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Wajda and the making and revising of The Promised Land, the film

Daniel Olbrychski as Karol Borowiecki
Wajda brought The Promised Land to the screen in 1975. It achieved an undisputed success receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film the following year. The adaptation of Reymont' tale to the screen had been an enormous undertaking and was achieved in record time of 77 shooting days. Shoots took place in dozens of places in £ód¼, nearby towns and in Silesia where nineteenth century urban landscapes survived. At the end of the 18th century £ód¼ had been a small village with a population of not quite 200 souls. In the middle of the following century, that number had risen to 20,000 and by the end of the 19 century to fully 300,000. Such rapid growth of a town is hard to imagine even today. From all part of the country - form small towns, and villages thousands of people made their way to Lodz looking for employment, wages and a better life. In this "Promised Land" they found crowding, dirt, poverty, and exploitation, while a few made fortunes from the superhuman effort of the masses. Such were the beggings of capitalism on the Polish lands, which led to rise of industry and urban worker populations. Wladyslaw Remont's novel presents in an exceptionally colorful and dynamic fashion the stormy social changes that accompanied the development of Lodz. The Promised Land is the account of the careers of three friends, industrialists all. Karol Borowiecki works as an engineer in Buchholtz factory, Moryc Welt works as a commercial broker and Marks Baum is the son of the owner of a failing textile mill. The three friends - a Pole, a Jew and a German - dream about opening their own factory and instant riches. Karol is engaged to a poor gentlewoman, Anna Kurowska. He spends the little free time he has with her on his fathers estate in the vicinity of £ód¼. is a middleman, but Buchholtz, like other capitalists, expects him to work to exhaustion, yet pays a minimal salary. Without question he tramples human dignity, but only one employee protests - Von Horn - and loses his job over it. By deceit they acquire wealth and decide to build a textile mill. To achieve its construction and operation they have to fight with the local industrial sharks. Karol is force to sell the family estate. He becomes romantically involved with Lucy Zucker, the young wife of a rich industrialist. When he accompanies her secretly on a trip to Berlin, he learns that his uninsured factor has burned to the ground. He can only avoid total catastrophe by breaking his engagement with Anka and marrying Magda, the daughter of a German multimillionaire. At the price of giving up his ideals and his good name, he becomes a mighty £ód¼ capitalist.

The film run three hours (180 minutes) but Wajda had enough material for four hours, and so three years later, on May 21, 1978, a television version of The Promised Land was shown on Polish Television.

Andrzej Seweryn as Marks Baum, Daniel Olbrychski
as Karol Borowiecki, and Wojciech Pszoniak as Moryc Welt

On October 9, 2000 Warsaw's most prestigious theater, its Teatr Wielki, featured a new version of the film, 30 minutes shorter than the original. In the new version, Wajda had changed the sequence of some of the film's scenes. In discussing the new version, Wajda said that he introduced three changes. the most important was moving the opening scene on the Borowiecki estate in Kurów to the second part of the film. At the time that he shot the film, he had felt that he had to introduce the viewer to the world from which his protagonist came; the idyllic world of the gentlefolk complete with the estate on which lives the noble past - Karol Borowiecki's father. It was only later in the film that he presented to the viewers the fact that it was from this world that spawned Karol, a man of action and strong character, a true Lodzmensch. Now, a quarter of a century later, he sees the real beginning of the film is the prayer, of the German, the Jews and the Pole. Its important that this beginning takes place in £ód¼, since this is a film about that place. Borowicki is introduced to the viewer as a man without scruples, frequently acting in a brutal manner. Only later will the viewer see what are his real roots is introduced. The contrast between this "beast" and the gentleness of his childhood is startling. The second change is the shortening of the film. When originally made, each scene represented a major effort on the part of the actors and the filming crew, hence it seemed inappropriate to excise it from the final product. Looking at it with fresh eyes after the passage of 25 years Wajda decided that some scenes were not essential. The third change Wajda introduced was to add a scene from the TV version of the film. He states that while he was writing the script he had been very moved that Reymont, describing £ód¼ as the locus of pitiless exploitation, of seeking of wealth, which he portrayed ironically as in a bent mirror, place their a scene as if from another world. In that scene several factory clerks and employees of exchange houses gather in a cellar where they jointly make music, playing classical pieces. It appear that these people, seemingly so engrossed in financial affairs, have some spiritual needs, dumped down by the daily struggle to amass wealth in this accelerated rhythm of life. That scene casts a new light not only on these individuals but also on £ód¼, which later in the 1918-39 inter-war period became an artistic town.

The above is an edited translation by Peter K. Gessner of Film Polski pieces about the various version of the film

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