Movie: THE PEASANTS
Rating: R, Violence, includg Rape and Full Nudity
Release Date: January 28, 2024
Jeanne: Though this story of Jagna (Kamila Urzędowska) Is set in late 19th century Poland, the issues she faces because she is a beautiful and obstinate woman are still being dealt with today by women all over the world. Written and directed by the husband-and-wife team, DK and Hugh Welchman, THE PEASANTS is based on the Nobel Prize-winning novel of the same name by Władysław Reymont, which was required reading in all schools in Poland.
Utilizing the same painting animation technique the Welchmans used on their Oscar-nominated film LOVING VINCENT, over 100 painting animators worked on THE PEASANTS. The characters in the movie are all played by actors with footage from the live-action shoot becoming the reference footage for the painting animators. It’s an arduous process but the end results are spectacular.
Jagna is a lovely young woman desired by all the men in her village --- and reviled by the women. It isn’t just her beauty that sets her apart. She is headstrong and determined to live her life on her own terms. And just like today, in many instances, she is vilified for her actions.
The wealthiest man in the village is a boorish, cruel farmer, Maciej (Miroslaw Baka), who is much older than Jagna. He wants to marry --- and control --- Jagna, but she is more interested in his married son, Antek (Robert Gulaczyk), who is equally cruel. They have an affair which infuriates Antek’s wife, Hanka (Sonia Mietielica), and does nothing to endear Jagna to the rest of the village.
She marries Maciej to garner six acres of prime land, but lusts after Antek. Jagna refuses to be held in check by societal rules. She and Antek perform a very sensual dance in front of the entire community, including Maciej, who is furious. Despite her beauty --- or because of it --- she is eventually cast out by the villagers.
The Welchmans have created a gorgeous film which is divided into all four seasons. Especially breathtaking are the landscape vistas and shots of nature, which are made even more stunning with the painted animation.
Visually, THE PEASANTS is a triumph. But do not think because it is animated, that it is suitable for children. It definitely is not. It is violent with adult themes and nudity.
Opinion: Mild See It Now!
David: The husband-and-wife filmmaking team, Hugh and DK Welchman, gave the moviegoing public a unique adult animation film in 2017 called LOVING VINCENT --- as in Van Gogh. They and their staff utilized a complicated and painstaking technique of hand painting movie frames of real actors and settings to come up with the look of an animated feature film.
Now over six years later, they’ve done it again with THE PEASANTS. This animated film for adults revolves around a beautiful young village girl named Jagna (Kamila Urzędowska), who basically wants to live her life as she sees fit. That does not include being forced to marry a man (Miroslaw Baka as Maciej) three times her age because he happens to be the wealthiest landowner in the community, and this is his way of holding on to his property as long as possible.
The other problem in Jagna’s life is her love for Antek (Robert Gulaczyk), a handsome man who is married with children and who happens to be the son of Maciej. This triangle of conflicted individuals is fraught with societal struggles, violence and overt sexuality, so leave the little ones at home.
It's a remarkably visual feast filled with music, dancing and a color palette to satisfy the senses. That Jagna may represent many women through the ages who find themselves victims of abuse, both verbal and physical, is a sad commentary that perhaps not much has changed in the world. THE PEASANTS takes place in the 19th century, and one cannot help but be reminded of countries like Iran and Yemen, and many other nations around the globe who trample on women’s rights.
THE PEASANTS is based on a 1000-page novel by Władysław Reymont who wrote his book over several years beginning in 1904. He was awarded the 1924 Nobel Prize in Literature for his efforts. Hugh Welchman, who is British, read the 1924 translation of the Polish version of “The Peasant” and knew he and his wife had to make a film about it.
The Welchmans have made it possible that we don’t have to labor over such a huge tome. The film should be seen for its unique artistic qualities and as a reminder that human nature is forever flawed.
Opinion: See It Now!