". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Polish Trilogy - Henryk Sienkiewicz & Jerzy Hoffman.- Winter Solstice Is Coming!

Henryk Sienkiewicz won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1905 "because of his outstanding merits as an epic writer".

His epic was addressed the wars and political events the resulted in the first dismemberment of Poland, that led inexorably to dissolution as a state. At the time the author received the Nobel Poland, as a nation, no longer existed.  Certainly, contributing to his selection, was the passion and devotion with which the author worked to keep the world's mind upon the issue of the plight of the Polish people and Poland's dissolution.  The reestablishment of the nation-state of Poland didn't happen until after the end of WWI -- the Second Polish Republic, or, the Second Commonwealth of Poland.

Known in Poland as "The Trilogy", the volumes are:

1884 - With Fire and Sword (Polish: Ogniem i mieczem); set in the period of the Cossack uprising against the Polish Nobility in what we know as Ukraine.

1886 - The Deluge (Polish: Potop); set during the Polish-Swedish war.

1888 - Fire in the Steppe (originally published under the Polish title Pan Wołodyjowski, which translates to Colonel Wolodyjowski); set during the Turkish invasion of Poland's eastern frontier.

These books have been turned into very fine epic, historic films, that contain everything anyone can want from such fare: swashing, battles, sieges, duels ( cannon  pushed and dragged through the snow), stunning location scenery, romance, intrique and betrayal, love and romance, ballrooms and love, and at least in one of them, strands of magic and sorcery.

The last of Jerzy Hoffman's Sienkiewicz adaptations was With Fire and Sword, Released in 1999, it was the most expensive Polish film ever made at that time -- the year the Polish Film Festival began, as well as the year Poland joined NATO. It was something that could now happen since their independence from the USSR, as the Third Polish Republic in 1991.

Its New York opening was somewhat of a sensation. It was lauded with much more respectful enthusiasm than the local cinestes usually accord historic, period films. As well as recognition of the film's high cinematic values, the enthusiasm perhaps reflected the respect felt for Poland's long struggle for independence from the USSR -- solidarity! That said, the film is splendid in every aspect.

Husaria! My favorite!

Previously Hoffman had filmed The Deluge (1974), which may be my favorite of the three. A nominee for Oscar's Best Foreign Film, it lost to Amacord.  The first of the films Hoffman produced was Colonel Wolodyjowski (1969).

As we see, while the 16th century is viewed as Poland's gold age, the 17th century was one of struggle and hardship for Poland*, which only got worse as the great powers of Prussia, Russia and Austria vied to slice off her parts for themselves. Despite the hope and faith of the Polish nobility (one of whom even bore Napoleón a son), Napoleón not only did not reestablish Polish independence, he betrayed them, even while keeping the Polish beauty as his mistress and bringing her to Paris.

Nor did the Congress of Vienna reunite Poland's parts nor recognize it as a state.

More here concerning the Sienkiewicz novels, the Hoffman films, and ... Tolkien.

This trilogy of films is a perfect viewing experience for the short, dark days of the winter solstice.

*  Recall, this is the era of Dumas's The Three Musketeers.

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