A Fantastic Historical Film Set in the Early 19th Century
Richard J. Brzostek | New England, USA | 12/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Pan Tadeusz" is a dramatic historical film, based on an epic poem by Adam Mickiewicz. As the film is based on a poem, the characters often speak in rhyme, and often a very proper sounding Polish. "Pan Tadeusz" is in Polish, but many of the words used in the film are not widely used today, so the English subtitles are most helpful. The film is set in the early 19th century, in the years just before Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812. The film is directed by one of Poland's most renowned directors, Andrzej Wajda, and is cast with many of Poland's best actors, such as Daniel Olbrychski.
Tadeusz Soplica (Michal Zebrowski) returns from his studies to his uncle's manor in Lithuania. At approximately the same time, Count Horeszko (Marek Kondrat) returns from his travels of Europe to find his family's castle in disrepair and under ownership dispute by his neighbor Judge Soplica (Andrzej Seweryn). Staying at the Soplica estate is Telimena (Grazyna Szapolowska), whom both Tadeusz and Count Horeszko desire.
Telemenia is the guardian of Zosia, a young woman that quickly gains the attention of Tadeusz. Tadeusz's uncle, Judge Soplica, hopes to play matchmaker and marry Tadeusz with Zosia. As she is of Horeszko blood, the marriage would settle the feud between the two warring families.
A monk named Robak (Boguslaw Linda) provides hope for the people whose land once was free and part of Poland by spreading rumors of Napoleon's arrival. Before this time, Poland and Lithuania were united as one country for hundreds of years. Napoleon is viewed as a potential savior of Poland, as he would combat the Russians who have oppressed the Poles. Robak also plays a major role in the matchmaking of Tadeusz and Zosia, as his intentions are to unite the people, and this would stop the fighting over the old Horeszko castle.
"Pan Tadeusz" is a fantastic historical film, as it shows some of the history of Poland and serves as a point of reflection for its people. There are glimpses of Napoleonic armies marching to their doom, but the fighting scenes of the film take place between the Poles and Russians. After fighting, those involved became exiles in their own land, as they were unsafe from the future Russians that were sure to come. The film also has romance, as Tadeusz is smitten by Zosia's beauty. From one of Poland's most distinguished directors, comes one of Poland's best known poems, cast with several of Poland's best actors -- "Pan Tadeusz" is a modern Polish masterpiece.
Great Historical Film, but a Little Slow
Adrian Dunbar | New York | 05/21/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Andrej Wajda's Pan Tadeusz - pronounced, roughly "Pon Tadoosh", meaning 'Sir Thaddeus' - is based on the namesake poem by Adam Mickiewicz, and covers the life of the young Count Tadeusz in the era right before Napoleon invades. Around this illustrious figure, a cast of glittering characters swirls; a vengeful warden, a flirtatious aunt, feuding nobility, a priest with a secret to hide, all looking forward to the one event which promises to change their lives forever: the invasion of Napoleon, and the throwing off of Russian imperialism. Pan Tadeusz is a Romeo & Juliet style love story; Tadeusz, member of one warring family, falls in love with Zosia, of the other, to marry such that the ancient land feud will be settled so the war can be turned on the Russians.
Visually, Pan Tadeusz is amazing. Every scene is a treat to the eyes, from the verdant forests to the east-meeets-west Sarmatian decorations that adorn every house. Wajda has come very close to capturing the essence of the beauty of the fatherland that Mickiewicz conveyed in his epic poem.
The acting, too, is top notch, bringing together much of Poland's finest talent to tell this important story. Pan Tadeusz has many major characters, but the viewer becomes intimately familiar with them all by the end of the movie.
The story is compelling, too, especially for anyone with an understanding of Polish History. Once, Poland was a great nation, one that defeated the Ottoman Empire in war, and crushed Russia in another. Yet, as Prussia, Austria, and Russia rose to power, they saw Poland as an easy victim, and jointly conquered the nation in 1772 in a series of Partitions. Russia took the lion's share, and ever since, Poland resisted their control. Pan Tadeusz takes place in 1811-12, when Napoleon swept across Europe, and through Poland, giving the Poles a chance to rise up and ressurect their nation as the mighty Fenix. Yet, as the film closes, Napoleon's army is marching to its doom in Russia. For Poles, this film is deeply nostalgic, harkening back to the days when Pole resisted Russian. Indeed, Poland only became free of Russian control in 1989, with the fall of the Soviet Union, which is to say that all of the adult viewers in Poland know personally what it meant to resist Russian control. For they, like the characters of Pan Tadeusz, rose up against their Russian oppressors.
The film is not without a major flaw. Pan Tadeusz is extremely slow, running at 2.5 hours when it could have been trimmed down to 2 hours. Wajda included a number of scenes which add nothing to the movie, though were important in the poem. Among these is a slow-motion mushroom picking scene, several scenes focusing on the same swamp scenery (with no action), a five-minute long Polska dance scene which could have been 15 seconds, and so forth. Much of this could have been cut without hurting the movie, and in the process made it more engaging.
Pan Tadeusz is a foreign film, so will open doors to another culture for those willing to step through. In one movie, you get a sense of the basic struggle inherent in Polish history 1772-1989, a struggle of people more devoted to liberty than any other. The subtitles which guide you through this journey are top notch, and very little meaning is lost in translation. This may be because Pan Tadeusz is based on the verses of its namesake epic poem, as are the carefully worked out translations. Thus, the dialogue in both Polish and English is rich and poetic.
I fully recommend Pan Tadeusz for anyone interested in understanding something of another culture, but do come to the movie with an open mind."
Fantastic Adaptation of the Book
E. MacGregor | San Francisco, CA | 12/07/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of the best film adaptations of a work of Polish literature I've seen. It really brings the book to life. The movie is beautifully filmed, with plenty of picturesque scenes of the countryside. The casting was perfect, and the acting was fantastic. Everyone was exactly the way I envisioned them in the book. I particularly enjoyed Boguslaw Linda as the monk Robak. He really captured the character of a monk/soldier trying to reconcile two feuding families while fostering a grass roots uprising against the Russians. The movie also paid attention to the little details that make the book so charming, such as the grandfather clock that plays Dabrowski's Mazurka and Robak's snuff box with the portrait of Kosciusko.
I also thought the movie did an unusually good job of conveying the spirit of the work. Mickiewicz wrote Pan Tadeusz as an exile in Paris, and the work was meant to be a consoling and idealized account of his lost country. To that end, the movie begins with Mickiewicz and his fellow ex-pats in a dreary room in Paris. Mickiewicz, speaking lines drawn from the epilogue of Pan Tadeusz, begins to entertain his friends by narrating the story. The movie ends back in Paris, with Mickiewicz delivering the famous opening verse, "Litwo, ojczyzno moja...," which was quite poignant. Mickiewicz narrates throughout, which gives the movie that fairy-tale like feeling the book has. I thought it was wonderfully done.
The script is drawn from the text of the poem, and it's a real pleasure to hear Mickiewicz's beautiful language spoken aloud. Linda in particular does an excellent job of delivering lines in rhymed couplets in such a way as to bring out the poetry while being utterly convincing as speech. The scenes that stand out in my mind are when Robak takes leave of the judge ("Kto wie, czy wroce zywy! kto wie, co sie stanie / W Dobrzynie! Bracie! wielkie, wielkie zamieszanie! / Ten wariat Hrabia! slysze, pobiegl do Dobrzyna, / Nie moglem go uprzedzic, wazna w typ przyczyna: / stary Maciek mnie poznal...") and Robak's final scene with Gerwazy ("Ja skarzyc nie mam prawa, ja jego morderca / Ja skarzyc nie mam prawa, przebaczam mu z serca / Ale i on..."). The lines are delivered in an unaffected manner, full of emotion, and with an absolute awareness of the beauty of the language.
The humor of the book also comes through, particularly in the character of the Count, who, being so steeped in Romanticism, is completely divorced from reality. I love his scenes with Gerwazy, particularly the one in which Gerwazy is planning the foray against the Soplicas while the Count comments on how such a Gothic-Sarmatian plan appeals to his imagination, and inquires whether the castle for which they're fighting has any dungeons.
This movie was clearly made by people who love the book. For those who loved the book, you'll love the movie. Those who haven't read the book should still see the movie, which is visually spectacular and tells an engaging story.