Knights of the Teutonic Order (Krzyzacy)(1960) Director: Aleksander Ford;
Krzyzacy (Knights of the Teutonic Order) is a historical epic based on the book by Henryk Sienkiewicz. The story is a fictionalized account of the days leading up to the decisive Polish-Lithuanian and Teutonic battle on July 15, 1410. The Battle of Grunwald (or Tannenberg) began the decline of the Teutonic Order and is remembered and celebrated by its victors to this day. The word Krzyzacy in Polish is referring to the large cross the Teutonic Knights were known for wearing on their tunic, in a way calling them cross wearers. But these men of the cross also carried swords; their swords may have been used against pagans but Catholic Poles as well.
Running nearly three hours in length, Krzyzacy shows us the political intrigue that leads up to the famous battle. In a way, there is a lot of tit for tat between the Poles and the Teutonic Order. In the early part of the story, a Polish noblewoman is killed by the Teutonic Knights and her husband goes to avenger her. This leads to his daughter being taken hostage by the Order, which leads to further retaliation. After several skirmished and duels, the battle is set to happen. If you can, I would recommend watching Krzyzacy on a big screen to take in the massive final battle.
Unquestionably, Krzyzacy is a classic and ranks among the best-known Polish cinema. As Krzyzacy was made in 1960, not all the effects are realistic as they would be if made today. Although it would be great to see a remake of Krzyzacy, it still will remain a classic that brings history to life.
One Room Tenants (Wspolny Pokoj)(1960) Director: Wojciech Has;
Wojciech Jerzy Has is one of my favorite Polish directors. His films have a unique feel to them that have an artistic element. One Room Tenants (Wspolny Pokoj) is Wojciech Jerzy Has's third feature film. The story is about a group of people in between wars Poland. The story revolves around Lucian Salis, who becomes a tenant of his friend's mother. The tenants include a number of guys, including a student and artsy types, and there are even a couple young women that live there. They don't have a room to themselves but share space in one big room.
Salis is a poet so he fits in with his roommates quite well. Perhaps he fits in with them too well, as he spends most of his time going out with the guys and drinking. Although they do have some ambitions, the challenges they face are difficult and may be the reason why they idle away their time with such a pastime.
I have to be honest, there are so many people coming and going from the apartment that it is hard to keep track of them all. A few in the movie, such as Gustaw Holoubek, are unforgettable though. Holoubek plays the role of an artsy type that also has a few cloaks of mystery surrounding him. As usual, Holoubek is quite an interesting character and he makes the movie special.
Although I wouldn't consider Wspolny Pokoj one of Has's best films, it is an interesting movie. It captures the spirit of the struggles of young intellectuals in 1930s Poland. Overall, the movie is serious and a bit depressing, but it is also a gem by a brilliant director.
Bad Luck (Zezowate Szczescie)(1960) Director: Andrzej Munk;
"Bad Luck" (Zezowate Szczescie) is a movie about an old man who is in prison and does not want to leave. He tries to persuade the prison official he is better off in prison by telling him stories of his bad luck in life. He relates stories of his whole life, from childhood to middle age, but his stories always end in disaster for him. The stories are funny, but I did feel a little sorry for his misfortunes.
As the stories from his life cover just before, during, and after World War II, we get to see some light satire of the changes that took place in these years. I enjoyed the fact that it covered some of the issues from these times in a lighthearted manner, as so many films about it are depressing. "Bad Luck" may be in black and white, but much of the appeal and its humor are timeless.
Road to the West (Droga Na Zachod)(1960) Director: Bohdan Poreba;
As World War II was coming to an end, Russian and Polish soldiers moved their way into German territory. Road to the West (Droga Na Zachod) is a story about a retired conductor and a young man that end up helping the Polish army bring weapons to the front.
When the retired conductor hears the distress signal of a train he comes to the rescue. There, he finds the Polish military with a cargo of weapons and no one to drive the train. A mysterious young man volunteers to be his assistant and they begin their journey.
The young man likes to keep to himself and wants a new life. He volunteers for the job more out of self-interest than personal generosity. To some degree he represents the younger generation: immature, rash and lacking experience. The young man talks back to the old conductor and has a lot to learn.
The old conductor is nearly an opposite of the young man. The conductor is wise, self-sacrificing, and heroic. It is hard not to like the old guy because he is good-natured. Intentionally or not, he teaches the young man a lesson in respect and courage. Although the young man talks about leaving the conductor behind at just about every stop they make, he always comes back to help him.
Road to the West is a memorable story about a young man and an old conductor. The tension builds with expectation as they make their dangerous trip. The movie also has a bit of romance, albeit brief, as the young man tries to find love. Road to the West is a great movie about the younger generation learning from the older.
Innocent Sorcerers (Niewinni Czarodzieje)(1960) Director: Andrzej Wajda;
"Innocent Sorcerers" (Niewinni Czarodzieje) was filmed in 1960 by Poland's famous director, Andrzej Wajda. It's an unusual story of love and lust. Two men, who could be considered ladies men, try to work out a scheme to get the attention of a woman at a bar. After several near fumbles, one of them some succeeds.
Throughout the story the man and woman play a game of cat and mouse as they battle for control of each other. The man, a young doctor, is intense, focused on the present and noncommittal. I was left with a feeling of emptiness watching the couple as they tried to find direction in their lives. Beneath the contentment that may have been present between them was underlying confusion of who was in control. The suspense in the film left me intrigued as the story progressed and the erotic tension built between them.
"Innocent Sorcerers" is different from Wajda's other films and that of many of its contemporaries. Those were about war or some theme that was in the interest of communism. The film has that magic touch Wajda adds by having several layers of depth to the story. "Innocent Sorcerers" is about the generation of the time, their feelings and way of life.
Mother Joan of the Angels (Matka Joanna od Aniolow)(1961) Director: Jerzy Kawalerowicz;
"Matka Jonna od Aniolow" (Mother Joan of the Angels) is a creepy film about exorcism in the 17th century. A convent of nuns is troubled by demonic possession, including the Mother Superior, who is possessed by eight demons. The four local priest/exorcists summon the help of another priest specializing in exorcism to help them. What he finds at the convent will be the test of his lifetime as he tries to help them.
The priest feels sympathetic and concern for helping others, but his efforts to exercise the demons are not instantly successful. In his labors, he begins to develop affection for Mother Joan. The priest begins a journey of self-reflection and brings us along on his meditative search for meaning. My favorite part of this search was when he consults a Rabbi, and their philosophical discussion that follows. The way I interpreted the deeper meaning of this movie was that love is the answer.
The fact that "Matka Jonna od Aniolow" (1960) was made in black and white gives it an intensely creepy feeling. There isn't anything gruesome shown, but the nature of the story itself, the spooky feeling of the convent, and the behavior of the possessed nuns create an amazing effect of uneasiness. One could easily place the film in the category of horror based on the suspenseful nature of the film. "Matka Jonna od Aniolow" is an intriguing story and a work of art.
Samson(1961) Director: Andrzej Wajda;
Andrzej Wajda brings us a suspenseful and intellectual wartime drama with his 1961 film "Samson." The story is a tragic one; it is a film about a Jewish man named Jakub who spends a great deal of time as a prisoner, of one sort or another. Before the war, he accidentally kills someone and is sent to prison. When World War II erupts, he is released from prison only to be put behind the walls of the Ghetto. It is one tragedy after another for Jakub. From there, he escapes from the Ghetto only to spend his time in hiding, again a prisoner.
The story is sad, but it is also about a time in history that was full of tragedy. It is depressing to see both before and during the war, others treating Jakub meanly because he is Jewish. On the bright side, he isn't always treated badly. In fact, many people do treat him well and help him. Time after time people help him, but it only makes him feel others control his fate. I was frustrated with Jakub overlooking his good fortunes. Two women fall for him, but he seems too wrapped up in his own thoughts and ideals to appreciate that he does have someone that cares about him.
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the film contains a "tacked-on" message about communism. At the beginning of the film, Jakub meets a communist in the next cell over to him that is portrayed as an intellectual. Later on, he meets a group of communists that are helpful to him. To me, it didn't really add much or detract anything from having this piece of pro-communist propaganda added to the film. It may, however, be a great example of pro-government messages in cinema under a communist government.
I think the fact "Samson" is in black and white added something to the film. It is hard to put a finger on exactly, but it is almost as if the story is a tragedy and so it is only fitting that it is devoid of color. "Samson" is a stirring movie and is on par with Wajda's best work.
Knife in the Water (Noz w Wode)(1962) Director: Roman Polanski;
Knife in the Water (Noz w Wode) is Roman Polanski's first feature film. It stands out compared to other Polish films of the time because it has a contemporary story. Other directors, such as Andrzej Wajda, did make films with contemporary stories but the majority of the Polish movies in the early 1960s were about the war.
One remarkable aspect about this movie is there are only three actors. There is a middle-age man named Andrzej, his young wife Krystyna and a young man. The sparks that result from the trio are enough to totally keep the story interesting and suspenseful.
On the way to the lake, the couple picks up a young man hitchhiking. The young man is a wise guy and a risk taker. They take him along with them to their boat and go sailing. Andrzej sees the young man's character and wants to teach him a lesson. Both of the men are very alike and get a kick out of the game of cat and mouse they play. The men use shows of bravado and laughter as weapons, no doubt trying to not only outdo the other but also impress Krystyna. Krystyna tries to keep the situation as calm as possible as both try to outwit each other.
The tension builds and builds the longer they are together. One can't help but think that the film is titled Knife in the Water. How and when the knife will play a role is always on the back of one's mind. Considering the great tension between the men, it just seems like a matter of time before the knife settles their dispute.
Keeping in mind the story is relatively simple, just three people going on a boat together, Polanski has to be given a lot of credit that he made the film so intense.
Passenger (Pasazerka)(1963) Director: Andrzej Munk & Witold Lesiewicz;
Passenger (Pasazerka) is a story about a woman named Liza who returns to Europe after being away for many years. On the luxury liner she seems a woman who reminds her of the past that she would rather forget and one her husband had no idea about. During Would War II she was in the German army and an overseer at Auschwitz.
The story goes back to show us what she is like during the war. As an overseer, we see she takes a liking to a Polish woman named Marta who is a political prisoner at Auschwitz. It turns out her fiancee is also imprisoned there but they are forbidden from seeing each other. Between all the miseries that take place in the Nazi death camp, a love story of sorts also occurs.
There is something chilling about this women in unifom with a totenkopf (death's head) patch on her cap. Liza looks the other way occasuionaly and lets the lovers enjoy a few moments together but the fact that Marta remains defiant only outrages her. Although there are a few instances where Liza shows kindness, she also enjoys playing god in which she gives succor in one instance and brings torment the next. If looks could kill Liza would be lethal.
Passenger has more than a few unforgettable scenes. One that stands out for me is when international inspectors come to the camp to see how the prisoners are treated. Marta is chosen as a detainee that they will interview but she can hardly say a word to their questions knowing they will not be able to change her situation. Furthermore, another scene shows an orchestra of prisoners playing beautiful music while the other prisoners are slopping in the mud; there is something ironic and strange at these images that show such contrasts between the neatly dressed guards and their prisoners who are treated so inhumanely.
Passenger is Andrzej Munk's last film, who died in a car accident before it was completed. Witold Lesiewicz completed the project using what was available and a few parts show only still photos, which give the movie the feeling of looking through a photo album, while he narrates what was probably intended in these parts. As powerful as the movie stands now there is a little part of me that grieves the fact that if Munk lived to finish this film it would have been even better.
The Heat (Upal)(1964) Director: Kazimierz Kutz;
Upal (The Heat) is a Polish comedy that strongly uses ridiculous situations to create a fairly funny and entertaining movie. The premier asks two older men to watch the city during his absence. The men are entertainers, a poet and a composer, who know nothing of politics. They cannot refuse the premier so they accept his offer.
They set off to work in the uniforms provided, three-piece suits with top hats, to find the city in a heat wave. As they inspect the city, they meet a few men and women who all will play a role in the interconnected storyline. There is a blonde woman is followed by flocks of men who are seemingly hypnotized by her appearance. The woman working in the dinner has the eye of three men, including a diplomat from a foreign land who is offended there was no one to greet him when he arrived in the city. To top it off, a bus of nurses comes to the city to help the people suffering from the heat. Although it might not appear like they are all connected, they actually are.
Upal was filmed in 1964, but its setting is a decade or two older. All in all, the setting creates a very unique feeling that works well with the story. This is only complimented by the music, which includes the older gentlemen singing songs from time to time while the screen freezes.
Upal is a film that plays upon the ridiculous and silly to make an entertaining film. The older gentlemen work their way out of a several difficulties and provide us with more than a couple laughs along the way. Although the events in the story are far from reality, it's a fun movie. Forget your troubles and step back in time to an earlier era with Upal.
Giuseppe in Warsaw (Giuseppe w Warszawie)(1964) Director: Stanislaw Lenartowicz;
"Giuseppe in Warsaw" is a very funny comedy set during the Second World War. From its opening scene to its end, it sparks interest with its presentation, story, and music. It is filmed in black and white, which ads an element that helps brings the viewer back in time.
Giuseppe (Antonio Cifariello) is an Italian returning from the Russian front. He gets separated from his fellow soldiers when his train is attacked and finds himself in Poland. There are many funny parts in the film because of the language issues Giuseppe has. His allies speak German while the local people speak Polish, and his native language is Italian (all three are actually spoken in the movie).
Giuseppe meets Maria (Elzbieta Czyzewska), a pretty blond woman, in Warsaw when they help each other out of a jam. Maria has trouble getting rid of Giuseppe after their encounter and he follows her to her home. Maria happens to be a resistance fighter that does all she can to help fight the Nazis. She shares her apartment with her brother Staszek (Zbigniew Cybulski), who aspires to be an artist and have nothing to do with the war. The interplay between the three is quite funny.
Although the "Giuseppe in Warsaw" is about a dismal time period, it is respectful of the seriousness of the war, yet manages to be very funny without being goofy or silly. The film is excellent at balancing chilling scenes of Nazi occupied Poland with great situational humor. "Giuseppe in Warsaw" is a great comedy and has humor that stands the test of time.
The Law and the Fist (Prawo i Piesc)(1964) Director: Jerzy Hoffman;
In the days after World War II, Poland was a bit wild. The official war was over, but it raged on with plundering thugs and was littered with those that oppose the newly forming government. Directors Jerzy Hofman and Edward Skorzewski take us into postwar Poland in their film "The Law and the Fist" (Prawo i Piesc).
The main character of the film is Andrzej Kenig (as played by Gustaw Holoubek). Andrzej is the type of guy who does not hesitate to put himself in danger if it is to help others; however, he is also interested in making money because he lost everything in the war. Andrzej finds a job securing a former German town that is now part of Poland. (At the close of World War II, Poland lost a sizable amount of land on its Eastern side to the Ukraine and given a smaller amount of former German territory on its western side.)
Andrzej gets himself into more than he probably bargained for by accepting the job. Securing a town is precarious work as there may be German solders still wandering about. The movie is very suspenseful because of the unexpected events in the town and intense action.
Director Jerzy Hoffman is best known for his adaptations of the Sienkiewicz trilogy ("Pan Wolodyjowski," "Potop" and "Ogniem i Mieczem"). "The Law and the Fist" is one of his earliest movies (1964), but he already had ten years experience as a director at this point; he directed a number of documentaries with Skorzewski prior to this movie.
The Saragossa Manuscript (Rekopis znaleziony w Saragossie)(1965)
Director: Wojciech Has;
People have loved storytelling since the beginning of time. Stories that captivate us, stories that give us chills, stories that excite us, and stories that make us think are all great, but some stories do all of these such as The Saragossa Manuscript (Rekopis znaleziony w Saragossie). The Saragossa Manuscript is quite possibly one of the best Polish films ever made and is one of my favorites. Based on the novel written by Jan Potocki, this classic Polish movie directed by Wojciech Has is not straightforward, but rather resembles a complicated tapestry.
During the Napoleonic wars in Spain, two soldiers from opposing sides become fascinated by the same object. A French officer finds a manuscript on the second floor of a tavern, but the town is soon captured by the Spanish. The Spaniard, seeing the importance of the tome, translates it to the Frenchman who is unable to read the book as it is written in Spanish. The book describes the adventures of one of the Spaniard's ancestors, Alfonse Van Worden (Zbigniew Cybulski). Humorously, when the Spanish troops tell their commander "we are being surrounded" he only tells them "close the door, you are letting in a draft."
Alfonse Van Worden is trying to pass the Sierra Morena Mountains of Spain in the 18th century on his way to Madrid. But his passage is no simple task, as ghosts, gypsies and inquisitors complicate his voyage. On the hillside is an inn that is cared for by people who too afraid to spend the night there themselves. Van Worden disregards the superstitious people, only to be taken to a basement of the inn by a mysterious woman. In the basement, he meets two beautiful Moorish princesses that want him to be their husband, but quickly make him drink from a chalice made from a human skull. He wakes up on the hillside some distance from the inn near two hanging men with many skulls strewn about the ground.
When Van Worden wakes up, he makes his best effort to continue to Madrid, but ends up meeting a number of people and is always delayed. The people he meets tell him their story, and the people in the story tell their story also. Like a nesting egg, the movie becomes a story in a story in a story. The stories interlink and overlap, each filling us in with details the others where not aware of. While it nearly resembles a horror with creepy ghosts and ghouls, the story is also amusing and funny with curious tales of exploits and adventures. The Saragossa Manuscript also has en erotic side with gorgeous women at every turn. While parts of the story resemble a horror, the rest is like a romance or even a comedy. The Saragossa Manuscript is a sophisticated film brimming with mystical and occult elements.
Director: Tadeusz Konwicki;
The story in Salto begins a day after the war. A man named Karol (Zbigniew Cybulski) jumps off a train and runs into a town he claims he used to live in. He is terrified that they will find him and seeks shelter in the house he says he used to live in. The man at the house (Gustaw Holoubek) doesn't have a good memory and doesn't clearly remember him but is amiable enough to help him and lets him in.
Karol goes by the names Kowalski and Malinowski, claiming this will throw off those chasing him. He is very mysterious. Karol has a lot of monologues in which reveal some details about him. The war has scarred him and haunts him nearly every moment. Watching him interact with the people in this small town is like unraveling a mystery. He knows a couple details about the town but it could be a lucky guess or a coincident. Although no one in town clearly recognizes him, a few vaguely recall him, which also frightens Karol.
The mystery is thicker than an impenetrable fog. The ambiguity takes on an unusual feeling that more resembles the creepiness of a horror movie. The people in this town are also more than a little on the strange side. There are several things that are weird about the town itself that also make it very eerie. It is hard to tell which is more odd, Karol or the whole town.
Salto is a classic post-war film written and directed by Tadeusz Konwicki. It is an unusual or a bizarre film, depending on your perspective. Zbigniew Cybulski's performance is extraordinary and is exemplary of what made him so famous. Salto has an ambiguity about it that will keep you in suspense until the very end.
Maria and Napoleon (Marysia i Napoleon)(1966)
Director: Leonard Buczkowski;
Marysia i Napoleon (Maria and Napoleon) starts out in modern times (it was made in 1966) with a Frenchman entering a large Polish estate in the country. He finds his way into a room with two portraits on the wall from the early 1800s. The woman he meets at the estate resembles the portrait of Countess Marie Walewska and the other is of Napoleon, which resembles himself. We then learn more about the people in the portraits.
Napoleon (Gustaw Holoubek) is instantly attracted to Countess Marie Walewska (Beata Tyszkiewicz) and peruses her with the power of an emperor. She initially refuses Napoleon's advances because she is married. Maria's husband, who could pass for her grandfather, is tired and a bit senile. Her husband's senile, wavering nature adds a lot of humor to the film.
Marie's refusal doesn't stop Napoleon and their romance becomes a game of cat and mouse. At the urging of many people close to her, she agrees to become Napoleon's mistress. They hope that Marie's actions will help Poland.
The story goes back and forth between the early 1800s and the 1960s. There is a slightly metaphysical side to Marysia I Napoleon. Because the Marie and Napoleon in the present are a refection of those in the past we are left wondering if they are a reincarnation of the famous couple both claim to be descended from. There are a few other mystical details in the film that make it a bit less serious but connect the past and present.
The way Marysia i Napoleon is presented makes it interesting to watch. The story is roughly based on history but has a creative spin that distinguishes it from a serious history film. Marysia I Napoleon is a fun romantic/historical movie with a good amount of humor that may even please the more demanding viewers.
Four Tank Men and a Dog (Czterej Pancerni i Pies)(1966)
Directors: Andrzej Czekalski & Konrad Nalecki;
Czterej Pancerni i Pies (Four Tank Men and a Dog) is a classic Polish TV series spanning three seasons, 21 episodes, and over 1100 minutes. It is a serial drama that has plenty of action set toward the end of World War II. It follows the adventures of four tank men and a dog in the Red Army as they repulse the Germans from Poland and follows them all the way to Berlin and the close of the war. They are in a Polish division that was formed of those who wanted to help expel the fascists. Made when the Soviet Union controlled Poland, it shows us solidarity and friendship between Poland and Russia. One of the tank men is Georgian, so all the more showing unity among the Soviet block countries against the Germans.
Each episode has some type of action. There are tank battles and skirmishes of all types. My favorite episode was when they go into an underground German base. The action is balanced with drama and romance. Janek Kos (Janusz Gajos), one of the tank men, has all the luck with the ladies. A pretty Pole in uniform named Lidka (Malgorzata Niemirska) and a gorgeous Russian named Marusia (Pola Raksa), both fall for Janek. Between the action and the romance, there is something for everyone.
Furthermore, Janek is also the owner of Szarik, the German Shepard that accompaies the tank men on their adventures. Franciszek Pieczka, one of my favorite Polish actors, plays Gustaw. Gustaw is one of the tank men and known for his physical strength. All of the Polish and Russian charters are very likeable, while their enemy is quite the opposite. Most of the Germans are portrayed as an angry and evil enemy.
Despite the pro-Russian side to Czterej Pancerni i Pies, it has always remained popular. Their tank, which has 102 painted on its side and nicknamed Rudy, is part of pop culture. Even the music that is played during the credits at the beginning of each episode is great and unforgettable. If one is into Polish cinema, it is vital to watch Czterej Pancerni i Pies as it is an icon of Polish television and great entertainment.
Stall on Salvador (Stajnia na Salwatorze)(1967)
Directors: Pawel Komorowski;
Stall on Salvador (Stajnia na Salwatorze) is a chilling recreation of German occupied Krakow during World War II. Getting by day-to-day was frightening enough with an imposed curfew, unexpected visits by the Gestapo into ones' home to be taken away or just being plain shot down in the streets at any moment. With that as the backdrop, it isn't any wonder that this drama has more of a suspenseful/thriller side to it. The intense music is by Wojciech Kilar, who is my favorite composer, only intensifies the tension in the film.
The story revolves around a young man named Michal (Janusz Gajos) who is in the underground army. The troubles begin when the Nazis catch Zyga, one of Michal's fellow conspirators. Although Michal's fellow men are very hopeful Zyga will not crack during the brutal interrogation, there is a small amount of doubt and concern for their safety. Once they start getting clues that Zyga may be telling the Nazis information and see that he is suddenly released, they know that they must take out their former friend. Michal struggles with the dilemma this situation creates, but the longer he waits, the more damage that is done. When nowhere is safe and your best friend may be killed at any time, we see that life was abysmal during the war.
Stall on Salvador is an early film in the career of Janusz Gajos. It was made during the early years of the filming of the classic Polish TV series "Czterej pancerni i pies" (Four Tankmen and a Dog) which propelled Gajos into fame. Since making Stall on Salvador, Gajos has worked with many of Poland's best directors (including Wajda and Kieslowski), and has become one of the most famous post-war Polish actors. Stall on Salvador is a must see for anyone interested in World War II.
Our Folks (Sami Swoi)(1967)
Director: Sylwester Checinski;
"Sami Swoi" (Our Folks) is a classic 1967 Polish comedy about two feuding families, the Pawlaks and the Karguls. This DVD is the colorized version of the movie (it was originally in black and white). "Sami Swoi" is the first part of a trilogy of comedies directed by Sylwester Checinski. It has a story that has stood the test of time and is still beloved by Polish film watchers.
The story starts out with Jasko 'John' Pawlak, who lives in the United States, coming to visit his brother Kazimierz and his family. He came to Poland to be the godfather of his nephew's daughter. Jasko is very dismayed when he finds out his nephew married a Kargul. From here, we learn about what happened to the family in the 40 years of Jasko's absence. The story flashes back and forth between the past and the present and revolves around their feud with their Kargul neighbors.
Their feuding goes back to a time when a Kargul plowed three fingers width of land of Pawlak land. In retaliation for this disrespect, Jasko tried to attack the elder Kargul and is the reason he had to flee to America.
With the end of World War II, and the change in borders, both families are forced to relocate to the former German territory that is now part of Poland. (Their land was in the Eastern part of Poland that was given to Belarus and Ukraine). As they want to be with their own people, the Pawlak's decide to stop and live right next door to the Kargul's home and keep the traditional feud alive.
When the families arrive in their new homes the older Pawlak son and the older Kargul daughter start to like each other. This infuriates both of their fathers but they slowly mend the tensions between the two families. In a way, the story shows how Poland mended after the war as well as the two families.
The Pawlaks and Karguls are like hillbillies that bicker over petty things. The way they act, sometimes in a backwards way, is quite funny. For example, Kazimierz goes to town to get help to deliver his new child. He buys a drunken vet from another man for a jug of moonshine to deliver the baby.
"Sami Swoi" is one of those movies that is still enjoyable when watched and re-watched. Like a string of dominos, "Sami Swoi" has one funny situation or dialogue after another. Its humor is likely to make you laugh out loud or at least bring a smile to your face. It is one of the most well known Polish comedies and would unquestionable be considered a classic.
Everything For Sale (Wszystko Na Sprzedaz)(1968)
Director: Andrzej Wajda;
"Everything for Sale" (Wszystko Na Sprzedaz) is a complicated and artistic film, as are many directed by Andrzej Wajda. This 1968 film is a dedication to Zbugniew Cybulski. The film is about him, but does not star him or mention him by name.
In "Everything for Sale," a director by the name of Andrzej (this is an actor who is playing the role of Wajda) is making a film in which Cybulski was to be the main actor, but they cannot find him and continue filming anyway. His wife and friends also look for him. After some searching, they hear the news that he died in a train accident (as did Cybulski in real life). The film turns into a group of people making a film, that then decide to make a film about making a film, which is quite a complicated plot.
An interesting side note is that in one scene they go to the actual set of the filming of "Pan Wolodyjowski." Winged Hussars charge in the background while Andrzej interviews someone who knew Cybulski. It is quite a treat to see a glimpse of the making of another great Polish film.
As a bonus feature, there are interviews with those involved in the making of "Everything for Sale" (with English subtitles) that helps in the understanding of the film on a deeper level.
What distinguishes "Everything for Sale" from other films is an original story, that is presented in an unusual way, and as a whole is a tribute to an actor (Zbugniew Cybulski). Overall, this 94 minute movie is creative and different.
Countess Cosel (Hrabina Cosel)(1968)
Director: Jerzy Antczak;
Countess Cosel (Hrabina Cosel) is a Polish television series set in the early 1700s. This is a time in history in which Poland has a Saxon (German) king. Due to a settlement king August II made with the Swedes, he is in exile from the country he is supposed to rule. Although he is married, that doesn't stop him from having numerous mistresses.
The story, however, revolves more around Countess Cosel. Although she is married herself and knows of the king's reputation, it doesn't stop her from being his mistress also. She convinces him to write a secret promissory note that he will marry her on the event of his wife's death, but her interference in politics and display of power makes him loose interest in her. Ultimately, the story turns out to be more tragic than romantic but considering it is all based on actual people, it is all the more interesting.
Overall, this is also a tragic time for Poland. With a ruler that is more interested in amusing himself than anything else, there is no wonder Poland's power rapidly deteriorated at this time. Living it up became more popular than securing the future, setting the stage for Poland's partition.
One downside is that the series is relatively short running 147 minutes between the three episodes. Although dragging on a story may not be too appealing, I found that because Countess Cosel is fairly short, it gives one less time to get involved with the story. Although it is easy to forgive this limitation for several reason including the fact Daniel Olbrychski plays a short part in it. If you enjoy historical films, the costumes and settings are going to be appealing. Countess Cosel is directed by Jerzy Antcak, who is best known for his 1975 hit Nights and Days (Noce i dnie).
More Than Life at Stake (Stawka Wieksza Niz Zycie)(1968)
Director: Janusz Morgenstern, Andrzej Konic;
More than Life at Stake (Stawka wieksza niz zycie) is a Polish television series about a Polish spy deep in the ranks of Abwehr (German military intelligence) during World War II. The first episode sets the stage for this 18 episode series. After the Russians capture a German spy by the name of Hans Kloss, they spend a great deal of time interrogating him about the smallest details of his life. The German spy is replaced with a Polish look-a-like named Janek (Stanislaw Mikulski), and his "escape" is staged to have several German witnesses that will confirm his identity as a German officer. Hans Kloss provides intelligence and assistance to other spies he is aligned with and, more significantly, creates an environment in which the Germans are all suspecting each other of being a traitor, thus crushing their morale.
Hans Kloss gets himself into countless sticky situations, which nearly take a miracle to untangle from. Each episode has mystery and keeps one guessing how it will turn out until the very end. Although there is no major carryover in the storyline between each episode, there are more than a number of small details that find their way into the next installments.
The entire story takes place from 1943 to 1945, and we see Germany at its height of power to its gradual fall. The part that I found especially interesting are the final days of the war, when the tables were turned and the days of the Germany's power where numbered. The fear they inspired in others is now something they had to deal with themselves. I also found it interesting that it showed some of the German officers were positioning themselves to look favorable with the Americans hoping to find a haven with them (which has been confirmed a number of times with declassified information but isn't widely known).
More than Life at Stake is a classic Polish television show that has remained popular since its creation in 1967-1968 (and probably will for many years in the future). The episodes are alternately directed by Andrzej Konic or Janusz Morgenstern. Hans Kloss is a cultural icon that is probably just as popular as Czterej pancerni i pies, which was also made in the late 1960s. Furthermore, even though Stawka wieksza niz zycie was made during the period of Soviet occupation of Poland, there is less pro-communist sentiment than Czterej pancerni i pies and even portrays the AK favorably. More than Life at Stake is an exceptional WWII serial, particularly for those who like the espionage side to the story.
Przygody Pana Michala(1969)
Director: Pawel Komorowski;
Przygody Pana Michala is a 13 episode Polish TV series set in the 17th century based on the book "Pan Wolodyjowski" by Henryk Sienkiewicz. It is very much like the film Pan Wolodyjowski by Jerzy Hoffman. At first glance, you might think of Przygody Pana Michala as a black and white version of Pan Wolodyjowski as both were made in 1969 and have so many of the same actors. Of the main charters, the only difference between the two is different actors play Ketling. However, with a closer inspection, we see the two films are very similar but truly different.
I do suspect some of the exact scenes were used in both of them but the majority of the films are not the same. Of course, some of the lines are identical but the fine details, camera angles and the way the story is structured are quite distinct. I think what most distinguishes Przygody Pana Michala is that we get to know the charters much better and the story develops slower, showing us step by step their history. Although Przygody Pana Michala is about twice as long as Pan Wolodyjowski you will enjoy every minute of it.
The star of the show is a Polish nobleman named Michal Wolodyjowski (Tadeusz Lomnicki). He is short in stature but makes up for it in being fierce with his saber and is a very likeable guy. Sir Wolodyjowski is also romantic but doesn't have a whole lot of luck with women, as you will see. Besides our hero there are many other colorful charters including Zagloba, who is a fat, jolly man who is hilarious because he thinks of himself as a great warrior but runs at the first sign of trouble. Although they know how to have a good time, they are also very patriotic and do not take their duty protecting the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth lightly.
With all due respect, Hoffman's version has several unforgettable parts (such as the execution of Azja) that are handled quite differently in Pawel Komorowski's rendition. At the same time, I am very impressed with Komorowski's adaptation and have to say Przygody Pana Michala is exceptional. Another bonus with this series is that the music for Przygody Pana Michala is by Wojciech Kilar, which is always a special treat.
Colonel Wolodyjowski (Pan Wolodyjowski)(1969)
Director: Jerzy Hoffman;
"Pan Wolodyjowski" is Jerzy Hoffman's 1969 classic historical film, at the time of the Turkish invasion, in 1668. At this time, Poland controlled lands far beyond its current borders, but was under constant invasion by its neighbors. Some of the images of warfare and conquest in this film may send a shiver down your back.
After the death of his fiance, Pan Wolodyjowski, one of the greatest swordsmen of the time, enters a monastery. His friends sense the impending wars with the advance of the Turkish army and trick him into leaving before he takes his vows. Shortly thereafter, he falls in love with a woman, but she ends up falling for his Scottish friend Ketling. However, the third time is a charm, and Pan Wolodyjowski soon focuses his attention on another woman named Basia, whom he marries.
Pan Wolodyjowski is sent to a frontier region, where his troubles intensify. One of the nobles in that region took in a boy named Azja (as played by Daniel Olbrychski) he found in the steppe and raised him. Azja took a liking the nobleman's daughter when he was older and both were punished for their love of each other. Now bitter, Azja takes a liking to Basia and manipulates her in order to attempt to kidnap her. To make matters worse, Azja turns out to be the son of Tuhaj-Bej and could be the Kahn of the Crimea if he so desired. The traitorous tartars that served Poland follow the command of Azja and turn on the Polish nobles of the area, resulting in one of the saddest and most unfortunate scenes in the film.
However, more action is in sight, for the Turks reach the region and scale a major battle. With the Poles winning several small battles earlier, a long siege is in store for them with a less clear outcome.
This 147-minute film is based on the third novel in the historical fiction of Henryk Sienkiewicz. The other two novels, "Ogniem i Mieczem" and "Potop," have also been made into films by Jerzy Hoffman. Incidentally, Daniel Olbrychski also plays Tuhaj-Bej in the film " Ogniem i Mieczem " (1999), and also has a role in "Potop" (1974).