Many wonderful stories could be told, and many interesting films could be made about the January Uprising, as well as about every Polish uprising. These events were filled with extraordinary characters, both heroic and controversial. Undoubtedly, this is what Pastor Stanislaw Brzoska was like. He could be the hero of a great movie. Unfortunately, despite all efforts, Revolution of 1863 This movie is not like that.
Recent years have been more abundant in Polish historical films than before, many of them waiting for their premiere – this is undoubtedly the result of the strategy of the previous government, which, although never managed to fully “embrace” the often anti-politics. – Polish cultural institutions, but somewhere along the way he fell into the idea of creating an alternative patronage structure based on the state treasury companies they controlled. Hence, for later historical films, in addition to the Polish Film Institute, companies known for their artistic activities, such as Krajowa Spółka Cukrowa, appear among the sponsors. Undoubtedly, this method can be criticized from the perspective of transparency and the logic of managing taxpayers' money, but it must be admitted that the effect has been achieved: as I said, there are more Polish historical films. It is also worth noting that this financing method has significantly improved the quality of the artwork. In each of these films, you can simply see that it was not made with pennies collected from behind the sofa, but on a real budget. Unfortunately, almost all of these films show that there are some things that money can't buy. Money can buy us an average movie, one that doesn't disappoint, looks good, and sounds good – but in the end, it will all boil down to the cheapest aspect of the movie to make, which is the screenplay. This is exactly the case Revolution of 1863.
The movie is sufficient and true, but..
And this is true. Rebels It's a film that doesn't have much to criticize from a technical perspective. The film simply looks good and sounds good in terms of sound and music – even if some shots are very corny (those misty forests and rebels rushing through them in slow motion…), and the music sometimes tries too intrusively to impose an upscale feeling. The mood is on us. The actors generally play their roles well, to the extent that the material gives them the opportunity to do so.
The film also tries to be as true as possible, that is, it treats the story it tells with respect and does not, as was often the case, try to annoyingly and falsely “de-brown” its characters. We never get the impression that the film was somehow created to discredit these characters in the public eye under the guise of a historical film – and yet who has ever heard of a priest being a positive character in a film? And who has ever heard that a modern historical film does not contain unnecessary “love” scenes, vulgarity or other “variety”? It is clear here that the director's approach is different from most contemporary Polish directors: just because he is a believer, which really shows here.
Unfortunately, this positive attitude toward the characters and story leads to a harmful deviation in the other direction. The film places its hero on a pedestal from the beginning and does not allow him to leave the pedestal even for a single moment until the end. At the expense of the movie.
Heroes without character
At this point, it would be time to say something about the plot Rebels. The film tells the story of the rebel activities of Father Stanisław Brzoska, known as the chief chaplain of the rebel forces in Podlasie, but also as a full-fledged commander, and the last commander at that – Fr. General Brzoska led the last active unit in the moribund uprising, and was only captured and executed in 1863, after two years of active operations. The history presented in the film sometimes deviates slightly from historical facts, but it does not seem to grossly distort anything, which is valuable because Fr. Brzoska is not a widely known figure today, but it is worth presenting his story.
But the combination of the words “leader” and “priest” should tell us that the father figure. Brzewski's assessment is not entirely clear. We can easily imagine that a priest going to war was controversial. It is more important to take into account the internal dilemmas that this priest may have experienced, and it is also useful to take into account the motives that prompted the father to do so. Brzóska to support the radical “Red” Party, the main force seeking to launch an uprising for which the nation was in no way prepared. However, it is futile to look for such dilemmas in film, and even more futile to look for a father figure. Brzewski. There is simply no such person here: our hero looks like a character from a school play, a dry didactic recreation of a history textbook, not a good, deep textbook, but one that simply says “On such-and-such day, this and that did this and that.” It's too bad – a picture of the father would really be great. Brzóski, but a picture with chiaroscuro, a film in which the director reflects on what exactly drove this priest into such a desperate battle, and what advantages and disadvantages of his character determined his path. while, Rebels The answer to such questions is very simple: patriotism and endless faith that sacrifice will not be in vain. Every successful plot depends first on the internal dilemmas and transformations of the characters, and second on external conflict. There is no inner life here.
The lack of personality and dynamism doesn't just bother the father. Brzewski. in Rebels In fact, there are no characters at all. There are only historical names assigned to on-screen actors and only the most vulgar features. On the one hand, we have good rebels, perhaps a bit rowdy at times, but – with the exception of one traitor – generally brave and… well, just good. Not to mention accuracy, which is even more impressive considering they often shoot from long range with short weapons. On the other hand, we have the evil Russians, whose bad character can be identified by their depravity, their penchant for drinking alcohol and mukhorka, and of course their complete willingness to commit acts of atrocity or even sacrilege. This simplified picture may have value for a children's audience who is not yet ready to understand the deep nuances of history. But adult viewers are right to expect a more nuanced and complex structure – especially since the superficiality of the characters makes it impossible to develop a truly interesting plot.
Is it worth it or not?
So what can we finally say about… Rebels? The major flaws mentioned above sometimes make us feel like we're watching a high-budget film, but it's still a semi-documentary, rather than a flesh-and-blood feature film. It's a film that will only arouse much enthusiasm among a few people, but it's also a film that doesn't offend in any way: at most, staunch anti-clericalists will be angered by the film's message. What is important about this film is that it can be shown to slightly older children as an addition to history lessons, but unfortunately even teenage viewers, and even adults, will notice the flat and formulaic nature of the characters, which translates into the flatness and simplicity of the plot. Because, let me remind you, a truly interesting plot requires not only external conflict, but also internal conflict, hesitation, dilemmas and ambiguity. All of this is missing here.
However, you can also look from the other side and notice that when we talk about the director, to whom Rebels This may only be the second feature film of his career, but this average performance of the film is actually a good prognosis for the future. we will see.
“Rebels 1863.” Poland 2023
Directed and screenplay: Tadeusz Secka. Starring: Sebastian Fabyjanski, Ksawjeri Szlinker, Cezary Bazura, and Jaczyslaw Bogoszewski.
Duration: 103 minutes
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