Krajobraz po bitwie [Landscape After The Battle]
Among the many superb literary works describing war, Zofia Nalkowska's Medaliony [Medallions] and Tadeusz Borowski's Prosze panstwa do gazu [Welcome to the gas chamber] occupy a special place in Polish literature. I still read these works with fear. Man knows so little about himself until he finds himself in a similar situation.
Neither of these short stories has ever been filmed, probably because the image of war they offer leaves no room for illusions about mankind.
The same bitterness is visible in Bitwa pod Grunwaldem [Battle of Grunwald], even though, in this case, Borowski's story takes place after the war, in a DP camp somewhere in Germany.
In 1939 prewar Poland disintegrated like a house of cards before our very eyes. Disillusionment with the old Poland contributed substantially to the attitudes of the postwar intelligentsia and facilitated, at least in the initial period, its close contacts with the new rulers. I believe that this is exactly why I understood Borowski's bitter irony so well. I could easily imagine his short story as a part of my own biography. This is why, when the opportunity arose, I did everything to make a film based on Battle of Grunwald.
I never met Tadeusz Borowski. It didn't really matter, since it was Daniel Olbrychski who was to play him.
It was a joy to observe how Daniel wrestled with the part, so unsuitable for him, how he overcame his habits and abandoned well learned methods in order to convey something deeply moving and true. He was actively supported in this struggle by Stanislawa Celinska, who was completely unlike any Polish actress I had known before.
Daniel and Stasia gave wings to this film, but we all had a feeling that we were making something important. Unfortunately, after the last shot, the beautiful period of creative struggle with the material provided by Borowski's prose was over, and political complications around the film began. The first warning came when part of the material we had shot was confiscated by secret police agents active in the Polish film industry. They wanted to find on the screen the faces of Adam Michnik and Barbara Torunczyk who had been hired as extras by my assistant Andrzej Titkow without the consent of the film supervisors. Both dissidents had just been released from prison and they needed to earn a little money. A storm broke out. Luckily for us, the controllers did not manage to locate the "criminals". I believe that Adam and Basia, both experienced conspirators, had enough reasons not to expose their faces to the camera. Adam Michnik remembers this incident somewhat differently. Nonetheless, Andrzej Titkow had to leave our crew.
This incident foreshadowed the black clouds gathering around our film. General Moczar had his people everywhere, and the editors of the weekly "Ekran" were totally subordinated to him. Nationalist communists indulged in manipulating the emotions related to national "sacred issues" and attacked our film. Our criticism of prewar Poland, born of a deep internal conflict, fell victim to empty patriotic slogans which Moczar suddenly began to defend.
This film tells of a passion seemingly distant from social issues. It is a loving embrace of the self liberating - though not yet liberated - boy and girl. (...)
I understood it as a symbol, as a picture of Mickiewicz's lava adhering to the embittered girl and to the boy ridden with skepticism. The surrealist picture of two naked bodies rolling on the ground, where the cover of dead leaves hides sharp twigs and stones which wound and hurt both lovers, might be symbolic of the pain that accompanies liberation, but is this symbol presented by Wajda intentionally? (...)
This beautiful symbol of love can also represent human trash from the barracks. The superficial humiliation will be cast off, but will the lovers be illuminated by a creative flame? (...) I believe this is Wajda's main concern and in this he is not alone. He has behind him the tradition of our greatest artists: Zeromski, who tore at wounds, Matejko, who was reviled as a slanderer for the bitter image of Rejtan, Chopin and his melancholy, the Cracow Historical School with its revisionism.
This is a firm foundation.
Landscape After the Battle is the arena of a raging debate about the significance of such notions as homeland, country, nation; a debate as important today as it was in 1945.
Is the homeland synonymous with a trolley loaded with books, a commonwealth of language, landscapes remembered from childhood "transfused into the bloodstream" as Tadeusz would have it, or does the homeland cease to have any significance, when one cannot find one's place in it, as Nina discovers through her very existence?
What matters for Tadeusz is a country of landscapes of all the battles: won, lost, and still continuing. Wajda, who created this beautiful tale about human beings, seems to share his hero's opinion.
The whole film is fraught with a powerful, desperate and disillusioned love of the homeland; it justifies deep pessimism as a painful experience of various forms of external suppression and internal conflict. The liberation of Poland doesn't bring freedom from this suffering. The Americans of 1945 are like the Russians of yesterday and today: the Poles' "freedom under surveillance" continues - Andrzej Wajda reminds us bitterly.
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