The Wedding (Wesele) 1972 | Kinoteka 2015

May 27th, 2015
Author: Meredith Taylor

Director: Andrzej Wajda

102min  Drama  Poland

WESELE (THE WEDDING, 1972) is one of Wajda’s most complex films. Based on a play by Stanislaw Wyspiansky written in 1900, THE WEDDING is an hallucination in the mist of the countryside, where guests at the party are visited by figures from Poland’s past. Set at a time when no Polish state existed, the groom, a journalist from Krakow, is a member of the intelligentsia, and marrying the daughter of a peasant. During the five-and-a-half minute opening-credit sequence, we follow the cortege with bride and groom going from the church through the countryside, with menacing soldiers lurking everywhere, to the house where the celebrations will be held. By now darkness has fallen and fog encloses everything. At the ceremony, the guests participate not so much in a party, but a comedy of manners, where everybody seems to chasing everybody else. Arguments ensue, and the free-for-all atmosphere degenerates into bitter fighting: the intelligentsia versus the peasantry; Poles against Jews; town’s people versus the rural population, the educated complain about the uneducated and, last but not least, women and men fight with great rancour. What follows are apparitions of Polish historical figures, who engage with the wedding guests in discussions about the way forward to Polish unity and statehood. Scenes from battles are replayed: the peasant army attacking the Russian troops in the successful battle of 1795, the same peasantry being slaughtered in the rebellion of 1846. None of the participating groups is shown in a favourable light: most of them prefer drink and day-dreaming to action, men seem to cheat permanently on their women, the artists are decadent and nobody seems to care much about the social inequalities. In the end, symbolically, the ghost of Wernyhora, an ancient Polish leader, presents the wedding party with a golden horn, to start the battle for independence. But soon, the horn is lost by the marching men outside, amidst the all-engulfing fog. A dreamlike journey through Polish history, told in poetic and expressionistic images, a picturesque yet nightmarish feast. AS


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