Légiók c. film posztere

Thoughts on the movie “Legions” on National Independence Day of Poland

If you want to see amazing pictures and landscapes, I highly recommend the film Legions. Sometimes I was just sitting there in the cinema (yes there, the last day before the cinemas got closed down again due to the quarantine) and my jaw dropped, quite touched by the beauty on the screen. Jaroslaw Szoda, whose name I want remember, did a fantastic job as a cameraman and cinematographer. It is worth watching the film just for the sights of breathtaking Polish landscapes.

Another great virtue of the film is that it presents a segment of history that many, including myself, know too little about: the Polish War of Independence. As far as I can tell the historical bits are accurate enough.  For example, one of the key scenes in the film is the Battle of Rokitna, during which 70 (according to the film, 64) mounted ulans successfully overcame three trenches (and the soldiers in them) in a quarter of an hour. However, many of the attackers also fell in the battle. What kind of courage it takes for someone to attack a with horses and swords people with rifles and cannons.  The saying “taking knives to a gunfight” came alive.

As we can see in the filmic depiction of this the battle they won partially by the horses killing the soldiers in the ditch with a kick in the head. It might have been the bloodiest scene in the whole movie, yet it wasn’t this detail that gripped my heart the most. When I saw horses suffer, as well as fall or even die. That’s when I thought about how my teenage stepdaughter watching the movie with us might feel, who loves horses very much. My empathy was well-directed: we came out from the theater she mentioned right away that this scene stirred her up the most.

At other times, I felt the torment my step-son had to endure:2. He doesn’t like “sentimentality” and if he could he would have skipped it. Although the characters in the romance are fictional and not historical figures, but their fate was meant to grab our attention through drama and passion. This was more or less successful, as it was possible to identify with these three and their emotions. But none of the three main actors acted their roles in an unforgettable or remarkable way. Maybe if they were given more lines to speak.

After watching the film’s two opening scenes, I feared the whole work would be a one-sided, patriotic propaganda film. But my intuition was incorrect and I cannot accuse it of one-sidedness. In the first scene, a deserter is caught and tied up after a horse and taken to execute. The second big scene takes us to an idyllic training camp, where young soldiers who have never seen a fight before are playfully preparing to defend their homeland. These sequences of images are so sunny and cheerful that I thought we would only see the fight itself in its romanticized form. After all, real propaganda shows only the advantages of what it wants to encourage and not its drawbacks. It is easier to excite youth into battle if we do not show them the pain and death that is inherent in every war. But neither the grandiose (big-budget) battle scenes of this film, nor the depiction of the wounded who were operated on and cared for in the field hospital lacked the vidual details of the suffering. Although I’ve never been at war and I hope I’ll never be, but I had a feeling these scenes were as accurate as possible within the constraints of a film. 

Unfortunately, despite the beautiful images in the film, despite the exciting battle scenes, despite the appropriate, well-composed music, the whole thing didn’t come together into a coherent whole. It often felt too slow paced, it could have had a much tighter rhythm. However, it was great to pique my interest in finding out how independent Poland was created. If someone doesn’t know the story, they won’t find out from this movie, even though it went through its main events chronologically. For example, it does not provide enough information about who, when, with whom fought and why. 

Ps Today is the Polish Independence Day, because 102 years ago today, on November 11, 1918, the country gained its independence. That’s why I’m putting up this post today about a movie I saw two days ago. The screening was organized by the Polish Institute in Budapest and was probably open to the public, but in reality only those knew about it who were invited. As my wife is the Vice President of the Polish Nationality Municipality of Downtown-Lipótváros, she was invited.

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