"Are you coming to
the cabbage party?”
Added 8th December 2023
Review by: Jane Alexandra Foster
Released in 2023
The Peasants tells the story of Jagna, a young woman determined to forge her own path within the confines of a late 19th century Polish village - a hotbed of gossip and on-going feuds, held together, rich and poor, by pride in their land, adherence to colourful traditions and deep-rooted patriarchy. When Jagna finds herself caught between the conflicting desires of the village's richest farmer, his eldest son, and other leading men of the community, her resistance puts her on a tragic collision course with the community around her.
Part straight period drama, part re-imagining a straight drama into animation, ‘The Peasants’ is the story of Jagna, a young Polish girl who marries an older man, but is in love with his son. This creates all sorts of destructive problems, and is a brilliant snap shot of what life was like in past times not as free thinking as our own.
Adapted from the Nobel Prize winning Polish novel, ‘The Peasants’, written by Wladyslaw Stanislaw Reymont, the story centres around Polish village life of the mid 19th century. Brutal and passionate, the story of Jagna unfolds, beautifully recreated using an oil painting form of animation, taken from live action. This is almost the stand-alone star of the film, which has the feel of an immersive art installation. However, the story is also so dramatically strong that audience almost feels totally thrown into another world, as if we’d fallen down Alice’s rabbit hole into a wonderland of another era. The film is vibrant, colourful and a feast for the viewer, and the trick of turning live performance into animation, makes the audience feel, in a rather magical but contradictory way, as if they’re viewing reality through a filter, rather than animation.
With stunning, rising Polish star Kamila Urzedowska playing Jagna, and Robert Gulaczyk as her thwarted lover Antek, the air crackles with intensity, such is the on screen chemistry and acting skill of this pair. This casting choice is one of the most powerful things about the film, and the rest of the film is well cast too. Ewa Kasprzyk is mesmerizing as the mother and, Miroslaw Baka also deserves a mention for his sleazy portrayal of Jagna’s husband.
The animation also helps to fine tune the theatricality of what is essentially a doomed love affair set in brutal times, and gives it a colourful filter through which a modern audience can appreciate the story. For although this is a literary triumph, the story is a vivid recreation of times so different from our own that some modern viewers may struggle with the harsh tone. This is no subtle modern retelling, but a faithful recreation of a raw story about rural life in a time where life and death were far closer together.
Lastly, such is the strength of the performances that, there will be a few people who will say, ‘why bother’ turning it into an animation? One wonders, would it have been even more powerful as live action? Audience’s will be split about this, and the only way to decide for yourself, is to see it.
Well worth a trek to the big screen.
THE B CLUB RATING : B B B b B
Starring: Kamila Urzedowska, Robert Gulaczyk, Ewa Kasprzyk
Writers: Wladyslaw Stanislaw Reymont, DK Welchman,
Directors: DK Welchman, Hugh Welchman
Vertigo Releasing presents The Peasants in cinemas
The B Club
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