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From a Far Country (1981)

5.6
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The film is a biography of Pope John Paul II. It starts in 1926 when the boy Karol Wojtila was celebrating Christmas with his father in Poland. Some years later Nazi Germany attacks Poland ... See full summary »

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Title: From a Far Country (1981)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Tadek
...
Wanda
John Welsh ...
Priest
Maurice Denham ...
Sapieha
Cezary Morawski ...
...
Captain
Maja Komorowska
Izabella Olszewska
Andrzej Lapicki
Zbigniew Zapasiewicz
Piotr Fronczewski ...
Palitsch
Maciej Robakiewicz
Tadeusz Bradecki
Marek Kondrat ...
Policeman
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Storyline

The film is a biography of Pope John Paul II. It starts in 1926 when the boy Karol Wojtila was celebrating Christmas with his father in Poland. Some years later Nazi Germany attacks Poland and invades the country while Wojtila seeks refuge at the house of Cardinal Wyszynski. Also appear all the other important stations of the life of the Pope. Written by Volker Boehm

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Genres:

Biography | Drama

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Release Date:

20 December 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

From a Far Country: Pope John Paul II  »

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1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

 
Brilliant movie at psychological, historical, and religious level!
5 July 2005 | by (Cieszyn, Poland) – See all my reviews

Krzysztof Zanussi, one of the very best Polish directors, made a biographical film about John Paul II, FROM A FAR COUNTRY, in the earliest years of the great pontiff. However, saying that this movie is a biographical work only is a seriously underrated view. When Karol Wojtyla became a pope, he said that he had been called "from a far country," i.e. Poland - geographically, not that far from Vatican, but practically, a totally different world closed within the communist regime. The title of the movie, therefore, implicitly indicates what to expect: not only the life of Karol Wojtyla but, foremost, a broad look at his homeland, Poland, its 1930s-1970s history as well as a powerful psychological insight into various characters who create history. As a result, FROM A FAR COUNTRY is a great movie at multiple levels and for a wide number of audience.

The action begins on Good Friday 1926 when little Lolek (Karol Wojtyla) celebrates Christ's Passion with his dad and crowds of people who came to the sanctuary of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska (near Wadowice). Soon after, the action moves to 1939 and the beginning of WWII. One of the most touching historic scenes that Zanussi memorably entails in the movie is Auschwitz and Father Kolbe (Kazimierz Kursa) going to die instead of one man for whom he felt pity and whom he loved in a Christian sense. Suffering is everywhere. Karol Wojtyla cannot study Polish philology, works in Solvay, but never stops cultivating the theater interests with a group of his brave friends. After the WWII, Poland experiences another cruel reign, the communist regime. The historical authenticity is highly strengthened by a huge number of original archives with the narrator that are embedded in the film. They are short, appear quite frequently and really supply the viewer with a clear glimpse on Wojtyla's life and on the Polish history.

Except for many advantages of the movie, the director wonderfully develops various characters, some historical, some fictitious ones but it is done so perfectly that a viewer gets a clear idea of what is going on and a very clear psychological picture of single characters. Historic cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha (Maurice Denham) is showed accurately as a man of great courage, a man of hope, a pious Christian who had a very profound impact on Karol in his youth. Besides other great historic figures, there are a number of fictitious or partly authentic characters.

First, these are Karol's friends: Tadek (Christopher Cazenove), who joins communist propaganda after the war by writing books, but in the long run, marriage changes his heart and he realizes at once that the truth lies somewhere else than in communism; Wanda (Lisa Harrow), his wife, who changes him and never loses faith in humanity; Marian (well played by the famous star Sam Neill), her brother, who, after a horrific experience of Auschwitz, becomes a priest and is exposed to huge dangers from communists. I loved the moment Tadek speaks to Wojtyla before his marriage about God, love, and human existence! Worth noticing!

Besides, the director shows a family of three generations that live under one roof. This is Wladek (Warren Clarke) with his wife (Carol Gillies), his mother (Anne Dyson) and their son, Stefan (Andrew Seear). Wladek gets prone to communist promises and works with them for a long time. His wife and, particularly, his mother see a sense in what they hear in churches rather than what the communists say. Yet, Stefan claims to be an atheist but, as a young person, always searches for... Love and consequently for...God. "Is there God" as he asks Tadek on a conference concerning Tadek's communist books is a profound scene that proves young people's search for the Saviour.

As a matter of fact, it is important to state that, although the film is about Karol Wojtyla, and Cezary Morawski plays him, we never see his face. As a result, the viewer gets an impression of Wojtyla's presence in all that happened. Moreover, it is a very gentle portrayal of this man. The masterpiece was the scene of his first Holy Mass in the royal crypt in Wawel Cathedral on November, the 2nd, 1946. The combination of two pictures in different perspectives left an everlasting impact on my memory and touched me deeply. Another wonderful scene with Wojtyla is when he has to change a place of living immediately. He does not hesitate, takes his clothes, his book, and leaves a glass of hot tea on a table. But, as I said before, there are generally few scenes with Cezary Morawski as Wojtyla because the director relies more on archives, and it results in a wonderful authenticity.

So to say, I could mention many more things about its magnificence. FROM A FAR COUNTRY is an underrated masterpiece addressed to various open minded viewers. You don't have to be religious, you don't have to be particularly interested in the figure of John Paul II, yet, you may find something wonderful for yourself in this movie. 10/10 EXCELLENT MOVIE!

The final shot made me surprised and deeply touched. All characters, ex atheists, communists, catholics, skeptical people are now reunited by the presence of John Paul II who came to Cracow in 1979. Wladek, Stefan with Magda, Tadek, Wanda are noticeable in the huge crowds of people who came not to meet a pope closed in his world, far from simple life, but John Paul the Great who, in spite of being so far, was always so close - like that friendly Lolek whom they knew so well from long ago...


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