Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Cud nad Wisłą / Miracle on the Vistula

Cud nad Wisłą / Miracle on the Vistula. The valiant priest Jan Skorupka leads Polish troops to combat Bolsheviks.

[Ihme Veikselillä]
    PL 1921. PC: Orient-Film. D: Ryszard Bolesławski. SC: Adam Zagórski. CIN: Zbigniew Gniazdowski. AD: Ewelina Librowicz-Mucharska, N. Borowski, Józef Galewski.
    C: Jadwiga Smosarska (Krysta – Maciej Wieruń's daughter), Anna Belina (Ewa – daughter of the hospital caretaker Piotr), Władysław Grabowski (Dr. Jan Powada), Edmund Gasiński (Maciej Wieruń, from Kresów), Leonard Bończa-Stępiński (Boneza / the hospital janitor Piotr), Stefan Jaracz (bolshevik agitator Jan Rudy), Zygmunt Chmielewski, Kazimierz Junosza-Stępowski (bolshevik agent), Honorata Leszczyńska (Mrs. Granowska), Jerzy Leszczyński (Jerzy Granowski), Wincenty Rapacki (father Granowski), Janusz Strachocki (gamekeeper), Bogusław Samborski (Michał, Krysta's brother), Michał Znicz (actor in the theatre troupe).
    Loc: Eastern Kręzy, the battlefield between Poles and bolsheviks 1920.
    The only surviving film where the legendary theatre actors Honorata Leszczyńska and Wincenty Rapacki can be seen on screen.
    Not released in Finland.
    A film in two parts and eight acts. Half of it survives: footage from acts 1, 3, 6, and 8. The Filmoteka Narodowa 2010 digital reconstruction with explanatory titles 44 min
    Introductory lecture by Jarno Hänninen.
    Screened a DCP processed from the Filmoteka Narodowa digital file, with Johanna Pitkänen at the piano and e-subtitles in Finnish by Petteri Kalliomäki, at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Centenary of the Restoration of Polish Independence), 19 Sep 2018

We are celebrating many centenaries, all connected: the First World War, the Russian Revolution, Finnish Independence, Finnish Civil War, Restoration of Polish Independence, Estonian Independence...

This was a rewarding and rounded presentation of Richard Boleslawski's Miracle on the Vistula. Although half of the movie is missing, the Filmoteka Narodowa reconstruction helps make sense of what remains. Jarno Hänninen's informative lecture helped flesh out the turbulent historical context. Petteri Kalliomäki handled the electronic subtitling smoothly. Johanna Pitkänen brought a sense of Polish spirit with her inspired interpretation of Chopin's mazurkas.

I don't remember having seen Boleslawski's silent films before. I was struck by his assured touch all over. I liked already the portrait credit titles. Boleslawski does have a firm sense of mise-en-scène. The lighting is superb as are all aspects of the cinematography by Zbigniew Gniazdowski. The imagery is enchanting. The art titles are stylish. Moving masks and split screens are in use. Memory flashes are conveyed as ingrained superimpositions of faces.

Quite evidently this was a prestige production.

The actors are good, and Boleslawski is a good director of them. He had been a pupil of Konstantin Stanislavski at the Moscow Art Theatre. In 1923 in New York, together with Maria Ouspenskaya, he established the American Laboratory Theatre. Their students included Stella Adler, Harold Clurman, and Lee Strasberg.

With materials as fragmented as these, it is impossible to comment on the storytelling.

As for historical accuracy, it is probably better to consult a good history book. Suffice it to say that the enemy is portrayed in gross caricature, as an incarnation of the Devil. The epic battle scenes are well staged.

A beautiful job of restoration by Filmoteka Narodowa. I like the refined simulation of toning. It looks like this copy has been produced without adjustment to silent speed (the proper speed might be 20 fps). There are music credits in the end titles, but this copy is silent.


Gatunek     wojenny, niemy
Data premiery     16 marca 1921
Kraj produkcji     Polska
Reżyseria     Ryszard Bolesławski
Scenariusz     Adam Zagórski
Zdjęcia     Zbigniew Gniazdowski
Scenografia     Ewelina Librowicz-Mucharska, Józef Galewski
Produkcja     Orient-Film

    Jadwiga Smosarska (Krysta, córka zamożnego gospodarza Macieja Wierunia)
    Anna Belina (Ewa, córka dozorcy szpitalnego Piotra)
    Władysław Grabowski (doktor Jan Powada)
    Edmund Gasiński (Maciej Wierun, gospodarz z Kresów)
    Leonard Bończa-Stępiński (Piotr, dozorca szpitala dziecięcego)
    Stefan Jaracz (Jan Rudy, agitator bolszewicki)
    Zygmunt Chmielewski
    Kazimierz Junosza-Stępowski (agent bolszewicki)
    Honorata Leszczyńska
    Jerzy Leszczyński
    Wincenty Rapacki (ojciec)
    Janusz Strachocki (gajowy)

About the film


An epic patriotic drama, initially consisting of two parts, illustrating episodes of the Polish-Soviet war. The film was produced at the request of the Department of Propaganda of the Ministry of Military Affairs and skillfully made by the actor and director of the Moscow Art Theatre, later a highly acknowledged Hollywood artist. Due to the fact that the subject of the film was relevant and deeply emotional for many and due to the superb cast, the film was a huge success among Polish audiences. The film starts on Christmas Eve in 1919 at the Granowski family’s mansion on the eastern borderlands of Poland. The daughter of peasant Maciej Wieruń is a ward of the Granowskis. She is in love with their son Jerzy and the feeling is mutual. On Christmas Eve the family gathers at the dinner table. Jerzy is eager to visit his fiancée at her father’s house where everybody is also engaged in Christmas preparations. In the preserved fragment of the film a different romantic plot thread comes to the fore – doctor Jan Powada, who works at a Warsaw hospital, falls in love with Ewa – the daughter of Piotr, a caretaker. By o stroke of fate they both save Wojtek’s, the youngest son of the Granowskis, life. The grateful family invites Ewa and the doctor to their manor in Kręzy. However the war with the Soviet invader intrudes the peaceful lives of the characters. An agitator Jan Rudy tries to cause disturbance in Kręzy. Doctor Powada serves at a field hospital. In order to reach him, Ewa wades through the frontline in a soldier’s uniform. In a secluded cottage she meets a travelling troupe of actors, which she joins. Accidentally they encounter a Polish army unit in which Antoś, who is unhappily in love with Ewa, serves. The comedians and soldiers jointly devise a clever, and ultimately successful, plan of an attack on the Soviets. Ewa finally reaches doctor Powada’s field hospital, and so does the wounded Jan Rudy, who later dies from a gunshot. The protagonists are saved from certain death when a Polish unit comes to the rescue. After many dramatic events, the course of war is drastically changed as a result of the successful attack of Polish soldiers on the Soviets in September 1920. The scene of the charge of Polish troops led by valiant priest Jan Skorupka has been preserved. After the war ends the couples can finally walk down the aisle. The final scenes include archival records of Józef Piłsudski being given a marshal’s baton on 14th November 1920. G.M.G.


The "Miracle at the Vistula" (1921) by Ryszard Bolesławski and "For you, Poland" (1920) by Antoni Bednarczyk – two legendary films portraiting the Polish-Bolshevik war of 1919-1920, which remained in the collection of the National Film Archive only in fragments. (…) The later and more famous due to the director Ryszard Bolesławski "Miracle at the Vistula" was an eight-act film. What remained of it is only a part composed of 39 minutes. (…) The eight-act film, produced by the “Orient-film” film company, was made of (as it was then noted) two series, meaning two parts. The first (its premiere was on March 16, 1921) used the language of advertisements of that time: it introduced active people and contained an interesting detailed connection with drama. The opening scenes took place on Christmas Eve in a manorial dome and a cottage and were evidence of the respect for tradition by members of all states.

The following generic scenes introduced romance motives which ended with two weddings in the last scenes of the film. The second part of "Miracle at the Vistula" (premiere on March 29, 1921) related events from the Polish-Bolshevik war from August 1920. In it the members of all social groups together defend Poland from the Bolsheviks. Battle scenes were often described by the press as ‘documental’, however most of them were efficiently made by Bolesławski as armed scenes. Some of them still function in numerous copies as documental pictures from the Polish-Bolshevik war. The second part, preserved until today, was humorous (most likely Bolesławski aimed to avoid battle monotony) and showed a troupe of nomadic actors accidently engaged in war activities. (…) Therefore the availability of fragments of the "Miracle at the Vistula" is especially significant for documentary reasons.

Małgorzata Hendrykowska, The Polish-Bolshevik war in silent films

 press review

The film was produced almost parallel to the historic events it depicted. Its merit, arising from this fact, is invaluable. At the same time it is evident that the creators took the tastes of the mass audience into account, since not one, but two romance plot threads are very prominent in the film. As for the battle scenes, the scene of the Polish troops’ charge led by Father Skorupka has been preserved. It is important from the point of view of researching the ways of creating national myths and legends.

„Gazeta Wyborcza", 2011

Everybody who has a Polish heart. Everybody who personally took part in the heroic battles of the former year and protected our Motherland against the enemy’s invasion. Everybody who, thanks to the unshaken heroism of our brave youngsters, has saved his belongings from plunder and his hearth from disgrace. Everybody should watch this great two-series picture titled: MIRACLE AT THE VISTULA (…) Produced in Warsaw in cooperation with the greatest artists of our stages.

„Kurier Poranny", 1921, No. 72

They are 80 years old and incomplete and on top of that black and white, but they will rouse many viewers. They will bring together a film fan, a theatre fan, a history enthusiast and a fan of experimental music. (…) Both titles refer to the Polish-Soviet war, but "For You, Poland" takes place in 1919 and "Miracle…" is about the Battle of Warsaw. Although they were filmed many years ago in a then predominant melodramatic manner, the pictures do not seem outdated. They include many dynamic shots, e.g. during the battle scenes. The creators decided to show – realistic, even brutal – depictions of Bolshevik attacks on the civil population. They also used documentary materials. In "For You, Poland" – records of the ceremony of Vilnius’ incorporation into Poland. In "Miracle…" – records of Józef Piłsudski receiving the marshal’s baton. In order to make the background of the films’ creation clearer for viewers, additional materials include a commentary from Professor Małgorzata Hendrykowska. It provides information on, among other things, the cast of Bolesławski’s picture, called ‘brilliant’ by the pre-WWII press. Indeed, in this story which begins ‘on a Christmas Eve in a manor’s and a peasant’s cottage and ends with the depiction of August days in 1920’ included performances by the most excellent (…) – famous stage actors. "Miracle…" is the only material that shows their performances.

„Uważam Rze", 18.04.2011

did you know?

    The "Miracle at the Vistula" was an 8-act movie. Only 39 minutes of the material has been preserved.

    It is the only film in which we can see the legendary stage actors of the time on screen – Honorata Leszczyńska as Ms Granowska and the elderly Wincenty Rapacki as the landowner Granowski.

Puolalaisten ja bolshevikkien välistä sotaa kuvaava isänmaallinen eepos tuotettiin sotilasministeriön propagandaosaston toimeksiannosta melkein reaaliaikaisesti. Sen toteutti taidokkaasti Moskovan Taiteellisen Teatterin näyttelijä ja ohjaaja Ryszard Bolesławski, joka siirtyi sittemmin Hollywood-uralle. Kouraisevan aiheensa ja ensiluokkaisen näyttelijätulkintansa ansiosta elokuva sai valtaisan yleisönsuosion.
    Tapahtumat käynnistyvät jouluaattona 1919 Granowskin kartanossa Itä-Puolassa. Talonpoika
Maciej Wieruńin Krysta-tytär on Granowskien holhokkina. Hän rakastuu Granowskien poikaan Jerzyyn, ja tunne on molemminpuolinen. Jouluaattona perhe kokoontuu illallispöytään. Jerzy tulee tapaamaan Krystaa tämän isän talossa, jossa kaikki ovat myös joulunvieton valmisteluissa. Eloku-vasta säilyneessä jaksossa nousee esiin toinenkin romanttinen juoni: lääkäri Jan Powada, joka työs-kentelee varsovalaisessa sairaalassa, rakastuu Ewaan, sairaalan talonmiehen tyttäreen. Kohtalon käänteen seurauksena molemmat pelastavat Wojtekin, Granowskien nuorimman pojan, hengen. Kiitollinen perhe kutsuu Ewan ja lääkärin kartanoonsa Kręzyssä.
    Bolshevikkien hyökkäys katkaisee ihmisten rauhantahtoisen elämänmenon. Agitaattori Jan Rudy yrittää lietsoa levottomuuksia Kręzyssä. Powada palvelee rintamasairaalassa. Tavoittaakseen hänet Ewa vaeltaa rintaman halki sotilaspuvussa. Suojaisessa majassa Ewa kohtaa kiertävän näytteli-jäseurueen. Sattumoisin he kohtaavat puolalaisen sotilasyksikön, jossa Ewaan onnettomasti rakas-tunut Antoś palvelee. Näyttelijät ja sotilaat kehittelevät yhdessä neuvokkaan ja menestyksellisen hyökkäyssuunnitelman neuvostojoukkoja vastaan.
    Ewa löytää lopulta Powadan rintamasairaalasta, kuten myös haavoittunut Jan Rudy, joka sittem-min kuolee saamaansa ampumahaavaan. Päähenkilöt pelastaa varmalta kuolemalta puolalainen soti-lasyksikkö. Lopulta sodassa tapahtuu käänne syyskuussa 1920. Elokuvasta on säilynyt jakso, jossa puolalaiset joukot hyökkäävät urhean Isä Jan Skorupkan johdolla. Sodan päätyttyä molemmat ra-kastuneet parit pääsevät viimein kävelemään kohti alttaria. Loppukohtauksissa on dokumenttikuvaa, jossa Józef Piłsudski saa marsalkan sauvan 14.11.1920.
    Bolesławskin lavastamia kohtauksia on usein käytetty dokumenttielokuvissa

– Filmoteka Narodowan verkkosivun tietojen mukaan AA 19.9.2018

Frederic Chopin - Mazurkas (Könemann Music Budapest)

Op. 6, No. 3
Brown Index 73 (1832)
Op. 68 No. 3
Op. 24, No. 2
Op. 67, No. 1
Op. 67, No. 2
Op. 7, No. 1
Op. 7, No. 2
Op. 7, No. 3
Op. 56, No. 2
Op. 67, No. 3
Op. 68, No. 2
Op. 7, No. 5

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