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'Pan Tadeusz'

Everything is larger than life in Wajda film

Thursday, March 15, 2001

By Ron Weiskind Post-Gazette Movie Editor

Everything is larger than life in Andrzej Wajda's "Pan Tadeusz" a long and florid cinematic adaptation of Adam Mickiewicz's 19th-century epic poem. It is the closing movie in the film festival that ends next Thursday.

"Pan Tadeusz"

Critic's Call:


The story takes place in 1811 in an area of Lithuania under Russian rule but populated by Poles who dream of being reunited with their homeland. The aristocratic families wait in anticipation for Napoleon's long-rumored invasion, hoping it will aid their cause.

But they seem busy enough fighting among themselves. A lawsuit between the Soplica and Horeszko families over ownership of the dilapidated local castle has simmered for years. The last Horezko to live there was murdered by the long-missing Jacek Soplica, who was rejected as a suitor for the aristocrat's daughter.

The bitter, scowling family retainer, Gerwazy (Daniel Olbrychski), relates the story to the Count, a distant Horeszko relative (Marek Kodrat). He has arrived with the inclination to let Jacek's brother, known as the Judge (Andrzej Seweryn) have the castle. Gerwazy's story changes his mind.

The other new arrival is Tadeusz (Michal Zebrowski), Jacek's son, who has been reared by the Judge and has come home from university. The beautiful young girl he meets in the garden, Zosia (Alicja Bachelda-Curus), is the last direct descendant of the Horeszkos. She is looked after by the flirtatious Telimena (Grazyna Szapolowska), a distant Soplica relative.

By now, you've figured out that it's difficult to tell the players without a scorecard, and that the personal situation serves as at least a partial metaphor for the political circumstances of the region. Jacek wanted Tadeusz to marry Zosia in order to end the family feud, but the Judge isn't so sure. The other possible conciliator is Father Robak (Boguslaw Linda), a monk with a rather conspicuous and seemingly incongruous scar on his face.

The characters strut and boast a lot, sometimes outrageously so. Their hearts and their blood tend to get the better of their brains, although their old-fashioned chivalry also makes them oddly civilized toward each other. Wajda gets the camera up close and encourages the broad gesture and the declamatory oration. He acknowledges their foolishness but also their common fealty to a larger purpose.

The landscapes and action scenes, as you might expect, amplify this stirring quality. But the movie is constricted by the status of Mickiewicz's poem as a national treasure that must be treated with the requisite care. The movie's 160-minute length comes in the attempt to include as many of the poem's well-known scenes as possible, and the movie also adheres to the poem's language.

Still, once you've sorted everything out, "Pan Tadeusz" has its pleasures, especially for those who like their movies expansive.

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