Potop (The Deluge) (1975)

 

 

Director:  Jerzy Hoffman. 

Starring:  Daniel Olbrychski (Andrzej Kmicic), Malgorzata Braunek (Olenka Billewiczwna), Tadeusz Lomnicki (Michal Wolodyjowski), Kazimierz Wichniarz (Jan Onufry Zagloba), Wladyslaw Hancza (Janusz Radziwill), Leszek Teleszynski (Boguslaw Radziwill), Ryszard Filipski (Soroka), Wieslawa Mazurkiewicz (Aunt Kulwiecwna), Franciszek Pieczka (Kiemlicz), Leslaw Janicki (Damian Kiemlicz), Waclaw Janicki (Kosma Kiemlicz), Bruno O'Ya (Jzwa Butrym), Wlodzimierz Bednarski (Zend), Bogusz Bilewski (Kulwiec-Hippocentaurus), Andrzej Kozak (Rekuc Leliwa).

 

Second part of the trilogy.

Andrei Kmicic's use of mindless violence threatens his relationship with fiancee Olenka Billevich. When Sweden invades Poland, Andrei swears allegiance to Janusz Radziwill, the Hetman of the Poland-Lithuania Commonwealth. But Radziwill is conspiring to betray the Commonwealth to the Swedes. (Andrei's loyalty to Radziwill earns him the contempt of former comrade Michael Wolodyjowski.)

Andrei finally learns the truth and fights against the Swede's failed siege of Czestochowa. He goes on to perform other heroic actions. 

 

Spoiler warning:  This tells the entire story. 

 

Disc 1.

Good movie.  The movie begins at the home of the family Billevich.  Lady Olenka's grandfather has just recently died.  Andrzej Kmicic, the Banneret of Orsha, comes to pay his respects to his benefactor, the grandfather.  He also wants to met Lady Olenka, whose grandfather promised her hand in marriage to him.  The Lady is somewhat taken aback by the bold nature of the man, but she also is attracted to him.  Kmicic has to proceed on to Lyubich.

A group of local men come to Lady Olenka to complain about the rowdy and crude behavior of some of Kmicic's officers and Kmicic's failure to stop them.  The rude officers had used the portraits of the Billevich family members for target practice and had dragged the local girls into their rooms for debauchery.  Lady Olenka is shocked by Kmicic's failure to rein his men in.    

The rough officers get rowdy on another occasion and make crude advances on the local girls and then kill quite a few of the local men when they come to their defense.  The men are of the Butrym family and they rally to kill all the offending officers.  When Kmicic finds the corpses, he goes temporarily bonkers and burns the village of Volmontouichi, killing many men, women and children.  The villagers rally and kill all of Kmicic's men with only Kmicic getting away. 

Lady Olenka saves Kmicic from the pursuing villagers, but she is rightfully disgusted by his behavior and sends him away saying "Be gone forever".   Kmicic responds by kidnapping her. 

Col. Wolodyjowski and a group of men track down Kmicic and trap him in a building.  Kmicic says that he will blow up the building with the Lady and himself in it, if the posse does not leave.  In order to bring Kmicic out of the building, the Colonel challenges Kmicic to a duel.  Kmicic thinks he can easily win such a duel, but is wounded by the Colonel instead.  Lady Olenka nurses his wound.   

Kmicic promises that he will make amends for his criminal behavior by serving the Hetman, thereby hopefully to win the forgiveness of the nobles.  The colonels, along with Kmicic, visit the Hetman who announces that Sweden has broken their truce and war has begun.  The Hetman then shocks the assembled diners by offering a toast to the King of Sweden.  Almost all the colonels call the Hetman a traitor.  (Kmicic is stunned  and lost in confusion, for the Hetman had earlier forced Kmicic to swear personal allegiance to him.)

The Hetman imprisons all the colonels except Kmicic who has been detained by the Hetman's troops.  Lady Olenka has left to stay with Col. Wolodyjowski's troops.  The Oskyerko infantry calls for the release of all the colonels and they repel the Scottish guards send to disperse them.  But Kmicic and the cavalry squash the rebellion.

The colonels call Kmicic a traitor.  But Kmicic actually saves the colonels from the Hetman, who wants to execute them, by requesting their release. 

While the colonels are being transported to the Swedish king, the colonels manage to escape.  They then go looking for Kmicic.

Kmicic finds Olenka and then they are both confronted by the colonels.  The colonels decide to execute Kmicic for being a traitor.  But one of the colonels, Zagloba, saves Kmicic by revealing a letter from the Hetman to the Swedish king saying that Kmicic's request for clemency for the colonels was granted.  This gets Kmicic off the hook.  Kmicic decides to go back to the Hetman because he thinks the colonels will unleash a civil war, while the Hetman has promised he will side with the Swedish only to later destroy them.  Zagloba comes to the rescue again by reciting a passage from the Hetman's letter saying that once the prison convoy had reached the Swedish King the Polish colonels were to be executed. 

Kmicic returns to the Hetman to tell him that he has to leave.  The Hetman tells him to go to Podlasie to be with Prince Boguslaw Radziwill, the Hetman's nephew. Kmicic does visit the Prince but he soon tries to turn the Prince over to the confedrates (the rebels).  The prince, however, escapes and shoots Kmicic in the process.   

Prince Boguslaw meets with his uncle, the Hetman, and to get back at Kmicic, at a dinner party the Prince tells a lie that starts the the story circulating that Kmicic is a traitor who wants to kidnap the Polish King and turn him over  to the Swedes.  This means that Kmicic is now an enemy of the Polish Republic.   

Disc 2.

Kmicic has been denounced in the republic as a traitor.  Prince Boguslaw Radziwill reported that Kmicic was headed to Silesia to kidnap the Polish King and turn him over to the Swedes.  Because of this, Kmicic decides to go under the name of Babinich.

Radziwill has asked for reinforcements from the Swedes to fight off the attack of the rebels ("confederates").  Prince Boiguslaw Radziwill takes the unwilling Lady Olenka with him to Taurogi where he will enlist soldiers for his cause. 

The King of Sweden is in control of Poland now, except for a few exceptions such as Gdansk. Another hold out is the fortress of the Jasna Gora monastery.  Kmicic learns of the planned attack and warns the fortress. 

Meanwhile, the forces of the now bed-ridden Prince Hetman have been defeated twice and the Swedes and his nephew Prince Boguslaw have provided no help.  During another assault on his forces, Prince Hetman dies. 

In Taurogi, Prince Boguslaw is greeted with fireworks.  There is a loud explosion caused by cavalier Braun accidentally setting off the stored gun. powder.  Prince Boguslaw tells the guards to execute the man, but Lady Olenka begs for his life and Boguslaw relents.  Braun is very grateful to Lady Olenka and he soon proves helpful to Lady Olenka by warning her that Prince Boguslaw wants to abduct her.

Back at Jasna Gora, the Swedes have finally brought up their big cannon to blast through the walls of the fortress.  Kmicic saves the day by blowing up the huge cannon. 

Kmicic heads for Silesia to see the Polish King.  There he proves by his deeds that he is not a traitor.  He helps save the King as he makes his way back into Poland (buoyed with the promise of help from the Tartar Khan and the forces of Czarniecki). 

Prince Boguslaw attempts to rape Lady Olenka, but Braun knocks the Prince unconscious.  Braun then helps Lady Olenka escape from the Prince. 

The Poles go on the attack against the Swedes who retreat, burning a key bridge in the process.  An envoy, Aga, arrives from Mehmed Salomed Gerey (Commander of the hordes of Crimea, Hahaya, Perekokski, Czerkieski and Semenidia).  He is placed under Kmicic.  The Poles attack the forces of Prince Boguslaw and route them.  Kmicic outduels Boguslaw, but Boguslaw saves himself by telling his foe that if he is killed, his orders to kill Lady Olenka will be carried out. 

Kmicic is wounded in another battle against the Swedes.   As he is being transported by a horse-drawn sled he crosses paths with Lady Olenka, who still believes he is a traitor.  Kmicic gets better and decides to go to mass on Sunday.  Wouldn't you know it, Lady Olenka shows up along with part of the King's army who give the priest a declaration to read that exonerates Kmicic and praises him as a hero.  And, of course, the couple unite and get married, hopefully, to led a happy life ever after.

This movie had a very rough start.  The early dastardly deeds of Kmicic turned me against the hero of the movie.  And then the hero was confused about what he should do when it is clear that he owes his loyalty to the Polish-Lithuanian Republic.  This made it hard later to feel good about his continuing courtship of Lady Olenka.  I was pleased that the couple got together in the end, but it was one tempered by the dubious character of Kmicic. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

 

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

1611-1632  --  reign of Gustav II Adolf of Sweden. 

1618-1648  -- Thirty Years' War. 

1630-1635  -- Swedish intervention in the Thrity Years' War. 

1632-1654  --  reign of Queen Christina of Sweden. 

1648-1674  --  reign of the Polish king, John II Casimir of Poland.

1654-     --  reign of King Charles X Gustav of Sweden.  He easily persuaded the Swedish delegates to go to war against Poland. 

mid-17th century  --  a Swedish invasion rolled through Poland in the turbulent time known as "The Deluge" (potop).  Before the Deluge, Poland was a big power in Europe.  After the Deluge, Poland was increasingly dependent on Russia.

1655  --  a Cossack rebellion gave Russia an excuse to invade and occupy eastern the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. 

1655-1660  --  Second (or Little) Northern War begins with Sweden invading and occupying the rest of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.  Polish King John II Casimir fled to Silesia.   Numerous wars followed: against the Ottoman Empire, Russia, Cossacks, Transylvania and Brandenburg-Prussia. 

1655 (October 18)  --  the Swedes invested the fortress-monastery of Czestochowa, but after 70 days the besiegers had to retire with great losses.  The Poles began a fierce guerrilla war against the Swedes.

Princes Janusz and Boguslaw Radizwill schemed with Swedish king Charles X Gustav of Sweden to break the Commonwealth. They actually signed a treaty which promised that the Radziwiłłs would rule over two Duchies carved up from the lands of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, under Swedish rule. 

1656 (June 21)  --  the Poles retook Warsaw.

1656 (July 28-30)  -- Charles X re-conquers Warsaw, with the help of  Frederick William I of Brandenburg (later East Prussia).

1657 (June 1) --  Charles X had such a terrible time in Poland that he was actually extremely satisfied when Denmark declared war on Sweden.  Now Charles X could leave Poland honorably. 

1662  --  the Russians were finally defeated.

1667 (January 13)  --  the struggle over the Ukraine ended with the Treaty of Andrusovo.  The Turks intervened on behalf of the Commonwealth because they wanted lands in the Crimea. 

Prussian and Transylvanian forces were defeated. (But Prussia gained its independence and ceased being a Polish vassal.)

1669 - 1673 King Michałl Korybut Wiśsniowiecki.

1672-1676  --  the Ottoman Empire goes to war against Poland. 

by 1699  --  these conflicts ended.  During the wars, Poland lost an estimated 1/3 of its population.

the following 80 years  --  the waning of Poland's central government weakened the nation, leading to a growing dependency on Russia.

1795-1918  --  Partitioned Poland.

 

 

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