1989 Soviet film director Pyotr Shtein [ru] shot a TV play Sandwich (Russian: Бутерброд) based on Lem's screenplay.[11]


See alsoEdit

  • Paradox of the heap, which involves gradually changing one thing until it turns into a different thing
  • Ship of Theseus, a thought experiment that raises the question of whether an object that has had all of its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object


  1. ^ a b c d e f Małgorzata Bugaj, "Wajda autoironicznie: Lem i Przekładaniec", Pleograf. Kwartalnik Akademii Polskiego Filmu, issue 3, 2018. (in Polish)
    The article was based on the earlier author's article "Wajda meets Lem: Przekładaniec/Roly Poly (1968) as an example of early Polish science-fiction cinema", Studies in Eastern European Cinema, 8, issue 2, 2017 doi:10.1080/2040350X.2017.1285091 (in English)
  2. ^ Peter Swirski, The Art and Science of Stanislaw Lem, p. 160
  3. ^ Przekładaniec on IMDb
  4. ^ a b c d Janina Falkowska, Andrzej Wajda: History, Politics, and Nostalgia in Polish Cinema, pp.105, 106
  5. ^ Przekładaniec at Andrzej Wajda's website
  6. ^ Jerzy Janiuk, "Stanisława Lema związki z medycyną", Medycyna Nowożytna, 2006, Vol 13, issue 1-2, pp. 35-78
  7. ^ a b c d Janina Falkowska, p. 311
  8. ^ "Awatary, kosmici i szaleni naukowcy - zapomniane filmy science-fiction"
  9. ^ Przekładaniec on IMDb
  10. ^ "Missing or incomplete episodes for programme THIRTY MINUTE THEATRE"
  11. ^ "БУТЕРБРОД (1989)"