The Peasants

Reviewed by Ian Payne

In these days of computer-generated images it is normal to go to the cinema to see things which aren't real, such as spectacular car crashes and superheroes pulling off astounding feats. What is less usual is to go to the cinema to see a film that is in effect, an animated oil painting.

So it was with The Peasants, an adaptation of a classic Polish novel that led to the Nobel Prize for Literature for its Author, Władysław Reymont.

The film was shot with real actors and a team of over 150 artists turned the resultant images into oil paintings, the result of which was a visually compelling piece of cinema.

The novel was published in the first decade of the 20th Century and dealt with the life and loves of peasant farmers in a tight-knit village where everyone knows everyone else's business and gossip and jealousy are rife. Village beauty Jagna is married against her will to the richest farmer in the village, whilst in love with his eldest son, a man who is desperate to take over the farm from the patriarch. The men of the village chase after her, their wives, girlfriends and mothers call her a harlot.

For all its technical brilliance (the soundtrack is superb) the film presents a chocolate-box image of peasantry, with much drinking, dancing and fine costumes – if only we could all look as good as Jagna on a diet of cabbages!

For some in the audience, the story was too slight and not altogether worth the thousands of hours of work that went into making it. The painted images were something of a sensory overload. For others, they were captivated by the film in the first 5 minutes and loved every minute after.

Therein lies the beauty of cinema!