The Peasants (2023)

The Peasants (2023)

DK Welchman returns to her roots in this oil-painted adaptation of the haunting Young Poland folk saga

7.6

Movie

Poland
Polish, Russian
Animation, Drama, History
2023
DK WELCHMAN, FEMALE DIRECTOR
Andrzej Konopka, Andrzej Mastalerz, Anna Grzeszczak
115 min

TLDR

It still kills me how similar in movement Jagna’s two dances are compared to what happens, yet how remarkably different it feels by color, music, and the cast’s performances. And in all of this, Jagna never leads.

What it's about

Poland, late 19th century. In the village of Lipce, the beautiful peasant girl Jagna Paczesiówna marries the much older, wealthy widower Maciej Boryna, despite her love towards his married son Antek. As the seasons change, and the small town’s fate wavers, Jagna seeks her own path, even amidst the village’s envy.

The take

After Loving Vincent, DK and Hugh Welchman’s iconic oil paint animation initially seems like old hat, but this time the style is actually more fitting for their second feature. As an adaptation of the iconic Polish novel, The Peasants had to live up to the book’s reputation as the Nobel-winning depiction of the Polish countryside, one of the first to take an intimate look into the lives of the commonfolk, their customs, beliefs, and traditions. The Welchmans’ naturalist, impressionist art style lines up with the way the original Chłopi was inspired by these movements, as does L.U.C’s selection of mesmerizing, haunting Polish folk songs. While the plot is a tad cliché, it only does so in the way folklore tends to weave the same threads. It just so happens that the threads in The Peasants lead to violent ends.

What stands out

Mild spoilers: It’s easy to dismiss the violence Jagna faces as a thing of the past– after all, rarely do arranged marriages happen in Poland today– however, The Peasants doesn’t make it easy, as even when we know nothing of Jagna (save for her beauty, kindnesses, and Wycinanki paper cut art), we can easily see the rumor-mongering, passive-aggressiveness, and small town mindset today. And with returning to one’s folk traditions, The Peasants reminds us that not all of these values are ones that we have to keep.

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