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The Movie Poles Can Be Proud of; The Man History Can Call 'Hero'
A movie about a "HERO,' proclaimed the adverts but, when we hear this word, lots of us have different interpretations. Who is, as a matter of fact, a hero nowadays, in our civilized world? Is it someone capable of outstanding deeds or is it simply someone faithful to his own values, his dreams till the very last breath? Someone ready to look into the eyes of one's enemy with dignity and pride, metaphorically someone stones willingly shout about if people do not want to speak about? This movie made recently by Ryszard Bugajski clearly presents the life of such a hero, the man who said radical NO to the two monstrous powers of tyranny that shook Poland in the twentieth century, Emil Fieldorf (1895-1953) known as General Nil.
Soon after the biopic POPIELUSZKO which told us a story of a Priest who coped with communist regime in the late 1970s and the early 1980s till his very martyrdom, this movie tells us a story of a General who coped with outrageous accusations and fury of Stalin's servants till his very execution. Although the two films occur to discuss similar themes, they appear to differ considerably. While the former one depicted the spiritual freedom of Popieluszko universally known, the latter one depicts psychological heroism of Fieldorf, though a brave patriot during Nazi monstrosity, deliberately ignored for years of communist oppression.
But when I decided to see this film, I asked myself a significant question: "who was, in fact, Fieldorf known under the name of Walenty Gdanicki?" Someone who merely dared say NO to the promising offers, delicious cognacs, good coffee and Soviet smiles of People's Republic's comrades? Or someone more than that someone who really broke them and made them fear in long lasting ignorance and silence? That is what the film memorably supplies you with - a true insight into the specific phenomenon of this man and into the universal phenomenon of a man faithful to his ideals. Starting with some flashbacks of WWII years and Fieldorf's return from Ural Mountains, the movie faithfully depicts Fieldorf's story of life - later life, his struggles, his fears, his ideals. But, it is not only the story why I find this movie a valuable work.
GENERAL NIL is a perfect film for viewers who appreciate something thought provoking. You are simply filled with thrill and reflections throughout. Why? Thanks to clever script, unpredictable action, intense emotions and lots of memorable moments, or, better said, very accurate presentation of the times. To the major moments, I would recall communist tortures, horror of politics of the time, manipulation in courts and the final moments filled with dignity, power and clarity of emotions.
The intense atmosphere encountered in the movie goes with marvelous performances. Olgierd Lukaszewicz does a fine job in the lead helping the viewer get into the mind of the main character, portraying courage, dignity, upright emotions on the one hand, and, weakness and typical human fear on the other hand. The supporting cast appear to be the right depiction of the Poles, not the distorted satire on the nation like in many movies of recent years but a just portrayal of the people. The supporting cast give fine performances, including Magdalena Emilianowicz as Krystyna, Fieldorf's wife, Bronislaw Wroclawski as procurator Wajsblech and Wenanty Nosul as Boleslaw Bierut.
The depiction of communist regime is another factor why I find this film worth watching. What I like about the movie is the fact it goes deeper into human heart. It does not merely present the wretchedness of communists as some past features but rather depicts the state of humans in service of wickedness, of cruelty, manipulation, corruption and awful indifference to tragedy and injustice. So to say, the world that is reigned like the Nazism by a sole rule of extermination: whoever is not with us is against us! The scene of shooting the young boy with cold blood clearly resembles that. The communists are the people for whom the spiritual becomes absurd, yet the ones who get touched by the ridiculous smiles of upper comrades naively believing in the power of Soviet ideals. So to say, everyone needs their ideals that fit their intellect. The symbolic number of stairs are rather what they aim to see than there truly are: manipulation of facts, believing in the nonsense of "half-truth." Consequently, they are the ones who create the world of cruelty and misery, who bring up the children according to propaganda but, at the same time, get so tired of them. Finally, they are those who tremble at the face of true courage and upright heart since there is only room for selfish greed and secret connections.
Summing it up, I don't attempt to theorize or exaggerate for Emil Fieldorf would not like it as it is nicely conveyed in the memorable conversation with a Jew in prison. I seriously tell you as a Pole and as a movie buff: GENERAL NIL is worth watching. If you are fed up with pompous script, fake ideals, predictable action and clichés, it is a film for you, powerful 2 hours that will make you breathless in your seat, a memorable film about a general who was deprived of justice, rights, even funeral by politically correct comrades; yet a heroic patriot whose name may be heard again after years of secretly buried truth. 9/10
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