Wesele (The Wedding) (1973)




Director:     .

Starring:     Marek Walczewski (Host), Izabella Olszewska (Hostess), Ewa Zietek (Bride), Daniel Olbrychski (Bridegroom), Emilia Krakowska (Marysia), Mieczyslaw Stoor (Wojtek), Kazimierz Opalinski (Father), Henryk Borowski (Old Man), Marek Perepeczko (Jasiek), Janusz Bukowski (Kasper), Andrzej Lapicki (Poet), Wojciech Pszoniak (Journalist / Stanczyk), Andrzej Szczepkowski (Nose), Mieczyslaw Czechowicz (Priest), Barbara Wrzesinska (Maryna).

national drive toward self-determination after the Polish uprisings of  1830 and 1863


Helpful note:  The 1901 play by Wyspiański that became this film was based on a real-life event: the wedding of Lucjan Rydel at the St. Mary's Basilica in Kraków and his wedding reception in the village of Bronowice.  The author and his friends were part of the intelligentsia of the Young Poland movement.  They were against the great divide between land owners and peasants.  The wedding involves the uniting of an intellectual groom and a peasant bride.  This was a fashionable trend among intellectual friends of the playwright.  Many arguments at the wedding reception flow from the class and intellectual divides between the intellectuals and the peasants. Guilty liberal consciences in the movie are haunted by Polish historical figures as ghosts who remind the intellectuals of what others actually did (as opposed to just pontificating) to make Poland a more modern nation.  (Info from Wikipedia.)


Spoiler Warning:

Krakow 1900.  The wedding is over and now the carriages take the bride and groom to the countryside for a reception.  The carriages pass by troops on a parade ground.  The reception area is filled with people drinking and dancing.  A politician comes into the reception and is met by a wedding guest, Czepiec, who asks him what's new in the political world?  The politician says he has to deal with politics all day long and he's sick of it.  If the man wants to know what's going on, he can read the newspaper he has.  Czepiec looks over the newspaper. 

The politician goes over to a young woman who is hiding her face in a corner of the room.  The politician tells her:  "You're like a Cossack, sad when he dismounts."  She says he's very flirtatious and he says he can't help it when he's around her. 

The Monsignor arrives.  The bride and groom go out to meet him.  Later the bride's sister gives her a hug, but then says that she thinks her sister the bride will regret it. 

Kilmina, widow of the village head goes over to speak to a counselor's wife from Krakow.

A tall man comes to the wedding reception.  He asks the groom why did he marry a peasant?  The groom says the educated women seem too plain for him.  The tall man's daughter, Rachela,  arrives at the reception.  The father says to the groom about his daughter and himself:  "I, a Jew, must disgust you, but you must respect her.  She's not ashamed of her father."

An older peasant comes in saying about the bride and groom:  "He's from the city, she's a peasant.  They've come from the city to greet the peasants."  The Jewish fellow says it's all a farce. 

The man interested in politics, Mr. Czepiec, comes to see the Monsignor.  The Jewish fellow says that Mr. Czepiec owes him some money.  Czepiec isn't interested in paying his debt.  The Monsignor says Czepiec is in debt.  The Jewish guy says to the Monsignor that he will not pay him, until Czepiec pays him.  And now the Monsignor really wants Czepiec to pay up.  Czepiec gets angry and says:  "Then who's the thief of my money?  The damned Jew, or the Monsignor?"

Someone brings up the subject of the uprising in 1846.  The groom says he's heard about it from relations, but he avoids the topic, ". . . they poison the image of the Polish village."  He goes outside and dances around. 

The older peasant says that in days past there used to be lots of bloodshed (in peasant uprisings).  The man he is speaking to doesn't want to hear about it.

Rachela has not been asked to dance yet.  A sophisticated-looking fellow, the poet, asks her if she is waiting for a peasant?  She says she's attracted to peasant men.  He says her father was complaining about the literary tone of the conversation.  He starts to dance with her, saying:  "lt is blended in your poetry: your father and peasants."  As the two of them dance together, many people stop and just watch them.  The music stops and then Rachela stops swooshing around the area.  When she stops the music begins again and the dancers go back to dancing.  The scene smells of anti-Semitism. 

Czepiec seems to want to stir up some trouble.  He keeps saying that something may start up.  He tells another man:  "If anything ever starts, you know we are eager and ready.  If whoever would like to use us, our scythes are hanging over there."  Another man says to Czepiec:  "You always have a strong mouth."  To which Czepiec responds:  "Then have a look at my fists.  Let me simply take a swing!  You can hear ribs clattering."  Another man, perhaps Jewish, says:  "Like you did to this Jew."  Czepiec brags:  "That Jew . .  when I smacked his gob, I thought it was his end.  But blood just dimmed his wits."

For the second time, soldiers on horses mill around outside the house where the wedding reception is being held.  What do they want? 

The groom says to the second Jewish fellow:  "Look at the peasants today!"  The Jewish fellow says:  "What has been, may come again."  The groom replies:  "We've forgotten everything.  They butchered my grandfather with a saw."'  The other fellow says:  "Stabbed my father to death somewhere.  Beat him, pushed him bleeding, drove him across the ice.  We've forgotten everything."

Czepiec gets into a fight with someone for contradicting him.  Two friends of his throw the offender outside into a mud puddle. 

Rachela looks outside.  There were several strawmen figures out on the lawn, but now there seems to be more of them for some reason.  She tells the sophisticated poet that he keeps reprimanding her.  He tells her:  "It's your heart burning with lust."  She says she came here to stay awhile, but she will humbly return home.  "And if I fall for you, I'll send you a letter and a key."  She also says she will go outside and invite a strawman in to attend the wedding.  She runs outside flaying her arms around as if she was trying to fly. 

The poet talks with the bride about the strawmen and ghosts and inviting them to the wedding reception.  [The poet is visited successively by the Black Knight, a symbol of the nation's past military glory.]  The groom comes in saying that he would like to invite everyone to his wedding.  So the poet tells him to invite the strawmen in.  And that's exactly what the groom does.  He invites the Strawman in. 

A sleepy little girl sees the Strawman come to the window wondering who is it that invites him in? 

The politician keeps seeing a man's face.  He says that somebody's always following him.  But who is it?  He thinks perhaps it's the court jester and conservative political sage Stańczyk (c. 1480–1560), who was the most famous court jester in Polish history, being employed by three Polish kings: Alexander, Sigismund the Old and Sigismund Augustus.

The groom goes outside again.  The older peasant asks what's wrong with him?  The groom says:  "Devils right from hell are present!"   A little later the peasant sees the devil dripping with blood.  The peasant asks who is this man bleeding?  The devil says:  "I am Jakub Szela!"  "I came here for the wedding, I was their father's executioner!"  [Jakub Szela (1787-1862 or 1866) was a Polish leader of a pro-Austrian peasant uprising against the Polish gentry in Galicia in 1846 that was directed against manorial property and oppression and rising against serfdom.  The mainly Polish peasants in Galicia killed over 1,000 noblemen and destroyed 474 manors.]  [Galicia lies within the modern border regions between Poland and Ukraine.]

Kassia and Kaspar go to the barn for a roll in the hay. 

People say there's a visitor at the door.  It's somebody of great importance.  The Jewish host answers the door knock.  A man says to the host.  "Welcome, Mister Wlodzimierz.  I came here as a guest."   [This is the Ghost of Wernyhora acting as a paradigm of leadership for Poland. Wernyhora presents the host with a golden horn symbolizing the national mission, and calls the Polish people to revolt.]  The ghost goes on to say that he has brought orders.  "Send messengers before dawn, to all four corners.  Be ready before the sun rises."  Wlodzimierz starts grabbing pistols and swords saying he will be ready.  He says it's the spirit of the nation talking to him.  He runs to the barn to get on his white horse, but he keeps falling off the animal.  He calls over Jasiek and tells him to go tell all the people to come to their place and have them bring their weapons.  That includes scythes.  Now Jasiek understands what the master wants.  He is gun ho to go now!  He gets on the white horse and rides off. 

The guests at the wedding think their host is going mad.  His wife tells him to go to sleep  She sits him in his chair and lowers the lights. 

Jasiek, drunk, wanders across national borders: the border of Russia and the border of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Some guards start chasing after him.  Now guards from the two countries corner Jasiek.  They stop him, but he gets away.  Troops start pouring out of their barracks ready for fighting.  

Czepiec gets ready to fight.  He and his friends put on their old uniforms.  They bring out lots of scythes to arm the men.  He then goes to the wedding reception to get more men.  They find the squires still at the wedding reception and they pin them down on the table and threaten them with their scythes. Wlodzimierz says a ghost came to him last night.  Now the men take their scythes away from the heads and necks of the squires. 

Sounds of a horse and rider are heard.  Someone's coming. 

What's coming is a peasant army armed with scythes.  The army comes right up to the wedding house.  Running on foot Jasiek comes to the house.  Everyone stands there like they were in a trance.  Jasiek is a bit scared.  And now he realizes he lost the prized national horn while on his ride.  All of a sudden everyone awakens and drops their weapons.  The people outside start dancing. 


"Wesele is a defining work of Polish drama written at the turn of the 20th century.  It describes the perils of the national drive toward self-determination after the Polish uprisings of November 1830 and January 1863, the result of the Partitions of Poland."  So this is a Polish classic film.  In part it focuses on the frustrations of many Polish intellectuals over the at times hopeless situation actually to make political progress when the nation is torn apart by other, more powerful nations.  Poland lies between Germany on the west and Russia on the east and there was also the power of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Poland was always being partitioned by these bigger and stronger countries.  The Polish intellectuals dream romantic dreams of the great historical figures but these figures can also haunt the intellectual's dreams accusing these people of not really doing anything great to modernize Poland.  They reach out to the peasantry as a way of assuaging their guilt about not being able to effect change to help the less fortunate and the nation as a whole.  The film pokes a bit of fun at the intellectuals marrying into the peasantry as a way of making themselves feel more like they are united with the people.  The film shows that the gaps between the intellectuals and the land owners on the one hand and the peasantry on the other were still very striking.  (There also is a gap between the intellectuals and the land owners.)

Wikipedia helped me more fully understand the film, supplying useful information on historical figures in the movie.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed the movie as I watched and summarized it.  There was always an expectation that something terrible was going to happen at the wedding reception with all the divisions among the wedding guests.  This kept the tension up, adding to the enjoyment of the film.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 



Historical Background:

c. 960-1370  --  one of the longest-reigning dynasties were the Piasts Poland was established as a state and a nation during the Middle Ages of European history.

1792-1835  --  reign of King Francis II.  The last Holy Roman Emperor when he abdicated and the Empire was formally dissolved. In 1804, he had founded the Austrian Empire and became Francis I, the first Emperor of Austria (Kaiser von Österreich)

1835-1848  --  reign of King Ferdinand I of the Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty.  After the unsuccessful Cracow Uprising of 1846, the Free City of Cracow was annexed by Austria on 16 November 1846 as the Grand Duchy of Cracow; the full official name of the province was extended to Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, and the Grand Duchy of Cracow with the Duchies of Auschwitz and Zator.

1848-1916  --  reign of King Francis Joseph I.  After the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, and the reorganization of the Empire as the Dual Monarchy, a broad autonomy was granted to Galicia and Lodomeria within Cisleithania, the Austrian part of Austria-Hungary.

1866  --  Austro-Prussian War.

1867-1918  --  the Dual Monarchy.  Austria-Hungary was created through the mechanism of the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 (Ausgleich).  The Hungarians finally achieved their aims of autonomy.

1916-1918  --  reign of Charles I.  He renounced all participation in affairs of state but did not abdicate.



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