Austeria (The Inn) (1983)
Director: Jerzy Kawalerowicz.
Starring: Franciszek Pieczka (Tag), Wojciech Pszoniak (Josele), Jan Szurmiej (Kantor), Ewa Domanska (Asia), Wojciech Standello (Tzaddik), Liliana Komorowska (Jewdocha), Szymon Szurmiej (Wilf), Golda Tencer (Blanka), Marek Wilk (Bum Kramer), Zofia Bajuk (Mina), Izabela Wieczorek (Lolka), Seweryn Dalecki (Kramer), Miroslawa Lombardo (Kramer's Wife), Stanislaw Igar (Apfelgrun), Zofia Saretok (Baroness).
a Polish inn at the border with Russia at the start of WWI
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
1914. Polish Galicia. First day of World War I. Two wagons, one filled with Jewish males and the other with Jewish females, stop at the inn run by an old wise Jew named Tag. The firing of artillery is heard in the background. After a short pit stop, they head onward toward the border. Another group arrives on foot. They cross over the river. The young blonde girl named Asia falls and her boyfriend Bumele picks her up.
There is a flashback where Asia and Bumele act the leads in a play where they kiss. Bumele holds the kiss way too long and the audience gets offended and leaves the theatre.
Back to the present. The walking group returns to the inn. Someone in the group says that this is Austria led by Emperor Francis Joseph. The socialist Gershon comes back. The worry is that the Cossacks are coming and many believe they should leave.
Flashback to Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph at a fancy ball. The pearl necklace of the pretty baroness in line comes apart and the pearls fall in front of the Emperor. The Emperor starts to pick them up so his staff bends down and picks them up. Then the Emperor gives back the pearls in a handkerchief to the baroness.
Back to the present. Yevdokha, the young pretty servant woman, talks with Tag. Tag wants his wife and daughter to hide in the cellar. But then there is a knock at the door. Tag is reluctant to answer the door for fear that it may be the Cossacks. But the man at the door assures him he is with the Hungarians not the Cossacks. Tag opens the door and the officer tells Tag that he and his small group have lost their regiment. Tag wonders how the heck that happened.
Flashback to Tag meeting his future maid, Yevdokha. She is standing naked by the edge of a lake and Tag asks her who she is and then if she wants to work for him.
Back to the present. Bumele, carrying Asia, arrives at the inn. Bumele says that Asia needs help. But when Tag looks at the young girl, he discovers that she is already dead. Bumele cries over the body. Asia's mother and father arrive. Her mother, Blanca, blames Bumele for the death of her daughter. By now everyone seems to be returning to the inn.
Flashback. Bumele starts kissing Asia in the woods. Then shots are heard. Asia becomes scared and starts running away. She is shot while running.
Back to the present. The two wagons that had passed the inn early in the morning now return to the inn. The Hassidic group's leader Saddik comes in first followed by the others. A lot of fuss is made over Saddik. Yevdokha comes into the inn and almost all the Jewish men are stunned by her peasant beauty. She seems to enjoy the attention and flirts a little with the group. (Artillery fire begins again in the background.) The Hassid seem completely oblivious of the war that has just begun. They spend a great deal of time singing and dancing while the Cossacks advance in their direction.
Blanca, Asia's mother, has sex with the Hungarian Hussar in the barn, while Yevdokha masturbates. Old Tag comes into the barn and breaks up the love-making. Tag tells Yevdokha that he will kill both her and the Hussar, if he finds them together. (Sounds of artillery begin again.) Later Yevdokha tells Tag that the priest wants to speak with him.
Flashback. Tag and the priest have known each other since childhood. Scenes are presented of the two of them swimming in the local lake.
Back to the present. The priest tells Tag that he has come to help him and his family escape from the oncoming Cossacks. But Tag is just not interested in leaving his home and business. In the inn, the Jewish men are dancing a "whirling dervish" and becoming dizzy. Tag does not like the men dancing. He tells the men that it is not allowed to dance in a house where there is a dead person. He finally takes action and gets the men to stop.
The day is Yom Kippur. Tag, who, although Jewish, is a great skeptic, tries to make God mad by parading a huge slab of pig meat through the Jewish religious ceremony. But the rabbi handles it very well and Tag gives up his spectacle, saying that if he cannot even offend the rabbi, then how in the world can he offend God.
Yevdokha has Tag up in the barn loft with her. When she steps outside the barn, she sees fires burning in the village. A few of the Jewish guests at the inn ride into the village. Blanca runs to town followed by her husband. Bumele and the priest take Asia's body in a horse-drawn cart to the cemetery. But they run into the Cossacks. Bumele starts fighting with one of the Cossacks, but another Cossack arrives to help the first one. Together the two Cossacks ride off with Bumele hanging from their arms between their horses. A fire begins in the hay on the cart with Asia's body and the horse runs off with the burning cart still attached to it.
Bumele is to be hanged by the Cossacks. The baroness arrives in her coach. She offers her pearl necklace in exchange for the boy's life.
Tag visits Yevdokha again. The priest comes into the barn and interrupts the couple. He tells Tag that Bumele will be hanged. Tag says that he must talk with the Cossack kommandant. Yevdokha tells Tag that she will not let him go to the village. She thinks the Cossacks will kill him and the priest. Tag and the priest head to town with Yevdokha yelling at Tag: "You old devil!"
Saddik and company start singing again. The men dance outside and strip naked. They all then head into the lake waters. While prancing in the lake, the lake is shelled. Jewish blood runs red in the waters of the lake.
My wife hated the movie. She said it was all talk and no action and refused to watch the entire movie. I thought it was interesting, but must confess that I fast-forwarded through the great deal of Jewish singing and dancing in the movie. I am sure, because I do not know much about the Jewish religion, I missed a lot of the subtle nuances of the movie. Some tension is maintained in the film because of the worry about what is going to happen to the Jews when the feared Cossacks arrive. What made the movie a bit strange was that the Hassidic Jews seemed completely unaware of the danger and just kept singing and dancing the night away. (At one time I wondered if this movie was supposed to be a humorous satire of the Jews.) This attitude of almost religious frivolity leads to big troubles for the Jews. But is the movie supposed to be a satire of the unawareness of reality among the Hassidic Jews? When the Jews get "punished" in a sense, I was a little confused as to how I was supposed to feel. I understand that the Hassidics were being foolish in the face of danger, but I could not be angry at these fellows who were so completely devoted to their own singing and dancing. They seemed to be a group almost too happy and non-threatening to be mad at for getting themselves into some deep trouble. Should I be mad at the unaware sheep, if the wolves kill them? It seems more logical to me to be mad at the Cossacks for killing virtually defenseless people.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
Galicia was the medieval kingdom of Halych-Volhynia.
World War I (1914-1918) -- Russia and the Central Powers fought each other over Galicia.
1914 (early part of WWI) -- Russia overran most of the region after defeating the Austro-Hungarian army.
1915 (spring & summer) -- Russia was pushed out by a the Germans and Austro-Hungarian forces.
Eventually Galicia was recaptured by the Poles.
Galicia currently divided between Poland and the Ukraine.
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