|Richard Brzostek - 08/11/2006
"On the Banks of the Niemen" (Nad Niemnem; 1986), directed by Zbigniew Kuzminski, is a beautiful film that takes place 20 years after the January Uprising of 1863. Throughout the film there are short glimpses of the events leading up to the battle in the forest 20 years prior that is so meaningful to the families that live on the Niemen. With graceful clothes, elegant manors, and picturesque fields, nearly everything about this film is gorgeous. The film is 170 minutes in length, which allows for the story to fully develop and the viewer to become enchanted by this extraordinary film based on a novel by Eliza Orzeszkowa.
The story focuses on the events of Justyna Orzelska (played by Iwona Powlak), a young noblewoman who catches the eye of several men with her beauty. Her first love Zygmunt, despite now being married, pleads with her to rekindle their love. Another nobleman by the name of Teofil Rozyc is captivated by Justyna's attractiveness and manner, despite his worldly travels and exploits with more attractive women in cities across Europe. Furthermore, a peasant by the name of Jan Bohaterowicz also is smitten by Justyna, but behaves in a more noble fashion than the other two men combined. As a side note, Jan Bohaterowicz's family comes from a noble source as their clan and family name was bestowed by King Sigismund Augustus when his ancestors Jan and Cecily where knighted in the 16th century, but their noble status was later taken away.
Justyna lives at her uncle Benidict's manor with her father, as her father lost his fortune. Also in the house live Benidict's wife, two children, and his sister. Benidict's wife is a hysterical type that has chocking fits whenever things are not in accord with her wishes. On the one hand, Benidict is hard working and strives to ensure that the family continues to hold their land; and on the other, his wife and her friends are weak, snobbish people that know nothing of work.
Justyna comes to like Jan Bohaterowicz, going against her family's wishes for her to marry a nobleman. However, something binds the two families besdies the love of Justyna and Jan. In the uprising, Jan's father and Benidict's brother both died fighting for the same cause and both now lie in the same grave, that holds the 40 men that attempted to rebel against the Russians that overran and controlled their lands.
"On the Banks of the Niemen" is one of the most beautiful films I have ever watched. From the music, to the story and the landscape, "On the Banks of the Niemen" can only be described as elegant. This 19th century love story is one that will capture your attention with its elegance.
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