Director: Andrzej Munk
Production: Film Polski, ZAF "Kadr," and WFD (Warsaw); black and white, 35mm; running time: 87 minutes; length: 7787 feet. Filmed in Poland. Released January 1958.
Producer: Stanisław Adler; screenplay: Jerzy Stefan Stawiński, from the collection of Stawiński's short stories, Wegrzy and Ucieczka; photography: Jerzy Wójcik; editors: Jadwiga Zajiczek and Mirosława Garlicka; sound: Bohdan Jankowski; art director: Jan Grandys; music: Jan Krenz.
Cast: Scherzo alla polacca: Edward Dziewoński (Dzidziuś Górkiewicz); Barbara Polomska (Zosia Górkiewicz); Ignacy Machowski (Major Grzmet); Leon Niemszyk (Hungarian officer); Kazimierz Opaliński (Commander of Mokotów); Ostinato lugubre: Kazimierz Rudzki (Turek); Henryk Bak (Krygier); Mariusz Dmochowski (Korwin Makowski); Roman Kłosowski (Szpakowski); Bogumil Kobiela (Lieutenant Dabecki); Józef Kostecki (Zak); Tadeusz Lomnicki (Lieutenant Zawistowski); Józef Nowak (Kurzawa); Wojciech Siemion (Marianek).
Award: Prize of the International Film Press, the "Fipresci," 1959.
Haudiquet, Philippe, Nouveaux cinéastes polonais, Lyons, 1963.
Andrzej Munk, Warsaw, 1964.
Liehm, Antonin, and Mira Liehm, The Most Important Art: EastEuropean Film after 1945, Berkeley, 1977.
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Historia filmu polskiego 4, Warsaw, 1981.
Thirard, P.-L., "Experience du Cinéma polonais," in Lettres Françaises (Paris), no. 790, 1959.
Variety (New York), 20 May 1959.
Sadoul, Georges, "Andrzej Munk," in Lettres Françaises (Paris), no. 894, 1961.
Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1961.
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Film (West Germany), August-September 1964.
"Andrzej Munk Issue" of Etudes Cinématographiques (Paris), no. 45, 1965.
Moullet, Luc, "Andrzej Munk," in Cahiers du Cinema (Paris), February 1965.
Brighton Film Review, April 1970.
Gyula, K., in Filmkultura (Budapest), July-August 1975.
Cieslar, J., "Andrzej Munk (1921–1961)," in Film a Doba (Prague), October 1981.
Modrzejewska, E., in Iluzjion, no. 3, 1986.
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Kino (Warsaw), May and June, 1994.
Litka, P., in Rezyser (Warsaw), no. 59, 1996.
* * *
Eroica, Andrzej Munk's third film, is based on the contemporary drama Czlowiek na torze. As in his debut Blekitny krzyz, he returns again to World War II for subject matter. The film consists of two parts, both of which deal with the theme of heroism which in a certain historical situation becomes myth.
The initial episode, centered on the tragic Warsaw uprising of 1944, sounds a new note in Munk's artistic method as well as for Polish cinema. It is the presentation of an ironic, sarcastic anti-hero and his deeds, a view that is quite exceptional within the body of Polish film that treated either the uprising or the war in general. The protagonist is a Warsaw good-for-nothing who is calculating and forever oscillating between cowardice and a utilitarian world view. Suddenly, and against his will, he becomes a hero. In drawing his character Munk does not obscure a single negative feature; in certain sections of the story Munk consistently emphasizes aspects of character and plot that lead the protagonist to greedy calculations of profit and loss. However, the hero is not a schematic one-dimensional character. At the moments when he sets aside his own principles to defend the uprising, Munk lends him a certain grandeur, which flows from the tragedy of the solitary deed that is ultimately useless and unnecessary. The director's ability to find elements of the comic and the grotesque even in tragic events has enabled him to catch some of the paradoxes of the Warsaw uprising. However, the film is not a satire, as has been charged by some Polish critics. Munk does not mock his hero but shows how the atmosphere of the time can influence a totally unheroic individual and impel him to act.
The second episode unfolds on a tragic plane. It takes place in a POW camp, where a significant moment in the joyless lives of the Polish officers occurs when the rumor that one of their comrades has managed to escape is heard. The story is false—the fugitive hides until his death inside the camp. Here Munk contemplates the meaning of an artificially sustained myth and, in this connection, examines and traces its influence on the entire camp. In this case, too, he is not demeaning the importance of the rumor; from the outset he even ascribes to it a certain power that should help the captives in their struggle for survival. Analysis of the mechanics of the story, however, gradually reveals its destructive nature, for it paralyzes activity and displaces courage and the will to act.
The structure of Eroica is loosely built according to the rules of musical composition using contrastive means. The tragi-comic hero of the first novella, who belongs nowhere and to nobody, is placed in the boundless space of a large city in ruins, among streets that no longer have names; the viewer does not learn where these streets lead, where they end or where they begin. The officers of the second novella, on the other hand, move within a strictly limited geometric space tightly compressed into a tense order accented by non-dynamic compositions. These images not only convey hopelessness but also show the sophistication of the enemy, who suppress their opponents through psychological stress. They understand quite well that the worst punishment for prisoners is having to live with each other.
One further note of interest: Eroica was supposed to have had three parts. The third section had a rather intricate and elusive story that unfolded in a mountain setting and involved a spurious nun. This novella, however, did not come up to the level of the first two, and Munk himself eliminated it from the film.