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fot: Piotr Bujnowicz
Andrzej Wajda and Roman Polanski (Papkin)

Zemsta [Revenge]

Director: Andrzej Wajda
Screenplay: Andrzej Wajda, based on a play Revenge, comedy in four acts, by Aleksander Fredro
Director of Photography: Pawel Edelman
Music: Wojciech Kilar
Cast: Roman Polanski, Janusz Gajos, Andrzej Seweryn, Katarzyna Figura, Rafal Krolikowski, Agata Buzek, Daniel Olbrychski.

Wajda about his movie

Revenge, written by Count Aleksander Fredro in the most beautiful of Polish, presents in a comic format a gallery of characters bestowed with the traits that have time and again been the root cause of our national misfortune.

The characters of Revenge created by Fredro are indeed the focus of my interest in this film. In order to best portray them, I invited actors from the stage and screen: Janusz Gajos, Andrzej Seweryn, Katarzyna Figura. The roles of the two young protagonists were created by Agata Buzek, as Klara, and Rafal Krolikowski, as Waclaw. The role of Papkin was played by Roman Polanski, who agreed to appear in front of the camera this time after so much directorial success.

fot: Piotr Bujnowicz
Andrzej Wajda and Andrzej Seweryn (Rejent)

I transported Revenge in its winter setting and its dividing wall to a castle on a vast snowy plain. The outline of the castle against rocks and among forests and fields is an unknown landscape in Polish film. This surprising treatment transforms the stage play into a film entity in every aspect.

I also have the certainty that the film version of Count Aleksander Fredro's comedy endowed the work with a quicker tempo in both the actors' performances as well as in the flow of the action, while editing allowed for many solutions that would have been impossible in the theater.

fot: Piotr Bujnowicz
Andrzej Wajda and Daniel Olbrychski (Dyndalski)

Today, as the culture of the image conquers the world, sometimes it's good to go to the cinema and hear real Polish preserved in a literary masterpiece and spoken by the best actors. We made this film in the hope that it would remind us of the beauty and perfection of our language, but that it would also remind us of something that is priceless today, the ability to laugh at our own shortcomings and weaknesses.

Andrzej Wajda

Aleksander Fredro

Aleksander Fredro (1793–1876), was a dramatist, poet, and diarist. His work is a significant and lasting contribution to the Polish literary tradition. He is mainly remembered for his social comedies about the Polish nobility. His most renowned comedies, Revenge, Maidens' Vows, Pan Jowialski, and The Annuity, form the foundation of Polish repertory theater.

Revenge – play and film

Revenge (1834) – This comedy, the peer and unwitting relative of Pan Tadeusz, as Prof. Julian Krzyzanowski referred to it, is woven of a traditional thread: the unrelenting conflict between two neighbors – mortal enemies – that ends in the happy marriage of their two children. The masterfully drawn characters, rapidly-paced action, comic situations, and unparalleled humor all provide wonderful opportunities for a superb staging and a showcase for ambitious acting.

A constellation of Polish stars appears in the film: Roman Polanski - Papkin, Janusz Gajos - Czesnik, Andrzej Seweryn - Rejent, Katarzyna Figura - Podstolina, Daniel Olbrychski - Dyndalski, Agata Buzek - Klara, Rafal Krolikowski - Waclaw, Lech Dyblik - Smigalski, Cezary Zak - Perelka.

fot: Piotr Bujnowicz
Roman Polanski (Papkin)


Today, few remember that Revenge was created at the same time as Pan Tadeusz. One breathes a sigh of wonder: o what a year 1834 was! While Mickiewicz wrote in exile and suffered terrible longing, Fredro remained at home and was not exactly in awe of his noble brethren. Quite the opposite, the then European viewed the farmers with pity, although sometimes with a smidgen of neighborly sympathy.


In his Obrachunki fredrowskie [The Settling of Accounts in Fredro's Work], Tadeusz Boy-Zelenski argues with a critic who saw in Fredro's comedy the "royal brilliance of the past": "What here is royal? The only royal aspect is Fredro's poetry; the rest is only the petty meannesses of little people". The pair of main protagonists received the worst berating: "...Poland fell because of such small-minded sowers of discord such as Czesnik, who, although aligned with the Bar Confederation, could just as well have been loyal to the Targowice Confederation, and by egoists, prevaricators, and quibblers such as Rejent...".


This is not, however, a self-portrait of Poles of the past which we can brag about now in the twenty-first century. When Rejent Milczek, setting off to duel Czesnik Raptusiewicz, affixes Hussar's wings to his shoulders, laughter spreads throughout the audience. This really is a funny scene since our brave knight looks like he's dressed up for a costume ball. This is doubtless one of the stronger symbols ever employed by Wajda; who knows, perhaps it's as significant as Rafal Olbromski's attire in the final scenes of Ashes. In times when the debate about "real" Polishness and "simply obedient" patriotism refer to the endless use of worn out props, the director appears to be saying: "those wings will certainly never lift off again, rather they will weigh down like a hump".

Zdzislaw Pietrasik, Sami swoi mocium panie [Our own, my lord], 4.10.2002, cited on

Page translated by Jennifer Zielinska

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