Polish Cinema: Eroica (Andrzej Munk, 1958, Poland)

    Eroica is a fantastic, sardonic take on heroism set against the backdrop of German-occupied Poland during WWII. Andrzej Munk - a great talent of the post-Stalinist period whose life was cut short in a car crash in 1961 - gives an honest portrayal of survival during wartime that doesn’t glamorize. The film - at a brief 80 minutes - is divided into two chapters, both of which are linked thematically but are rather different in tone. 
    The first section, titled Scherzo Alla Pollaca, tells the story of Dzidzius, a man who returns home to find his wife Zosia having an affair with a Hungarian soldier. Through the connection with his wife’s lover he becomes roped into a plot to get the Hungarians involved in the Warsaw Uprising. Edward Dziewonski as Dzidzius plays the role with a great comic flair, responding as we imagine most normal people would to the wartime atmosphere. Munk does a great deal capturing the absurdity of the occupation, as well as the perpetual atmosphere of distrust and suspicion. The highlight is Dzidzius’s mission to relay a message between - on his mission, he proceeds to get drunk and nearly killed. In one hilarious moment, he narrowly avoids being shot at while peeing behind a tree.
    The second section, titled Ostinato - Lugubre, has a more somber tone. In a POW camp, we meet a group of Polish soldiers who keep hope alive after learning that one of their fellow soldiers has managed to escape. As it turns out, he never actually escaped, and is in actuality hiding in the attic of one of the barracks. Munk does an incredible job capturing the claustrophobia and tension of the men in the barracks - he had an excellent eye for unique faces. The end of this section also expresses a feeling of futility around heroism, but at least Munk brings more empathy.



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