Thursday 23 September 2010

Polonez - Pan Tadeusz

I love this film.
This scene, the stork, always gives me a lump in my throat. I can't help it. I've been to Lithuania. I've seen the storks.


  1. Thank you for sharing this, Hana. It was so beautiful. I wish I had the English translation, or that I could find the film with English subtitles. My husband plays an instrument very similar to the one that the elderly man played. We call it a hammered dulcimer. The shape and sound and the hammers are similar, but the stringing and tuning are different.

  2. I found the English subtitles online somwhere; I don't have the DVD myself, only recorded from TV, so I don't know if it has English subtitles. But it's certainly one of the films I really, I really want to have on DVD. I suppose I should try to do something about that...

    The instrument is called "cimbál/cymbál" in Czech, and it's quite big in Moravia. I cannot tell whether it's the same as in the film, or a bit different, though. :-)

    The subtitles go like this - although it's not literal translation, so here and there I'm sure something's missing from it, but not too much:

    No one dared to play on the dulcimer in Jankiel's presence. So they begged him to play
    but he refused and said:
    "My hands are stiff. I don't dare play before
    such distinguished company."
    He bowed.
    Zosia came up to him.
    "Jankiel," she said, "I beg of you, play, this is my betrothal. Play, dear Jankiel. You promised me you would."
    "Now it's time... to dance a polonaise!"
    The Chamberlain advanced, rolled up his sleeves, twirled his mustache, offered his arm to Zosia, and, with a polite bow, invited her to dance.

    Here's where something is missing: In Polish, they name his coat with the sleeves - the traditional Polish coat; and it also says that he invites her to dance as the first pair.
    Then, after the dance, which takes place in 1812, it switches to, approx, 1830s, in France - after the uprising in 1830-31, when many Polish people had to flee, Mickiewicz included. The wild haired man who speaks in the end is him.
    "Lithuania! My country! You are like health. Your worth is only known to those who have lost you. Today, your beauty I see and can describe, because I yearn for you.
    Holy Virgin, who guards Częstochowa and shines above the Ostra Gate, who protects our country and its faithful people, who restored me as a child to life, when placed in your care by my meeping mother, you opened my dying eyes, thus enabling me to walk to your shrine to thank God for the life you gave back to me.

    Here the indispensable Polish catholicism shines through... Historical note: Poland and Lithuania have for long been one state. Mickiewicz himself was, my sister says, Lithuanian (it's a Lithuanian surname, Mickievičius), but spoke Polish and wrote in Polish.
    Now, by such a miracle, return me to my country. Carry my grieving soul to those hills and green meadows, that stretch along the blue Niemen, to those many-hued fields of grain, and silvery rye.
    Here, again, the translation is not literal, which is a pity, because in original it says "to those fields painted with various goods, gilded with wheat, silver with rye" - which I absolutely love.

  3. Hana, thank you so much for taking the time to type this out. I appreciate your effort very much. I really wanted to know what Mickiewicz was saying. I really liked how the film maker captured his reflection in the picture of the Madonna, so even though I didn't understand the language, I got the idea that he was praying. I can see why the picture of the stork would put a lump in your throat. The whole scene is very moving. Thank you again.

  4. I'm so glad you like it! I haven't been online for several days...
    See, because you did not understand the spoken language, you got even more from the visual language of the film - I must have always known what the scene with the picture of Madonna meant, but I never got the purely visual message, because I understood the spoken one as well! (Czech and Polish are quite different, but after I've seen the film many times with subtitles and read the book several times, I know well what they're saying.)
    I think that goes to show that Andrzej Wajda really knows his art well and made a masterpiece here - admittedly one that the Polish appreciate more than anyone else, but still.

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  6. Hana, I have heard so much about this epic Polish story. Our priests teach Polish lessons, and I used to go, when I had more time for studying. We used to have a Fr. Tadeusz who told us about it.
    I was going to ask you why you spoke of Lithuania, but you explained it in an earlier comment, I see... But I'm disappointed to hear that a subtitled version isn't available - too bad! Nic nie pamietam po polsku. Well, almost nothing!

  7. Well, Lisa, I don't know about the film, but the book itself was certainly translated into English! Maybe even more than one time. And I love the book just as much as the film. If you can get the book and read it, understanding the film should not be such a problem. It actually helped me understand the story a bit more, because, as in every good epic, there is a lot of characters and there are naturally more details in the book.
    Unfortunately, I cannot recommend an English translation - as I'm Czech, I read the Czech one, by 19th century Czech poet Eliška Krásnohorská - that's certainly a beautiful translation, but it won't help you. ;-) As a Czech, I also understand a lot of written Polish. Spoken Polish is much worse...