The Knightly Ethos:
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.