“Alone. The Beginning” by Artur Żmijewski – Film Review.  Pawlak's story is once again captivating

Who does not remember the legendary quarreling neighbors who, despite everything, could not live without each other? Of course, we are talking about Pawlaks and Karguls from Sylwester Chęciński's comedy trilogy. Thanks to the film “Sami swoi. Popocztek” by Artur Żmijewski, their history has come back to life in a new version. The debut director manages to create the missing part of the Pawlak saga, providing the cinema audience with two hours well spent.

The classics of cinema – Polish too – have their timeless and timeless titles. They connect generations, even if the reality they depict seems very distant. This gem of Polish comedy is Selostre Czecinski's trilogy about the fates of two feuding families resettled after World War II in the Reclaimed Territories: the Pavlak family and the Kargula family. “Sami swoi” (1967), “Nie ma mocch” (1974) and “Kochaj albo chuck” (1977) depict in a perverse way the fate of Poles from the recovered lands and the spirit of those times. The task was not easy, because Czecinski, along with screenwriter Andrzej Mularczyk, had to deal with censorship in the Polish People's Republic. From today's point of view, it is easy to see some themes that fit with the propaganda of the time, but are not of great importance. The power of the epic lies in its accurate and timeless portrayal of human relationships, our merits and our faults.

Why am I writing about this? Because the information about the start of filming of the film “Sami swoi. Popocztek” directed by Artur Żmijewski, instead of enthusiasm, caused a lot of fear. After all, it's a trilogy that many people associate with memories and feelings. From a film perspective, creating a prequel—a story that precedes “themselves”—seems like a very risky challenge that could end in spectacular disaster. Like it or not, Żmijewski – who is making his feature film directorial debut – is known primarily for his serial roles as Dr. Jakub Borski or Father Matthews – wanted to challenge Selostre Česinski.

“Alone. The Beginning” is a fitting return to the legendary saga

“Sami swoi. Popocztek” (TVN Warner Bros. Discovery co-production) is not a disaster after all. On the contrary – it turns out to be a very accurate return to Karjula and Pawlak's fictional and historically confusing world.

How did this happen? This is thanks in large part to the fact that the screenplay was written by Andrzej Mularczyk, now 93, the screenwriter of the trilogy directed by Cecinski. In 2011, Mularczyk – brother of Roman Bratny, author of the famous “Combi. Year 20”, among others – published the novel “Everyone lives as they know how.” This is a story inspired by the fate of his family who lived in Podolia until 1945. At the same time, it is the history of the people who were the prototypes of the Pawlaks and Karguls. From here we learn that Mularczyk created the character of Kazimierz Pawlak based on what he heard from his uncle Jan.

In the screenplay for the film “Samych. The Beginning” Mularczyk used threads from his novel. It is also worth noting that Mularczyk, as a screenwriter, also collaborated on “Katyń” directed by Andrzej Wajda and in the series “Dom” directed by Jan Łomnicki. He is also one of the most valuable creators of radio plays in the history of Polish radio.

“On our own. The beginning” dir. Artur ŻmijewskiPhoto: Jaroslaw Sosinski/Next Film

And “On Your Own. The Beginning” would not have been possible if someone else had written the script. Why? Perhaps just because Żmijewski's film is written in the same language, there is something very personal about the characters, which naturally links them to the heroes of Chęciński's films.

What is the subject of Żmijewski's film? The whole thing takes place in a village in Podolia near Trembula – a town south of Tarnopol. The actual events of the film take place between approximately 1918 and 1945. In this village, two families live nearby: the Pawlak family and the Karguls, with whom they have a turbulent relationship. They translate into the relationship between the “firstborns”: Kazik Pawlak and Wadik Kargül, who were already playing cats in the village school and this does not change over time. I will not go into details of the plot, because it has a lot of twisted moments.

In the end, “Sami swoi. Popocztek” is a fantasy comedy-drama. Pawlak's adventures – constantly breaking out quarrels with Kargol – are skillfully conducted against the background of the complex, multi-threaded and difficult history of the Second Polish Republic. Sometimes you may have the impression that some historical threads may have been exaggerated or downplayed, but they are not the most important layer of the plot.

“On our own. The beginning.” Acting presentation by Adam Bobek

Chęciński's trilogy was based on the duo: Wacław Kowalski as Pawlak and Władysław Hańcza as Kargul. In the case of “Same's Own. Beginning”, the first violin is played by the young Pawlak himself, played by Adam Bobek. Assuming that the reference is the story of the screenwriter's uncle, the story constructed in this way seems more understandable and accurate. Especially since we already know the future common fate of Pawlak and Kargula.

Furthermore, Adam Bobek as Kazimierz Pawlak is fantastic. In taking on this role, he faced a crazy challenge. He had to create his character so as not to be a bad copy of Wacław Kowalski, and at the same time play the role of young Pawlak in a believable way and not lose his personality.

The 35-year-old coped with this task in an unusual way. His Pawlak is real and resembles the one in Chęciński's films.

Thanks to his charisma and versatility in acting, he perfected this role. Moreover, Bobek, who comes from Hajnuka, uses the language of this story with ease. His previous achievements include various roles (for example in Grzegorz Jaroszuk's “Close”), including non-comedic roles. Let's hope that he does not allow himself to be called “Pawlak” and that he can continue to perform in a variety of repertoire.

“Close” is directed by Grzegorz JaroszczukThe world of cinema

The rest of the cast is also on the same level in Żmijewski's work. Karol Dziuba is equally believable and eye-catching in the role of Władysław Kargul. He also showed his own interpretation of the character. There is something of Władysław Hańcza in his physique and he plays with similar emotions. However, he does so in a balanced way so that he does not try to imitate Hancha's style.

When mentioning the cast, we cannot forget Anna Demna, as she is the last surviving actress from the cast of the trilogy. Here she plays Uncle Pecynicha (Pawlak's little aunt). In recent years, Dymna has appeared less often on the big screen, but reminds us at every opportunity of her unique acting appeal. In Żmijewski's film, her husband is Adam Ferenczi. This supporting duo is also memorable.

“On our own. The beginning” dir. Artur ŻmijewskiPhoto: Jaroslaw Sosinski/Next Film

In this context, it is worth appreciating the work of casting director – the person responsible for selecting actors – Piotr Bartoszczyk. He has created an excellent cast, bringing together three generations of talented actresses and actors. Each of them gives something of themselves. Also participating in the film were: Polina Jawowska, Wieronika Homai, Barbara Jarstka, Miroslaw Baca, Zbigniew Zamachowski, Katarzyna Krzanowska, Agnieszka Sochora, Wojciech Malajkat, Kazek Mazur.

“On our own. The beginning.” Żmijewski's successful debut

Dealing with the classics is always technically risky. From the beginning, questions arise about the intentions, motives and justifications for implementing such an idea. Of course, Żmijewski's film is based on the emotions surrounding Chęciński's trilogy, and someone might think that the story should be shot differently and other artistic choices should be made, but this is not auteur cinema. Żmijewski has managed to create an engaging story that provides nearly two hours of quality entertainment.

Main image source: Photo: Jaroslaw Sosinski/Next Film

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