Pan Tadeusz  (1999) 



Director:  Andrsej Wajda.

Starring:   Boguslaw Linda (Jacek Soplica alias Priest Robak), Daniel Olbrychski (Gerwazy), Grazyna Szapolowska (Telimena), Andrzej Seweryn (Judge Soplica), Marek Kondrat (Count Horeszko), Krzysztof Kolberger (Adam Mickiewicz), Sergei Shakurov (Rykow), Jerzy Binczycki (Maciej Królik-Rózeczka), Alicja Bachleda-Curus (Zosia Horeszkówna), Michal Zebrowski (Tadeusz Soplica, Pan Tadeusz), Jerzy Trela (Podkomorzy), Jerzy Gralek (Wojski), Marian Kociniak (Protazy), Piotr Gasowski (Rejent), Andrzej Hudziak (Asesor).

Poland's attempt to free itself from Russian rule in Napoleonic times

Lithuania is drained by the Niemen River (which begins in Belarus). 


Spoiler Warning:  the below summary tells the entire story. 

Good movie.  The story is told in flashback by one of the many Polish exiles in foreign lands, dreaming of Poland. 

Pan Tadeusz, the son of Jacek Soplica, arrives back home from his studies in the city.  He greets his uncle, the Judge, and his beautiful Aunt Telimena, sister of the Judge.  There follows a discussion of the family Soplica's desire to end the age old dispute with their neighbor, the Count.  The feud stemmed from the Jacek's attempt to woe the maiden Horeszkos and then his being rejected as a suitor by her father.  In his anger, Jacek called in Russian troops.  When the Russian troops were repelled by the Horeszkos, Jacek picks up one of the Russian rifles and shoots father Horeszko.  Gervazy, the servant, is so angered at the death of his master that he swears vengeance on the Soplica family.  (The Russians give the Horeszkos estate to Jacek.)

Not nearly as mad as Gervazy, the Count also seems to want to end the old lawsuit between the Horeszkos and the Soplicas. But Gervazy incites the Count with his angry retelling of the cause of the old feud.  He tells the Count to never give the old Castle to the Soplica family.  The Count decides to continue the lawsuit. 

Father Robak tells the Poles in Lithuania that Napoleon is marching against the Russians and will eventually be crossing the Niemen River.  The Poles are extremely excited about the upcoming event as they hate their Russian overlords. 

Aunt Telimena is quite the flirt and she begins a relationship with Tadeusz.  This does not please the rest of the family who want Tadeusz to marry 14 year old Zosia (an orphaned Horeszkos family member who was raised by Aunt Telimena). 

More reports arrive of Napoleon on the march.  It is said that Polish horsemen are coming with the French and will cross the Nieman soon.  It is also reported that Polish Gen. Dobrowski has recaptured Gdansk and soon will be in Lithuania. 

Now we learn that Tadeusz's father is still alive and that it was he who sent Father Robak to the Uncle to make sure that Tadeusz marries Zosia.  Jacek Soplica wants to make amends for his sins by restoring the land to the Count.  Aunt Telimena is  an obstacle to this plan as she wants Soszia to marry the wealthy Count.  

The Count's anger subsides enough for him to attend a banquet given by the Soplicas.  But the party is spoiled by the angry Gervazy who wrecks the party by exciting the Count, the hosts and the guests about the old dispute.  The Count and Tadeusz agree to settle the dispute with a duel. 

It is revealed to the Uncle that Father Robak is actually Jacek Soplica. (The Uncle presumably is much younger and did not know his brother as he was a youngster.)

The Count and Gervazy head to the village of Dobrzyn to recruit some of the gentry to help them destroy the Soplica family. This revengeful desire is wrapped up with the goal of staring an insurrection against the Russians.  The gentry and the Count put the Soplicas under house arrest and Gervazy and his forces settled in the castle and make it the headquarters of the Count. 

The Russians intervene.  Their soldiers capture all the rebels and make them prisoner.  But the Soplicas bring in weapons and free the rebels.  Then both Polish and Lithuanians come together to fight the Russians.  In the struggle, Jacek Soplica personally saves the lives of both the Count and Gervazy, for which the two men forgive Jacek of his past sins.  The Poles and Lithuanians win the battle, but many of the victorious will have to leave in order to avoid the wrath of the Russians.  The Count and Tadeusz forget the duel and head off to join the French troops marching against the Russians. 

News is soon received that Napoleon has actually declared war on Russia.  French troops arrive and with them are Prince Joseph and King Jerome.  And they finally do cross the Niemen.  The Count and Tadeusz come back soldier heroes and Tadeusz is betrothed to Zosia, while Aunt Talimena is betrothed to the Notary.

The plot had a bit too many twists and that Jacek to Robak to Jacek transformation was a little too much to be believed, but it was a good story and it did have a happy ending.  It could never be to happy for Poland for too long a period, however, as the Russian bear was not about to stop trying to take Poland.  Pity the nation caught between Germany and Russia/Soviet Union.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


1572-1795  --  the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which had a quasi-democratic structure.


In the last part of the Commonwealth, Poland is partitioned in three stages by:  the Russian Empire, Kingdom of Prussia, and the Habsburg Monarchy. 

1772, 1793, 1795  --  partitions of Poland between Russia, Prussia and Asustria.  Poland was ultimately dissolved.

1791  --  Poland had the first modern written constitution in Europe, the Constitution of May 3, 1791. 

1792  --  Polish-Russian War.  The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth defended its May 3rd Constitution of 1791 against the Targowica Confederation of native opponents of the Constitution and Russia. The Kingdom of Prussia betrayed Poland by breaking its alliance with that nation. 


1795-1918  --  Partitioned Poland.

By 1795  --  the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth had completely disappeared. 

1789  -- the French Revolution. 

Fighting in Prussia, Napoleon sought the help of the Poles for half of Prussia's lands were Polish in origin.  Napoleon asked Kosciuszko to organize an army in Poland to fight with the French.  Kosciuszko demand that if he and his men fought with Napoleon that Poland must be restored to its pre-partion boundaries.  Napoleon would not give any assurances so Napoleon worked with General Dombrowski to organize an armed force. 

1806  --  Gen. Dombrowski quoted Napoleon:  "If the Poles will prove that they are worthy of having independence, they shall have it."  The Polish people rose to the occasion.

1896 (November 19)  --  Count Dzialynski visited Napoleon in Berlin.  The Frenchman came out in support of a free Poland. 

1896 (November 28)  --   Napoleon's Murat entered Warsaw.

Prince Joseph Poniatowski led an army of more the 30,000 Polish soldiers.  A Committee of Seven took charge of the government with  Stanislaw Malachowski named chairman.  The Polish troops were a big part of Napoleon's victories at Pultusk, Danzig, and Friedland.  The Russian defeat at Friedland opened up peace talks between Napoleon and Russia. 

1807  --  Napoleon at first tried to sell Poland down the river, but when that failed, he restored a Polish state in the form of the Duchy of Warsaw from the Polish lands ceded by Prussia under the terms of the Treaties of Tilsit.  King Frederick Augustus I of Saxony, one of Napoleon's allies, held the duchy in personal union. 

1815  --  after the Napoleonic Wars, the Congress of Vienna divided the Duchy of Warsaw into three regions: 1) Grand Duchy of Poznan under Prussia; 2) Republic of Kraków, first controlled by the three nations and then in 1846 by Austria; and 3) Kingdom of Poland (better known as Congress Poland) and controlled by Russia by 1831.

1815-1825  -- reign of Alexander I over the Kingdom of Poland. 

1831-1855  --  reign of Tsar Nicholas I, de factor ruler of Poland.

1832 – incorporation of the "Congress Kingdom" into Russia.

1846 – incorporation of the Republic of Kraków into Austria.

1855-1881  --  reign of Tsar Alexader II, de facto ruler of Poland.

1863  --  January Uprising attempts to get rid of the Russian yoke. 

1914-1918  --  World War I. 

1918  --  Poland and Lithuania re-established their independence as separate countries.


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