Saturday, April 18, 2009

Pan Tadeusz... or how I inadvertently discouraged my daughter from watching Polish movies :-(((

Pan Tadeusz is an epic poem by Adam Mickiewicz, one of the three greatest romantic Polish poets of the early XIX century.

It's whole title is: 'Pan Tadeusz or The Last Foray in Lithuania. A Tale of the Gentry during 1811–1812 in Twelve Books of Verse'.

It is a tragicomical story of the life of Polish gentry in then north-eastern corner of a historical Poland-Lithuania, but already at that time under Russian occupation (and now within the borders of Bielarus, not Lituania and not Poland, since after the World War II the borders of Poland have been moved - by the allies - far to the West, with over one/third of the territory of pre-war Poland lost to the Soviet Union).

Pan Tadeusz invited interesting comparison among its foreign reviewers: an English edition reviewer called it a mix of Don Quixote and Iliada, while a French one called it a combination of El Cid and Three Musketeers.

Pan Tadeusz has everything: a romance

(more than one: serious and comical),

an insurrection against the Russians (tragic)

and a foray of one faction of Polish gentry againts another disputing ownership of a half-ruined castle (tragicomical)

Grzybobranie (Muszroom picking) - painting by Franciszek Kostrzewski.1860
But - perhaps most of all - Pan Tadeusz, the poem, is an expression of nostalgia of Mickiewicz, an involuntary expatriot in Paris, of his longing to the (idealized, despite the bitter criticism) Poland of his childhood and youth.

Thus the poem is full of loving descriptions of everyday life of Polish gentry, of a special way to make coffee, of making bigos, a traditional Polish hunters' stew, a desciption of old Polish expressions of courtesy, typical entertainment (hunting, mushroom picking, formal dinners in the castle and impromptu lunches in the woods.... and praise of the beauty of Polish landscape and even the sky over Poland, full of varying clouds, light and heavy, unlike the - boring, according to Mickiewicz - sky over Italy, which is always blue.

My memory of this poem also lingered mostly on its nostalgia aspects

-- after all, although born about one and a half of century later and under a communist rule, I also spent my early childhood in a "little country manor" like the one in the movie, and used a similar type of horse drawn carriage, like the one Tadeusz uses in the first scene of the movie) not so much on either romance or forays or all doomed Polish insurrections against the Russians

(after all the action of the poem is placed in 1811-1812, where the Napoleon army -- with many, many Polish noblemen as first row volunteers: first to fight, first to be slaughtered -- marched through Poland to fight the Russians, while the final - lets hope! - independence from Russia - save for a 20 years interlude between WWI and WWII - Poland gained first in 1989, that is looooooong, loooooong later).

Pan Tadeusz, the movie by Andrzej Wajda, made in 1999, cuts a lot of these nostalgia parts of the poem to tell its main action story... and yet the movie is both beautiful and satisfying both to Poles and foreigners, and I recommend it wholeheartedly (it is available on Netflix) to all my friends and readers.

Just watch its last scene, a grand Polonaise, as a preview.

While, then, you may ask, watching this movie discouraged my daughter from watching any more Polish movies???

Well, it was my fault. She set it up, choosing the Polish language version without English subtitles... and her Polish, although fine for a brief casual conversation, turned out to be totally inadequate (she left Poland when she was 8 years old) to follow an early XIX century Polish poem.

Knowing that she never studied the history of Poland I explained the historical background of the movie, but failed to notice she had linguistic difficulty.

I found it out when I invited her to watch "Chlopi" ( another Polish historical movie, located in central Poland, in Masovia, near my hometown of Lowicz, and showcasing the rich Polish customs and ethnic costumes of this region)... and she refused.

OK, next time we shall watch Pan Tadeusz - and other Polish movies - with English subtitles.


zooms said...

Sounds amazing. Maybe a mother and daughter visit is in order, help brush up the language and make your own movie!

zooms said...

You had a manor house and a horse drawn carriage????!!@#***

Minerva said...

No, I did not... but my grandparents did. There is nothing left there niw, however. The commies exproprieted my oldest aunt in the seventies... raised both and the second, modern house built on the property and designed by Le Corbusier (they seemed to have no interest in architectural preservation, often - on purpose - destroying historical buildings)... cut down old trees... and placed typical communist era tenement housing there... so there is nothing left to visit... perhaps better that way... so I would never be tempted - like waaay too many expats of similar origins - to try to claim any of old possesions or old family money - and am free to do what I please and live where I please... and be poor, lol. Poverty being soooo liberating sometimes ;-)

Minerva said...

...But my daugher is very careful about preserving old family albums - the only reminders of our origin. Even when I was threatened by hurricane Kathrina on the barrier island off the Texas coast she asked first if - preparing to evacuate - I took those albums with me. Since then she is in charge - and possesion - of them. To me they are not important: I still rebel against history, while she sometimes seems to be seeking her - practically unknown to her - roots. Go figure!

Anonymous said...

minervo, zmieniłam ustawienia na bloxie i teraz bez zakładania konta mozesz u mnie komentować.. napisałam ci tez informacje na dziennikach..- satine

Minerva said...

dzieki, satine

nicka said...

nigdy nie ogladałam tego filmu. Wole moja wyobraźnię przy czytaniu poematu. A poza tym nie lubię Wajdy :)

Minerva said...

A ja lubie Wajde...zawsze lubilam - nie tylko jako rezysera: Wajda byl moim ulubionym nauczycielem w szkole filmowej i do dzis pamietam, ze smial sie ze mnie, ze we wszystkich moich szkolnych scenariuszach kobiety byly silne, madre i zaradne, a mezczyzni niewydarzeni. Ale ja do dzis tak widze polskich mezczyzn: jako slabych i niewydarzonych i tak napalonych na sztuczna meskosc (machizmo) bo tej prawdziwej u nich na ogol brak. Polki jako matki synow nie sprawdzaja sie, oj nie.

nicka said...

minerva, jakbyś o moim tezecie mówiła :)

Anonymous said...

to moze ja na seksmisja zapros - na pewno zalapie.