Miracle on the Vistula

Two men vie for the affections of a woman as the Polish-Soviet War (1919-1921) comes to a climax in 1920, with the famous Battle of Warsaw, called also the “Miracle on the Vistula”. Original title: Cud nad Wisłą

Miracle on the Vistula

Originally in eight acts, only [parts of?] three remain: 1, 3, and 8. Nevertheless, the dual plots (military / romantic) make sense if obvious gaps are accounted for, and there’s enough to satisfy a general narrative. Famous inter-war actress Jadwiga Smosarska headlines the cast, which also features a few other familiar names. Directing and editing are unexceptional, functional. Several times superimposition (a boy thinks about his family, a wounded soldier remembers the face of a treacherous Bolshevik agent) is used for creative effect. Other shots are iconic or otherwise aesthetically pleasing: woods reflected in a lake, soldiers marching through. The film ends with a double marriage and Polish military victory—Bolsheviks fleeing [oddly] toward screen-left, the west. The war itself, which you can read about in Norman Davies’ White Eagle, Red Star, is less sure of its own conclusion, though the argument for a Bolshevik victory is the most difficult to make. When they appear, the film’s Bolsheviks are leering, stereotypical villains. Only one, the “Bolshevik agitator”, looks sly, suave. A few minutes of documentary footage follows the end of the fictional story—Piłsudski makes an appearance, as does a monument to fallen soliders—reminding that, in 1921, events of 1920 were still as fresh as hot buns. Hindsight, however, has the final say; history renders scenes of cheering, happy Poles both tragic and ironic. This war is won, but another yet to come. Independence will soon be put on hold again.

Ryszard Bolesławski, 1921

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