Matka Krlw (Mother of Kings) (1983)




Director:    Janusz Zaorski.

Cast:      Magda Teresa Wjcik (Lucja Krl), Zbigniew Zapasiewicz (Wiktor Lewen), Franciszek Pieczka (Cyga), Boguslaw Linda (Klemens Krl), Adam Ferency (Zenon Krl), Michal Juszczakiewicz (Stas Krl), Krzysztof Zaleski (Roman Krl), Joanna Szczepkowska (Marta Stecka/Stecka-Krl), Zbigniew Zamachowski, Henryk Bista (Grzegorz Wiechra), Zbigniew Bielski (Kogut), Tadeusz Huk (Renard), Jerzy Trela (Hiszpan), Stanislaw Kwaskowski (Dentysta).

a Polish charwoman witnesses the start of World War II into the Stalinist Era in Poland


Spoiler Warning:    below is a summary of the entire movie. 

There is a trolley accident.  Lucja Krl runs to find her husband crushed to death.  She cries.  On the tombstone it says Stanislaw Krl (1900-1933).  Lucja has three sons:  Klemens, Zenon and Roman.  She is pregnant and has another baby boy:  Staszek (Stas for short).  Lucja writes to the president to ask for a factory job.  A neighbor named Cyga likes Lucja and wouldn't mind marrying her. 

Lucja talks with friend and party official Wiktor Lewen about her letter.  She tells him that they told her that she should see MP Buchner.  Wiktor hires her to clean his office.  A communist party member asks Wiktor if he wants to contact Buchner.  No.  "Be careful in your contacts.  You have an obligation to the party. . . . Buchner is a renegade."

Third Floor.  Investigations Bureau.  Lt. Inspector Jagosz tells Lucja to come see him.  Wiktor moves in with Lucja.  Lucja returns home to warn Wiktor that the police want to search the apartment.  She tells him to remove all proof.  She promised to let the police come in to search her apartment.  They kiss.  Someone outside watches the apartment. 

Jagosz says:  "Grzegorz informed us of attempts by Lewen to contact Buchner. Lewen has endangered the party for his own interests.  They took Grzegorz early, near where Lewen lives."   Wiktor tells Jagosz that he does not know Buchner.  The doorbell rings and a dentist pretends he is working on Wiktor's teeth, while the agents check out the door.  It was nothing.  Wiktor explains what happened. 

Lucja shows up excited.  Wiktor tells her to calm down:  "I've been arrested unlawfully."  He has to go down to the Investigations Bureau with Jagosz, who has an arrest warrant for Wiktor.  Wiktor is imprisoned for a period of seven years. 

Years later.  Lucja writes a letter to Wiktor, who is still in prison.  Grzegorz is put in the same cell as Wiktor.  Wkitor does not seem to have any ill feelings toward the man.  Grzegorz is then introduced to cell mate Renard, who is in for five years for joining a demonstration by the unemployed. 

A fellow named Zbyszek takes Lucja and her boys to the lake.  There he kisses Lucja.  He must not have gotten from he what he wanted, because he drives off without them. 

The three cellmates learn that the party has been dissolved by the Comintern.  Grzegorz says that they will build the party up again.   The radio reports that an attempted escape attempt was foiled.  The leader was Wiktor. 

World War II begins with the invasion of Poland by the Soviets and the Germans.  But Lucja is more worried about her money being stolen and having nothing with which to pay the rent.   

Lucja returns home one day to find Wiktor there.  They embrace.  For awhile Lucja was with someone named Majewska but she broke up with him.  Zenon has been send away for forced labor. 

The Nazis are now in control.  There are shortages of food.  Poles are being forced onto trains (probably to forced labor camps).  Lucja begs a Pole working with the Nazis to let her go home.  He locks her in a room and she cleans it, including washing the floor.  A German soldier comes and grabs her.  She begins again to beg the Polish fellow and he lets her go home.  At home she finds a group of students studying Marxism with Wiktor.  They have to break up to avoid violating the curfew.  A student named Kogut tells Wiktor that long ago he was with Buchner's organization, then called Unity. 

A drunken German soldier comes into Lucja's apartment asking for Madam Majewska.  When Wiktor tells him he has the wrong apartment, the soldier threatens to shoot Wiktor.  Instead, Kogut kills the soldier.  The soldier's name was Hans Hoenig.  Lucja sleeps with the dead soldier under her bed.  The next morning Cyga arrives with his horse and wagon.  He takes the bundled up body to a lake and throws the bundle into the water. 

Early the next day, Klemens goes out.  Kogut puts on Hans Hoenig's uniform.  Klemens gives a ride in his rickshaw to Kogut.  They stop at Nazi headquarters.  Kogut goes in.  Shots are heard and Kogut comes running out with Germans following closely behind.  They shoot Kogut to death and arrest Klemens. 

A party directive arrives.  Wiktor is to change premises immediately.  Lucja will not go with him.  She says Klemens might need her. 

Years later.  Zenon comes home from the forced labor camp.  While Lucja sleeps, Klemens enters the room.  He is now married.  Wiktor spoke in the new Sejm.  Klemens tells Wiktor that he was sent to Auschwitz.  Roman is now a big shot and hands out money to his mother and brothers.  He has a car and a nice apartment.  But he is an alcoholic and  irritates his brothers. 

Grzegorz talks with Wiktor.  He mentions that Wiktor knows Klemens.  Yes, they go back a long time. Grzegorz tells him that Klemens used his name as a reference in the Kogut case at the Control Commission.  Another issue is the Buchner group and Unity.  Grzegorz breaks the news that it wasn't the Germans who killed Kogut, but Klemens.  (Of course, it's all a lie.) 

Klemens is arrested.  The authorities talk to Wiktor about Klemens.  They ask about the young man's contacts.  Wiktor mentions with this kind of investigation, every person could be suspected.  Lucja tells Cyga that it would have been better if Klemens had stolen or murdered.  What's worse is that Klemens belonged to the wrong cell.  Cega says:  "They don't forgive their own."  He adds that it would have been better to have been born a horse.  He gives Lucja some money and then leaves. 

Wiktor goes to see Grzegorz on behalf of Klemens.,  Grzegorz tells him that Klemens incriminated himself during the investigation (under torture).  He then tells Wiktor that he is being investigated and Grzegorz adds that he can't help Wiktor, but be sure and trust the party leadership.  Later at a party meeting, Wiktor is openly criticized for his "mistakes". 

Stas is having trouble at school over the arrest of his older brother.  His teacher explains to Lucja that the boys from United Youth demanded that Stas publicly declare himself:  "The boys are very ideological."  Stas now says that Klemens is not his brother.  "He said he doesn't want a brother who's an enemy of the People's Poland."  Mom gives her a dirty look and walks away from the teacher.  At home she criticizes her son for renouncing his brother.  She slaps him, but he grabs her hands and tells her to calm down.  He then walks out.   Wiktor starts to come see Lucja, but sees Romans and turns around. 

Now the party is framing Grzegorz as well.  They say he was working with the German Gestapo.  They beat it out of Klemens.  The charge is that Grzegorz is connected to the group Unity, a reactionary group tied to traitors in London led by Buchner.  Klemens gets so mad at his German cellmate,who worked at Auschwitz, that he tries to kill him. 

Nineteen year-old Stas wants his clothes from his mother.  He is in jail for robbery.  Lucja gives up her two rings to get a lawyer for her son.  She tells the lawyer that she has two sons in jail and the lawyer tells her:  "Nowadays that's normal."  In court Stas, not taking the case very seriously, admits his guilt and asks for the highest punishment.  The court goes light on him because he told an officer that his buddies were robbing a shop. 

Klemen's wife tells the family she will not go to Wiktor for help with her husband's case.  And she forbids other members of the family from going to Wiktor, saying:  "The party doesn't accuse for no reason."  Lucja asks her:  "Girl, what have they turned you into?"  Mom goes to see Wiktor, but he sneaks out the back way. 

A party official tells Wiktor that Klemens has admitted killing Kogut.  Wiktor says he cannot think of an incident indicating Klemens's future crimes.  He says no.  Then the party official brings in the dentist from long ago.  The dentist lies and says he was there when Wiktor admitted his ties to Buchner. 

Romans changes his last name from Krol to Krolowie.  Zenon fights with Romans and then leaves.  Klemens goes on a hunger strike.  He won't eat anything and throws up the food forced down his throat.  Klemens is dying.  Stas is going away.  His girlfriend is pregnant.  Mom speaks to him, but he only tells her not to worry saying he will be back.  Klemens dies.  He refused to say anything against Wiktor and withdrew all his previous testimony. 

Much later.  A huge crowd chants:  "Gumulka!" 

Lucja has to leave her apartment because it is said to be "too big" for her.  So she writes a letter of complaint to the party secretary.


Good movie.  At times it was a little hard to follow with all the different characters.  What the movie was mostly about was Stalinism and oppression.   And then there is the problem of the communist party turning on itself and throwing members out unjustly, ruining them or sending them to prison.  In the movie there are many instances of using "informers" to lie and incriminate those the party want eliminated.  The party would also use torture to force people to "confess" their guilt and/or the guilt of others.  If it wasn't so cruel, the whole situation would be funny.   Magda Teresa Wjcik as Lucja Krl did a terrific job of acting,

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

Historical Background:

1926  --  May Coup of Jzef Pilsudski during the Second Polish Republic, turns the reins of government over to the popular Sanacja movement.  This lasted until 1939. 

1939 (September 1 & 17)  --  start of World War II with the German invasion and then the Soviet invasion of Poland. 

1941 (June)   --  Germans invade the Soviet Union and now completely dominate Poland. 

During the war, about 6 million Polish citizens were killed by the Germans.  In addition, 2.5 million were deported to Germany for forced labor or to extermination camps such as Auschwitz,

1944 (July)  --  the Soviet army entered Poland and defeated the Germans.  They then established a communist-controlled "Polish Committee of National Liberation" in Lublin.

Many Poles who fought for their country during World War II could not return to Poland because they belonged to the "wrong" political group.

1947 (January)  --  the elections were controlled by the Communist Party.  The Party established a regime entirely under their domination.

1952  --  the communist-dominated People's Republic of Poland officially proclaimed.

The 20th Soviet Party Congress is Moscow began the process of destalinization. 

Workers in Poznan, Poland rioted. 

1956 (October)  --  there was a shakeup in the communist regime. The regime of First Secretary Wladyslaw Gomulka began to liberalize Poland. Many Poles were released from prison. 


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