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Wesele [The Wedding]

fot: Renata Pajchel

The Wedding is the most original play written for the theatre in Polish and it's hard to imagine our literary and theatre life without it. It links, in a unique way, a description of a real wedding which Wyspianski witnessed in late autumn of 1900, with philosophical, historiosophical and liberation issues very important to the Polish society at the time.

Who are you? - the author asks the wedding guests. And who were we in the free and powerful Poland of the past centuries? Can we win freedom for ourselves and for future generations? Can the Polish intelligentsia and artists lead the peasant masses, which are the only real social force in an economically and culturally backward country? Wyspianski doesn't not only ask, he also pronounces his verdict: you aren't mature enough for freedom, you just turn around in a cursed dance of stagnation and torpor. This is the meaning of the last scene of The Wedding.

Wyspianski's accusation was a shock for his contemporaries, and its daring insight is still amazing. But The Wedding also became a prediction for the new era - thirteen years later the First World War broke out, and in 1918 Poland returned to the map of Europe as a free country, won back in an armed struggle by, among others, those funny guests of the Bronowice wedding, allegedly not mature enough to take responsibility for themselves and for others.

If one organised some kind of general hearing, only a few writers and artists could refute the accusation of stealing from The Wedding, such an vital part of Polish national awareness has this work become.

Many years after the premiere of the film, I met in Paris the master of the American cinema, Elia Kazan. When I introduced myself, he asked me: "Was it you who made the film which takes place during one night?" I immediately thought that he meant Ashes and Diamonds. It turned out that he meant The Wedding: "Who wrote you such a good script?"

I was happy and proud that I had managed to give such a convincing cinematic shape to a theatre play and that Elia Kazan was able to appreciate Stanislaw Wyspianski's brilliant drama so well.

Andrzej Wajda


Wajda, like every film director who adapts a theatre play, must have faced the problem:

how, without distorting the text could he overcome its theatrical character- its unity, its division into acts and scenes, certain conventions, which film doesn't tolerate? This task has been even more difficult in the case of The Wedding, since the heroes speak in verse; its elimination would abuse all those lines, which our contemporaries know by heart. Well, Wajda's response to the play is realism. The film could have enhanced the play, making it unbelievably colourful and so fulfilling the dreams of innumerable theatre scenographers, but it went in the opposite direction, making the reality of the drama concrete, tangible, and substantive. The wedding banquet room in Wajda's film is confined and stuffy, the vestibule is narrow, the yard - muddy and indistinct; in the stable, the Host's unfinished paintings lie haphazardly thrown next to farm equipment. And this material reality breaks through theatrical convention.

In such surroundings theatre can not go on; only life, that is film, can go on here. (...) The Wedding shows several peasants, several writers, several councillor's wives - and suddenly it turns out to be the most important thing that was written about Poland in Polish.

Krzysztof T. Toeplitz
"Miesiecznik Literacki", Warsaw, January, 1973

Andrzej Wajda's gory film is guilty of two cardinal sins. Two crimes have been committed here: historical truth has been neglected, and poetry has been massacred. Wyspianski's dream about a free Poland, his rancour against his contemporaries, his pain and sarcasm, presented as a poetic reckoning with his own generation, was translated by Wajda into the language of film, or, rather, into shrieks and gibberish. The intelligentsia of that time has been shown as a gang of buffoons who unable to act, have some sort of drunken visions. (...)

The ambitious Wajda wanted to make The Wedding a universal film. What he needed were blood and folklore, so to ensure that there was enough space for these two elements, he chopped up the most beautiful verses of our national poetry with a peasant scythe. Almost all of the fragile dialogues in The Wedding drown in deafening dance music and in the screams of the drunken mob. (...)

I never endorsed the slogan: "But do not tarnish the sacred, for saints must always remain." I myself have desecrated quite a few things. I am not a coward, but I wouldn't dare to strike these words from the text of The Wedding.

Antoni Slonimski
"Tygodnik Powszechny", Cracow, 25 February, 1973

The film takes off like a rocket in diabolical rhythm, and turns into a patriotic tragedy, which, owing to the epic memories and to the eruption of phantom visions, acquires unuspected greatness. It was this dimension of Stanislaw Wyspianski's play that placed this work among the classic works of Polish culture; it deals not only with the most important events in the history of a nation but also with a state of mind typical for a way of life and survival "à la polonaise." (...)

I am convinced that with this wonderful film Wajda has reached the summit, the way to which was paved by his three or four recent films. We are surprised and happy that at the age of forty-seven Wajda remains the most outstanding Polish film director.

Marcel Martin
"Écran", Paris, February, 1974

Wajda's masterpiece takes us to the very heart of Polish reality. (...) At first glance, it deals with an atmosphere of happiness in which the camera participates without restraint. Like an invited guest it clings to dancers, gets drunk on folk music, cuts into conversations, highlights the replies, look closely at faces, and then rushes to dance again. Untiring, curious, mad, but hopelessly incisive. (...) This is Poland exposed in its contradictions. (...) Poland drunk with alcohol and with words, suffering from the nobility's fantastic and ridiculous heroism, rigidly resigned and Catholic, a true likeness of the messenger who gallops on horseback through a nonexistent countryside. (...) This wonderful allegory, which successfully links the Baroque to perception, is more convincing than any deliberately didactic discourse.

Raymond Lefévre
"Image et Son", Paris, March, 1974

This film is available at the Merlin bookstore
Stanislaw Wyspianski's drama Wesele is available at the Merlin bookstore

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