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The Knightly Ethos:
Its Disintegration

by Adam Michnik

In selecting Reymont's novel as a basis for his film, Wajda entered unchartered territory: the building of great fortunes in industrial £ód¼ with the accompanying passions and social tensions. The Polish nobleman, the hero of lost insurrections and wars, goes capitalist.

As the film unfolds, we witness the disintegration of the knightly ethos of old Polish noble families, of the wonderful world of their estates, and of the syndrome of Polish virtues - loyalty to tradition and religion, respect for bravery in patriotic imperatives, charity for the poor and the humbled. The world passes on, along with Karol Borowiecki's father and with his fair-haired fiancee, with the manor house sold to a vulgar parvenu. It is replaced by cynicism, brutal greed and a lack of Christian values.

People preoccupied with making big money are contemptuous of historical tradition and of the virtues of their ancestors. This contempt is demonstrated equally by the Polish nobleman Karol Borowiecki, who -- after a moment's hesitation -- robs his family and perjures himself by swearing on an image of the Virgin Mary, by the German Max Baum, who drives his own father to ruin, and by the Jew Moritz Welt, who robs his family friend with cold calculation.

The Promised Land is a tale and a parable. It is a story about the little known genesis of Polish modern civilization, and a parable about a different facet of the Polish condition with its possible incarnations: an aggressive and ruthless descendant of a knightly family, and German and Jewish businessmen, who betray the moral codes of their religions and cultures.

Reproduced from "Wajda Films ", (vol 1:16) PWN, Warsaw, 1996. Adam Michnik, is a foremost dissident, one of the principal activist of the Solidarity movement during the 1980's and now the Editor-in-Chief of Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest circulation daily.

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