A Majestic story of Three Friends in 19th Century Poland
Richard J. Brzostek | New England, USA | 11/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Promised Land" (or "Ziemia Obiecana" in Polish) is a majestic story of three friends who come together to build a factory in Lodz during the 19th century. The friends, a Pole (as played by Daniel Olbrychski), a German, and a Jew, each need each others' resources and skills in making their dreams come true. However, both the German and Jew are advised by others not to deal with their Polish friend, as they believe it will come to no good end. In the 19th century, Poland was not on the map, as its neighbors (Germany, Russia, and Austria) partitioned it amongst themselves. This is the reason why German is occasionally spoken in the film and Rubles, a Russian currency, are mentioned.
The Polish man is a nobleman, but he cares little for his heritage or tradition. His thirst for wealth will put a strain on the friendship of the trio and a love affair he has with the wife of a wealthy Jew will cause them all more problems than they would ever expect.
In general, the businessmen of the time are corrupt, the workers are abused, and the story that unfolds is tragic. The film itself is beautiful. With haunting and dramatic music, this colorful time in history is interestingly portrayed. The factories are grim and stark, which contrasts with the splendid palaces where the wealthy live. "Promised Land" gives us a glimpse into the past and a chance to witness the poverty of the many and the wealth of the few.
"Promised Land," directed by Andrzej Wajda, is an exceptional film of the type that has earned him world fame. This new director's cut of this 1974 film is 138 minutes in length. "Promised Land" is spoken in Polish, with parts in other languages. This film has optional English subtitles. At times the film is gory and often tragic, but entirely a captivating story, worth watching.
One of Wajda's masterpieces
Deborah Duerksen | New York, NY | 01/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This epic-romantic drama set in late 19th century Lodz was directed by Poland's grand old man of cinema, Andrzej Wajda, and brings his prodigious talent as a director to the forefront. Wajda, better known for cinematic depictions of World War II and the more recent Polish struggles with communism, was severely hampered in 1973 by lack of access to state-of-the-art film technology. Technical difficulties notwithstanding he managed to replicate the miserable conditions under which the population of the teeming 19th century industrial city of Lodz slaved away for the enrichment of their Polish, German and Jewish employers.
The film's story is complex and difficult to follow through the maze of interrelationships and the densely worded script, which may demand a second viewing for those who cannot keep up with English subtitles, as they faithfully follow the Polish. But it centers around the unbridled ambition of three young men--an aristocratic Pole, a Jew and a German--to establish themselves jointly as entrepreneurs while beating out the competition. Eventually, they are done in by their greed and capacity for making enemies needlessly. What you have is a highly affecting morality tale in which avarice takes a back seat to the general lack of moral/social values expertly depicted in the performances delivered by Olbrychski, Psoniak and a host of wonderful Polish character actors. Direct allusions to ethnic and national stereotypes and tensions may pass by some who are not familiar with Polish history vis-a-vis ethnic minorities. But Wajda averted potential accusations of anti-Semitism by studiously offering with mathematical precision equal numbers of sympathetic as well as unsympathetic characters from each of the three ethnicities surveyed in this film. It paid off, as he received the Oscar for Best Foreign Film for that year!
I experienced this film as anti-capitalist propaganda when I saw it for the first time in 1988 without subtitles. Apparently that is how it was perceived by the communist authorities, since according to Wajda's interview, Polish critics were ordered from above to give it favorable reviews. But I now see it as being a less sentimental, more accurate portrayal of the dilemma of industrialization than Charles Dickens ever offered his reading public.
One of the true gems of this "Director's Cut" is the interview with Wajda where they show the still of him receiving his Oscar and looking not so thrilled at getting pecked on the cheek by his presenter--the lovely but by then highly controversial Jane Fonda. (In private Polish society I heard Fonda sometimes referred to disparagingly as "Hanoi Jane" by Poles who said that "tylko w ameryce," was it possible to be so rich and successful and still so deprecating of one's own government.) The other moment to look for is the one where Wajda talks about how when his crew got their first look at the Lodz location for the factory shoots, they found looms with "Manchester, 1884" engraved on them which were still in operation in the 1970s."
Masterwork, showing part of history of capitalism in Europe
Elise (plt) | US | 12/11/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The movie Promised Land by Wajda is great on many levels: directing, acting, camera work, costumes,etc. Wajda is not disapointing.It shows turbulent times during the XIXc. very well, the extremes of unleashed greed and how people were affected by greed: their own or of the others.
Industrialization brought easier access to goods, but also dramatic changes, not always for the better.
The story of three men,German, Jewish and Polish who become business partners is of course fictional, but of course such partnerships probably existed.And capitalism of XIX c. and the situation in the city of Lodz was bad. The movie is based on a novel, the author of which, Reymont, was working a as clerk for an industrialist in Lodz,and knew the problems first hand. The exploitation of the poor, and the competition between the industrialist was merciless indeed. So,we see abuses of power, sexual exploitation, abuse of trust, and other evils. Reymont's and Wajda's ambition was to show a realistic picture of early capitalism as seen in the example of Lodz, which place magnified the evils even more.
I think in order to understand the movie better, it is good to take in account the history of Lodz, and the role this city played on the map of European capitalism. Geographically, a Polish city, under the control of Russian Empire, it experienced explosive growth after the decree of the tsar helped to make it to the center of weaving industry. I think it fast became the biggest center of this kind in entire Europe. At a price, of course.As the wave of enterpreneurs-emigrants, who were industrialists already, or those whose hope was to make a fortune really fast,there were also the poor who came in desperation but with hopes for a better life. The very bitter realities are shown in this movie, and actually some things may have happened in real life.
As the movie portraying Polish society: the city was very diverse, because of waves of emigration. At some point there were only twenty percent of ethnic Poles in Lodz.So, the movie shows a part of social history in Europe, as Lodz was so unusual in many ways. You probably know that Esperanto, the invented language,was invented by Zamenhoff, a Jew by ethnicity, who lived in Lodz. Zamenhoff wanted to help people to communicate, as there was such a medley of languages, there was real problem: communication across nationalities. I think this fact alone says a lot about the situation in Lodz, it can give impression of chaos which existed there, than.The situation of the poor was really miserable. Linguistic diversity, and poverty i s shown in the movie.
Back to the movie itself:the situation among the rich was not good either, because the predatory practices, which cause so much suffering of the factory workers and their families. The rich couldn't be sure of their future either, as fortunes were made quick, but could be lost extremely fast too. Like the robber barons int he US, the industrialists in Lodz had no mercy for each other.Some of the characters in the movie are more extreme than the others. Should I add that the characterization and acting is superb?
For example Bogucki, the Polish partner in the three ethnic enterprise, is extremely agressive. He comes from a family of Polish nobility, very impoverished, and he worked as a clerk, and he is the poorest of the trio. But, probably because of the relative lack of means, as compared to his partners, he compensates in his lack of scruples. He sells the property on the country, his father and the woman whom he should marry need to be uprooted, that he could invest.Nothing is holly for him, literally, as he even swears on a holy icon (false testimony), in order to deceive. There are bad characters from other nationalities, but Bogucki is the worst.In the end scene when he is presenting his little son, dressed with Oriental decadence, like a little tsar, or Polish magnate of Baroque painting, the viewer has no doubts that the capitalism of those days was not less oppressive and power hungry than feudalism. Actually this scene shows the continuity of the corruption of feudalism carried into new times, on the wave of industrial revolution. Very thoughtful, very well done movie.
Lodz's Pressure Cooker Nearing Exploding Point!
Maximiliano F Yofre | Buenos Aires, Argentina | 01/06/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Andrzej Wajda is one of the best Pole filmmaker.
He has delivered more than 50 movies, many of them multi-awarded and with critic's acclaim. His beginnings were under very restricted conditions in his native Poland, low budget and censored thematic. Even thou he managed to create powerful art pieces.
Only as a sample we may mention: "Kanal" (1957) a poignant & realistic war drama awarded with Cannes' Jury Special Prize and nominated for the Golden Palm; the poetical and stark "The Birch Wood" (1970); Cannes Golden Palm nominated "Without Anesthesia" (1978) and Cesar Award "Danton" (1983).
Oscar nominated "The Promised Land" (1975) is a wonderful period reconstruction, around 1895-1905, showing three ethnic communities thriving and competing in a wild capitalistic environment: Poles, Jews and Germans under Russian rule at Lodz transformed in those years in an industrial giant in middle-Europe.
Three young, ambitious and ruthless friends, one from each community join their great abilities and scarce money and profiting from a secret notice about an eminent price rising of goods, launch a colossal (for them) enterprise: build their own factory.
Wajda, not only director but script writer based on Reymont's novel with the same title, depict each character with merciless realism, showing their bottomless greed and yet their compromise with each other till the last consequences.
Playacting is excellent with Wojciech Pszoniak as Moryc Welt the Jew of the trio, awarded as Best Actor by the Polish Film Festival 1975; Daniel Olbrychski as Karol Borowiecki the impoverished Pole noble and Andrzej Seweryn as the German member are the best in a compact group of artists.
Wajda director's skill was awarded with Moscow International Film Festival Golden Prize, Polish Film festival Golden Lion, Valladolid International Film Festival Golden Spike and was nominated for Oscar Best Foreign Language Best Film. Do you need more recommendations?
It is a great movie from a superb director recommended to anyone that wants to see a human drama. Do not miss it!
Reviewed by Max Yofre.