DVD 1920 Bitwa Warszawska

DVD 1920 Bitwa Warszawska

Run time: 115 min
Rating: 4.2
Genres: Drama | History | Musical
Director: Jerzy Hoffman
Writers: Jerzy Hoffman, Jaroslaw Sokól
Stars: Daniel Olbrychski, Natasza Urbanska, Borys Szyc
The First Polish 3D Feature Film! Poland’s winning battle against Soviet Russia as seen through the eyes of two young protagonists, Ola and Jan. She is a Warsaw cabaret dancer, while he is a cavalry officer and poet who believes in socialist ideals. Written by extreme94
Plot Keywords: battle, nurse, atrocity, shot to death, rape
Country: Poland
Release Date: 30 September 2011 (Poland)
Box Office
Budget: PLN 27,000,000 (estimated)


  1. My starting point for this film was no knowledge of this famous battle (and I imagine a good many people from outside central/eastern Europe know little about it either), which made this film a real cultural education.

    If films were like singing, this film would be a rowdy pub singalong rather than a finely nuanced choral mass, but by the end of it, I didn't mind one bit. There are a few functions it should fulfill: to tell the amazing story of this battle (I had to educate myself afterward, and it really is an amazing episode) as well as to say something about Poland's place in the world, and explain something about Polish mentality, particularly with respect to Russia. It more or less succeeds on all fronts, even while lurching from almost slapstick comedy (a beloved art form in Eastern European film) to the horrors of war to the important military strategising scenes.

    The nightclub scenes are really well done, with some great stage numbers, which although incidental to the main story, lend authenticity. The two leads – one a soldier, one the night club star singer are warm characters, and the rest of the cast are good too. The war scenes are not only visceral and realistic, but historically fascinating. At the point in time of this battle, the old technologies of canon and horse were competing with machine guns and armoured cars. But in 1920, machine guns often jammed (the downside), but were becoming lighter and nearly portable (the upside), while armoured cars were not much more than a T-model Ford covered in steel sheets, undoubtedly with limited range and speed. This meant that no single technology was decisive: in the end, a Polish cavalry charge is what sends the Bolsheviks fleeing, even though they had greater numbers and more 'new' technology.

    Some scenes are set in the halls of the Kremlin and involve the conversations of Lenin, Stalin, and others as they plan the attack, justified by what seems today an absurd concept of a pan-European (and then global) socialist nirvana. It's hard to believe anyone could even think in such abstract terms, with a complete disregard for real human lives and indeed entire countries and cultures, but we know of course that it was only too real.

    It would have been easy for this film to be a breast-beating Polish nationalist pride statement, but it absolutely avoids that stance, and in doing so I suspect would make many Polish people proud of what their forebears achieved in this battle, and how they are perceived today. For me, with little knowledge of Polish culture, it was a real eye-opener into issues such as the historical antipathy for Russia, and the insecurity of even being Polish during a century of invasion. The Polish general Jozef Pilsudski is portrayed as a real person, rather than a heroic personification of his erstwhile legend, and in doing so, allows us to reconstruct the legend for ourselves.

    One complaint: the 3D is terrible (I didn't realise it was 3D until too late). I really hate 3D, and I found it terribly disturbing when trying to focus, particularly on battle scene long shots. Let's give this 3D mania up now before too much money is spent on it – it adds nothing, and detracts from the great cinematography.

    I recommend anyone who doesn't know much about Poland to go and see this film – you will learn a lot. And anyone who likes cinema with real heart and soul should see it as well. As for Polish people reading this, all I can say is that I am glad to see such an important episode in your history finally on the big screen.

  2. I was sent this film (with subtitles) on DVD by a friend in Poland and found it engrossing.

    I guess it helped that I had already read a book on the subject, Warsaw 1920 by Adam Zamoyski, so knew what direction the film was going before it started, and that helped my understanding. The love interest and sub-plots enhanced the film, but again some knowledge of 20th Century Eastern European culture and politics helped.

    My initial thoughts were that some of the colours were rather vivid and maybe unrealistic but a variety of cinematic styles were used and as they were not used frivolously they worked well in the end. The cabaret scenes showed glamour, style and sensitivity where necessary – all in stark contrast to some, frankly, barbaric and unglamorous battle scenes. I suspect that they were actually quite realistic representations of the fighting. There were some interesting touches that most people would not think about eg the taking of soldiers'/prisoners' boots (sometimes before their wearers were dead) because of their value at the time.

    The principal story is true and the outcome of the battle ultimately decided whether Poland enjoyed independence between its partitioning until the end of WW1 and its invasion by the Germans and then the Russians in 1939.

    For those with an interest in Eastern European history, it has been said that Stalin's treatment of the Polish Army officers in WW2 (see the superb film Katyn) was determined by the outcome of this battle.

  3. How come, every time I wait for a good polish movie about some episode from Poland's history, I end up being seriously disappointed? Every time. With this movie being notable confirmation of this rule.

    Battle of Warsaw. One of the most important events in Europe's or maybe even world's history. A tragic struggle, held on the very extremes of hope, justly called by some "Miracle at the Vistula", won by a thread against all odds. One would think such event would deserve an epic piece of cinematographic art. I thought so too. A movie was made at last. Why I'm not happy? First thing I despise is the lack of focus. Not the optical one – I despise the lack of focus of the story itself. It seems like creators of the picture wanted to show all of the battle breadth and depth, on every possible level: human, psychological, social, national, strategic and tactical. Guess what? It didn't work. It couldn't work. If one wants to emphasize everything, one emphasize nothing. If one wants to show everything at once, one shows nothing. All the potential of this movie was dissolved in different side-plots and micro-episodes, in the end loosing its proper load. This thin solution is spiced up with some cliché, overdone pathos and stupid, contemporary jokes. Humor in the movie lacks the feeling of a "safety valve" for troubled mind. It lacks a hint of underlying sadness, so specific for polish sense of humor in trying times. Generally it's just artificial and thoughtless.

    Now a little bit about the story itself (don't worry no spoilers here). To me storyline holds striking resemblance to a bulleted list. Such lists are quite popular in polish schools as a means of putting down most important motives in analyzed literature works. They're also common in cheat-sheets. So it is in the case of this movie. Love motif? Checked! Social view? Checked! Great battle? Check! Enemy's view? Checked! The list goes on. A series of unconnected fragments. The problem is – the movie is contiguous as a story telling mean. Good movies are able to glue seamlessly all bits and pieces of single scenes into one logical, contiguous tale. "Bitwa…" in many places changes topics without warning and reason leaving many things inelegantly untold.

    Next thing: photography. Sławomir Idziak is mentioned as director of photography. I say: no way! Take "Gattaca" or "Black Hawk Down". There is no way the same man was responsible for shooting them. There are some (technically) nice takes but they're mostly just copies of "BHD" style of filming. I liked them but yet hoped for something specific to this movie, something more innovative, not just another visual "same ol' thing". And about 3D… More and more often I think of 3D as a hype helper in the way: "We can't make it worthy – let's at least make it 3D". I don't oppose new techniques – they're interesting and have indifferently a potential – but I oppose using new techniques whether it makes sense or not. In this case – I'm not impressed, sorry…

    And where does it leave me? I'm still waiting… hoping… and pray my wait is not in vain. In the meantime: 3 stars out of pity 🙁

  4. It's not often I get to see a film from Poland. The 3D was quite good and overall I enjoyed the film.

    The first world war is over; people are enjoying the peace. But the Red Army is approaching and Lenin has ideas of world revolution.

    The polish people united to resist and stopped them outside Warsaw. In part this is a love story as well as a history lesson. We follow two newly married people caught up in the conflict. We sway back and forth from the front-lines, back to Warsaw, as the Red Army pushes east.

    With some of the story being told in song in a nightclub a little in Moscow and at the front, we learn a little of the politics of the time.

    Some of the blood hits the screen people shot but overall there is little to make people squirm. Both genders will enjoy it as it's not all battle scenes. Well made, well acted, with some humour, and a little romance. Worth seeing. Just under two hours.

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