A Unique Film Directed by Andrzej Wajda
Richard J. Brzostek | New England, USA | 12/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After 15 years of being away, Wiktor (as played by Daniel Olbrychski) returns to visit his aunt and uncle at the advice of a doctor to get away for a while and recover from the loss of the death of his best friend. Nearby, in a gorgeous manor house, live five sisters whose lives were always filled with talking about Wiktor. Wiktor's return rekindles the love four of the sisters had for him. Despite the 15 years apart, Wiktor becomes the focal point of discussions of the maids of Wilko once more.
Wiktor is interested in all of the sisters, but is cowardly and indecisive, and therefore cannot make a decision on which one to pursue. The four sisters are lead on occasionally, but each is crushed when Wiktor gives another sister attention. Out of naiveté Wiktor does not seem to realize how much they all care for him and out of fear does not know how to respond when they tell him of their interest in him.
The film is a peaceful one with little action, but one that touches your emotions. In this 111-minute film, the viewers are given a glimpse into the past, and how a man regrets the mistakes of his youth and how his inaction left four women longing for him.
"Young Girls of Wilko" (or "Panny Z Wilka" in Polish) is based on a novel, whose author appears in the film as the old man who watches from time to time. The story is enchanting and filled with artistic beauty. Overall, this 1979 film, directed by Andrzej Wajda, is definitely one any culture seeking viewer should see.
Cosmoetica | New York, USA | 09/14/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda's 1979 film Maids Of Wilko (Panny Z Wilka- also translated as Young Girls Of Wilko) shows that, like such filmmakers as Ingmar Bergman, Robert Bresson, and Yasujiro Ozu, he is an artist more interested in endurances than mere `scenes.' His characters speak as if philosophers, but in a naturalistic style. They are not the hyper-educated bourgeoisie of Bergman, the spiritual elitists of Bresson, nor the everyday philosophes of Ozu. Yet, there's something more to them, and Wajda, than what is on the screen, even if the film, as a whole, fails to reach great heights.
His two most famous Polish descendents in cinema, Roman Polanski and Krzysztof Kieslowski, are filmmakers who believe in indulgence. This is not a comment on the success of their indulgences, merely a recognition of them. Polanski, for example, has a predilection for the Grand Guignol, and would have been perfectly at home in the 1920s, making silent films alongside the great German Expressionists. Kieslowski, on the other hand, grew into a filmmaker who heaped visual razzle-dazzle with spiritual symbolism, almost to the point of surfeit.
By contrast, Wajda's film is a Chekhovian chamber play, although most of it is set outdoors. It is one of those works of art in which, in answer to a query such as, `What is it about?', the only answer is nothing and everything. It is, in a sense, akin to Betty Smith's fantastic novel of female maturation in early Twentieth Century America, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, save that much of the basics are inverted. The lead in Maids Of Wilko- despite its title, is a thirtysomething veteran of war. Instead of his eventual departure from his youthful stomping grounds, he is returning to them after fifteen years away, in the late 1920s (since 1922 and '23 are mentioned as being some time ago), in which time he was in World War One, and ended up a farm manager outside of a big city. The interwar years make this film a historical period piece, unlike most of the films of Polanski and Kieslowski, which are set in contemporary times, and it's interesting to note how similar the characters are to their counterparts in films set in other countries at the same period of time, rather than their differences.... Maids Of Wilko was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award in 1980, but while it's a very good film, it's not a great one, and never really soars into the stratosphere. The three other sisters in the film, Julia (Anna Seniuk), Jola (Maja Komorowska), and Zosia (Stanislawa Celinska) are not as well defined as Tunia nor Kazia, to the point of their being almost interchangeable, yet the situations sketched, and the actors who play the three other main characters are wonderful. The only semi-memorable moment for Jola- a blond with a facial mole, is when she lectures Wiktor that, `Moral authority is invoked by those who live immoral lives.' By contrast, there is one standout scene, when Kazia comes to a party in a dress she borrows, dances with Wiktor, and takes off her eyeglasses, that defines her character and the futility of mere words in capturing emotion. It is almost `pure cinema.' She tips her head backward so he can kiss her, but when he does not, the look of disappointment on her face is palpable enough to be felt by every viewer. It is a moment no novel nor poem could capture, for it forces all the viewers into the same position, as they reflect on their own disappointments.
It is in moments like this, that do not go wasted, that Wajda proves he is a great film director, even if his overall film falls shy of that claim. Everything in Maids Of Wilko has import, if not to a character than to the viewer, and that is a rarity. The film is complex without being overly complicated. It plays out like a Brontë or Dickens novel with more depth. The same is true for the handsome yet deep Wiktor, who never quite learns the power of the word, even if I do. It is: ....