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Reviews & Ratings for
The Promised Land More at IMDbPro »Ziemia obiecana (original title)

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34 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

Bravura Film-making of the Highest Order!

Author: bensonj from New York, NY
22 January 2006

Made after THE DAMNED, but before 1900, this operatic-style melodrama, about the industrial revolution in Lodz ca. 1895, is far better than either. Like the other two films, it takes an extreme situation in history and makes it more extreme, piling on the excess. Two examples here: a garden party that's like a Roman orgy, with naked women, tigers in cages, etc., and a scene where a worker grapples with his boss and they fall into a giant machine which instantly spews out their bodies as huge chunks of raw meat. But whereas Visconti, and, particularly, Bertolucci, ultimately drown under their excesses, Wajda maintains total control over his narrative. The characters and their single-minded mission hold the film tightly together, and the visual excesses seem like an inevitable part of the narrative, not sideshow set-pieces. The film is incredibly visceral: the thrill of making a killing on the financial market, the inhuman noise of the factories, the excitement of undercurrents of rumors among patrons at the opera. Most of all there's the brilliant use of relentless, machine-like music throughout that keeps up the unremitting unflagging pace. The film has a power which stays with you long after you've left the theatre! And it's a virtuoso recreation of a time and place. It must have been extremely costly to make. The subject certainly seems safe for an East European-bloc filmmaker--if ever capitalists were villains, it must have been at that time and place. But in fact Wajda was making a politically dangerous statement. The final scene of workers being shot at the order of the owners was an explicit comment on workers being shot in communist Poland a few years before the film was made. This is a great film by one of the greatest filmmakers of the twentieth century!

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25 out of 29 people found the following review useful:


Author: Michal Murawski from London, England.
18 May 2004

Absolutely brilliant. Many regard this as Wajda's, and maybe even Poland's best ever film. Exciting, ceaselessly and unstoppably powerful, acted with herculean guile, fervour and passion. This is quite possibly the most exciting film I've ever seen. The drama, wit and ferocity of the bulk of the film build so, so effectively to its deafening crescendo, the music, the setting, the actors and the camera-work complementing and intertwining with each other in a way quite possibly unmatched in anything else I've seen. And another great think about it is its shameless, paradoxically both subtle and explicit POLITICAL content. This is Wajda's demonstration that however much he may be portrayed as a hero of Poland's rebellion against its socialist regime, he is at the same time sympathetic to the cause which drove Marxism, and hostile to the vulgarities of the interaction of man and money, the dehumanising, reifying assault with which rampant capitalism engages with the human psyche. If this is propaganda, then it is a heartfelt, stunningly effective damasking of the myth with which we all live today.

By the way, I've only seen the re-released version, shorter than the original. Should i also see the longer 1974 version? I think the freshness and crispness of the cinematography in the more recent version might have added to the film.

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21 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Classic. European. See this!

Author: pipeoxide from United States
3 February 2003

This definitely may be Andrzej Wajda's most introspective and interesting film. The plot grabs you with its humour and depth while Wajda makes magic with the camera. The Kurowo scene with the poppy flowers is classic...the music calls on nostalgia. Of course, what makes "Ziemia Obiecana" so amazing are the performances. Olbrychski as the scrupleless, handsome Pole...Pszoniak as the hillarious, clever Jew...and (my favourite!) Seweryn as the baby-faced, love-struck German. Naturally, this is a social commentary, but it also reveals certain truths about the human psyche. And let's remember that Wajda was one of the most liberated of all the filmmakers of the Soviet bloc. Calling this propaganda doesn't do anyone justice. Cheers and see this beautiful film!!!

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24 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

Masterpiece of polish cinema

Author: 3tony ( from Warsaw, Poland
13 April 2002

By many (including me) seen as the best polish movie ever made. A perfect picture of 19 century industrialization with its bright and dark sides. The main characters: polish, german and jewish represent the three societies living in the industrial city of Lodz. every society with its own ways and peculiarities. Funny, tragic, colorful. A must see.

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16 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Fast, Vivid, History and Passion

Author: Danusha_Goska Save Send Delete
4 February 2011

"The Promised Land" is a visual feast, fast-paced, and every bit as ruthless as the cutthroat characters it depicts. The topic – the Industrial Revolution, and the characters – immoral greedy monsters – are ugly and mean, but Wajda's filmmaking is so virtuosic you watch just for the sheer craft, splendor, and runaway train of a plot. I find it hard to sit through movies where there are no sympathetic main characters and no possibility of a happy ending, but "The Promised Land" is addictively watchable. There's an orgy, a tiger, several mutilated bodies, fires, riots, history, and Wojciech Kilar's driving, award-winning score.

Anyone interested in the Industrial Revolution should see this movie. Fans of Dickens' "Oliver Twist" and Gaskell's "North and South" really must see it. I wish I could require my students to watch it. Wajda was determined to get every detail correct. In the DVD's extra features, an assistant director discusses a scene of indigent paupers receiving charity food. Wajda's team discovered that the indigent were fed from long, metal tables with bowls built right into them. They rebuilt such a table just for this scene, lasting a few minutes. They had special wooden spoons made, and then weathered them by soaking them in oil. The paupers' rags were similarly weathered. There is a lengthy scene where Anna (Anna Nehrebecka), a country aristocrat, travels to the city. The camera follows Anna and lays out Lodz before her in all its gritty, noxious detail: smoking chimneys, workers' funerals, fighting men, the Jewish quarter. The scene looks like documentary footage of a late nineteenth-century industrial city.

"The Promised Land" also takes the viewer into the mansions of Lodz, almost ridiculous in their sumptuousness, plunked down in so much filth, squalor, and despair. Ornate winding staircases, gilt-encrusted columns and ceiling murals lure on industrialists willing to wring every last penny from their desperate employees.

"The Promised Land" depicts Lodz's emergence as a textile manufacturing hub. Three friends, one a Polish aristocrat, one a Jew, and one a German, strive to build their own factory. They have few resources and must do dirty things to make their dreams of unlimited wealth a reality. Blond Karol (Daniel Olbrychski) has the face of a cherub and the soul of a serial killer. His entire being is omnivorous greed. Moryc (Wojciech Pszoniak) cheats another Jew to get his stake. After doing so, he practically collapses from the strain, and then breaks the fourth wall, winking at the audience. He's just an actor playing a part, he reminds us, as they all are, playing any part they want to get their highest ideal: cash.

The film also depicts workers and their plight. A dewy young mill hand is lured into prostitution. Others are consumed by the machines they work. Scenes of mutilated flesh are quite graphic, and yet not sensationalistic. This is the price poor people pay for bread, the film shows us. The camera does not linger. It keeps moving. Just like Lodz, just like men chasing cash, just like history.

There are a few characters who aren't utterly despicable. They appear, make small squeaks of decency, self-respect, and dignity, and are crushed by the inevitable. There is a stunning scene that is quite different from anything else in the film. The film moves quickly and purposefully, but in this scene men meet in a small room to play classical music. The scene is not at all essential to the plot. It moves with atypical languor. The scene seems to say, "Yes, people in Lodz had souls." That reminder makes the surrounding greed-induced frenzy all the more disturbing.

Some viewers protest "The Promised Land" as an anti-Semitic film, because of unpleasant Jewish characters. Indeed, there are unpleasant Jewish characters in the film. Virtually *every* character in the film is unpleasant – even the pretty, innocent child lured into prostitution. The film does not allow you to pity her, but implies that she was complicit in her own downfall. Further, every character is unpleasant in an ethnically- gender-, and socioeconomic-class-coded way. That is, the Polish peasants are unpleasant in a stereotypical way associated with peasants, the one priest is unpleasant in a way associated with priests. The men are bad men, the women are bad women. The priest is on screen for minutes only, but he leers at a pretty factory hand. Anna has a big heart, but she is ineffectual and not smart enough to see through Karol. Other women are whores or idiots. The Polish aristocrat aggressively sells out every high ideal his ancestors held dear. He desecrates an image of Poland's icon, the Black Madonna of Czestochowa. The Germans are either sadistic and autocratic or lumpen and dull. The Polish peasant who manages to rise above his station is an insufferable, loud-mouthed boor. This film isn't anti-Semitic; it is brutally misanthropic. It depicts people at their worst.

Again, it is Wajda's virtuosic filmmaking that makes all this endurable. At a key moment, a rock flies through a window. That rock means much – the inevitable march of history that has brought industrialists high and might also bring them very, very low. Any other filmmaker would probably have handled the rock through a window as a crashing sound followed by a thud. Wajda films this scene with such skill and poetry that the rock becomes a character in the film. It demands, and gets, the viewer's full attention. Subsequent action is filmed *from the rock's point of view.* Poland is a small, distant, and much contested country. It's filmmaking like that that amply earned Wajda his honorary Academy Award.

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11 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Impressive piece of art

Author: Christian Christensen from Sweden
4 June 2008

Usually I tend to hold on to those movies where there are many things I can relate to, in other words modern realistic dramas.

In this case, even if many situations in the film is dramatized incredible, its still a world that in some way did historical exist when Europe was early industrialized. A storyline of a very raw world these people lived in, with a very hard over dramatized personal directions of the actors: This is a typical East-European style of a movie, when it comes to directing and acting. Even if I was a bit put off by this over dramatization I was glued to the screen.

This production is so well done in all aspects that you will be tussed around in your mind and almost put to trans like you did when you saw animated movies as a child.

I disparead for many moments, and just fell into the movie, living in the story, something I seldom do nowadays.

The entire concept of this movie is stunning. The technical quality is about the best I have ever seen and heard of a movie that is that old.

The scenaries are completely mind blowing, considering that digital effects didn't exist 1975. Photography that is remarkable beautiful and for the time a fantastic sound engineering when it comes to recording and post.

I watched this film on DVD screened by very good equipment, and It was shocking that that quality could be produced 1975.

Respect for Polish film workers !

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13 out of 19 people found the following review useful:


Author: ebbets-field from Seattle
1 January 2001

A rich epic of the sweeping changes in values and material life brought on by the industrial revolution's rather late arrival in Poland. Praiseworthy in its physical scope, masterful direction, and fine acting. The recreation of a nearly-century-old city is impresive in its scale and thoroughness. On one level, this is socialist propaganda, but on another it has the ring of universal truth.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Eminently engaging, sometimes confusing

Author: bandw from Boulder, CO
26 May 2012

This is the story of a time and a place. The time is the 1890s and the place is Lodz, Poland (which, Wikipedia indicates was a client state of the Russian Empire then). Lodz at the time was a center of textile production, nicknamed "The Promised Land." Director Wajda wastes no time in hitting you over the head with the basic theme which is the total contrast between the industrial workers and the textile factory owners. The main images we get of the workers is their crowding to get into work at the factories (ala scenes from "Metropolis") and working at their tedious work stations. The main focus of the film is on the factory owners and wannabes and, in particular, on three friends who are wanting to build a factory--one of the friends is German, another is a Polish aristocrat, and the third is a Jew of a nationality that I never determined.

This is a complicated story of epic sweep featuring a large cast. Trying to keep track of all the characters was a challenge for me, particularly without having any historical background to rely on. Some of the financial wheeling and dealing went over my head. As is the case whenever large amounts of money and power are at stake, there was a lot of backstage jockeying going on--companies trying to poach executives from each other, secret coalitions, factories burned to gain competitive advantage or for insurance monies, coded messages decrypted, and so forth. To complicate matters there were national and personal frictions, with Germans insulting Poles, Poles insulting Germans, and Jews being unliked for their success. Additionally there were fissures within families where the pursuit of money caused people to behave in a manner in opposition to longstanding traditions of honor and integrity. At one point a father says to his son, "You have sold your soul for a golden calf." Some transactions were conducted using rubles while others used marks. Some of the characters speak German, others Polish. I was often confused as to where a scene was taking place. Perhaps to elaborate on all of the complexities would require a ten hour movie.

A case is made against unfettered capitalism, a not altogether irrelevant contemporary topic for debate. In order to satisfy the Soviet censors to get this made perhaps Wajda exaggerated by making all of the upper class characters truly disagreeable and arrogant, but given his later involvement with Solidarity in Poland, his sympathies were clearly with the workers. I wish additional time had been given to examining the personal lives of some of the workers; as presented they appeared mostly as grim oppressed cyphers.

Of the seven of Wajda's films I have seen I found this one to be the most accomplished cinematically, almost to the point where the filming trumps the story. The production values, the acting, and the musical score are all excellent. The scenes in the "several years later" segment are stunning in their use of camera angle, editing, artistic composition, and emotional impact. The creation of a Lodz at the turn of the century is a worthy achievement, on a par with the illusion of authenticity that you get when reading a Dickens novel.

I am puzzled as to why this film has drawn such a small audience over the years.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A savage attack on corrupt Polish capitalism of the 1880s

Author: robert-temple-1 from United Kingdom
25 June 2015

This epic film directed by the famous Polish director Andrzej Wajda is not nearly so widely known outside Poland as many of his other films, which have a broader appeal and are less disturbing and savagely ironical. The film is based upon a novel by the classic Polish novelist Ladislaw Reymont (who died 1925). The novel was published in 2 volumes in English in 1928 but is very difficult to find. Reymont is better known in English for his novel THE PEASANTS (CHLOPI), published in four volumes successively entitled Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. It is usually necessary when trying to acquire it to piece the volumes together separately from different booksellers, as I had to do. This story is harrowing in the extreme, and to a certain extent becomes a caricature of 'the evils of capitalists', primarily speculators. Of course, we all know today how dangerous speculators are, and every major bank seems to contains dozens of uncontrolled and uncontrollable 'rogue speculators', or 'casino gamblers' as they are often called nowadays, who keep bringing about disastrous losses and crashes which effect the entire globe. But this film is a historical drama limited to what took place in the Polish city of Lodz during the 1880s. One presumes that it must have a basis in truth of some kind, but being ignorant of the history of Lodz, I must confess I do not know. The film contains a few 'in jokes'. For instance, there is a scene where an uneducated Jewish moneylender is told that Victor Hugo has just died (which happened in 1885). He says, after looking blank at first, 'oh yes, he wrote that book OF FIRE AND SWORD some portions of which my daughter read out to me.' Polish viewers would laugh their heads off at this, as the book referred to is one of the most famous works of Henryk Sienkiewicz and has nothing to do with Victor Hugo. Wajda's rage when making this film was evidently so intense that he could not resist planting such small ironies as those within the dialogue. The film portrays the most vicious, corrupt, callous and inhuman greed and arrogance imaginable. Mill owners are shown saying: 'Let them die' when their workers are injured by the machines in their factories, and refuse to pay their widows a penny in compensation. They go round the factories choosing the young worker girls they want for sex and forcing them into it with the threat of firing them and their whole families so that they will starve if the girls do not agree. Mangled bodies and body parts flying through the air from whirling machines are shown in the factories without sparing our sensitivities. We see people being beaten to death in the street and no one even notices, we see several suicides by financial speculators and moneylenders who have been 'ruined'. Jews are portrayed very harshly as stock characters who are greedy, vengeful and lascivious. With the exception of one very nice and honourable aristocratic girl named Anka, who tries unsuccessfully to 'have concern for human suffering' by aiding a worker whose ribs have been crushed but is ordered not to do so, just about every character in the story is revolting, rotten to the core, and despicable. This is not an edifying film, and is very much a 'downer'. The title is clearly an extremely ironical one, as 'the promised land' dreamed of by one minor character as a Lodz where everybody gets rich and is happy, is in fact the most brutal nightmare and hell on earth. Wajda used his brilliant film making skills to create a highly watchable and rather mesmerising film, but it turns one's stomach. Of course, that is what he wanted to do. His message seems to have been: 'Can you watch this without being disgusted and horrified?' The answer is no. This story was filmed as a silent film in 1927, but I do not know whether that survives. Reymont's THE PEASANTS has been filmed as a feature film three times, in 1922, 1935, and 1973, and as a television mini-series in 1972. The Poles love their classic writers and poets. Even in the midst of the dialogue of this film, the name of the national poet Adam Mickiewicz bursts through in conversation. Especially at that time, it would have been hard to find a Pole who could go an entire day without referring to Mickiewicz, who was not only the national poet but a passionate supporter of Polish independence and freedom, who spent much of his life living on the Rue de Seine (see his plaque) in Paris as a political exile. With the Poles, their national literature is viewed as such an integral part of their national identity that it means more to them than probably any other European nation. To a large extent this can be seen to be due to the struggle which the Poles have had over the centuries in maintaining a national identity at all, what with the Swedish, German, and Russian invasions, not to mention their tiffs with the Lithuanians. In this film, there are many sarcastic references to and portrayals of Germans resident in Lodz at the time, and they come off worse than even the Jews, as the worst villains and scoundrels. This film pulls no punches, but lets rip in every direction like a mad dog that wants to bite everyone all at once.

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2 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Technically impressive but crude and offensive

Author: thismango from United Kingdom
3 September 2014

Having read the previous reviews of this film, I am inclined to agree with the lone 3-star one. I'm no flag-waver for capitalism, but stereotyped images do not help anyone. What disturbed me most was the crude stereotyping of Jews. One reviewer here has argued that all of the characters appear as crude, unsympathetic stereotypes - as if that were a defence of the film - and that it is therefore acceptable to stereotype Jews. I disagree. Even if the general tendency to crude theory-driven characterisation did not invalidate the whole thing, which in my opinion it does, there would still remain a difference in the way the crude stereotypes are constructed.

The capitalists and peasants are stereotyped according to their social class: offensive enough, just as much to the grovelling, screeching workers and peasants as to the yapping, striding, quail-crunching capitalists and aristocrats. On the other hand, the Jewish characters are clearly stereotyped along racial lines. Look at the depiction of traditional Jewish culture. Three men in ritual costumes are praying. When they finish, one of them (I presume the Rabbi) says he is paying one of them less than the other because he didn't pray with enough concentration. What could be a more crude, vicious and insulting repetition of the clichéd old stereotype of the two-faced, money-obsessed Jew? The scene could have been used to create a contrast between traditional Jews and those who become involved in capitalism but, no, it's all of them.

The central Jewish character is as subtle as a black-and-white minstrel. The effeminate facial expressions; the inability to appreciate social situations except for their business opportunities; the way he looks on impotently as the properly manly Germans and Poles get their ends away at an orgy; there is little to the character but a collection of classic stereotypes. It's extremely tedious.

I see little substantial difference between this frenetic, overheated mess and the poisonous ranting of Karl Marx in 'On the Jewish Question'.

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