Like in Romeo and Juliet, two distinguished families are in conflict – around 1793, the last great lord Horeszko is murdered by Jacek Soplica who is rewarded by the Russians with the Horeszko castle. Twenty years later, the murderer haunted by his evil deed, has taken the monk’s cowl to make amends. He now goes by the name of Robak and asks his brother, Judge Soplica, to take care of Sophie, one of the Horesco’s descendants. Meanwhile a distant cousin in the Horeszko family claims that by law he is heir to the castle. His faithful servant, Gervais, witness to the tragic murder of the great Lord Horeszko, decides to incite a revolt. He brings the local nobles together and leads them in an attack on the Soplica’s manor and make the Soplicas prisoners. In the midst of all this, the Russians attack the manor and bring the two opposing families together: united, they are victorious against the Russians. This stormy situation occurs even as enormous changes are sweeping through all of Europe… In June 1812, Napoleon crosses the Nemen and marches on Moscow. Tadeusz and the Count join Napoleon’s army to fight the Moscovites. Tadeusz returns covered with honors and glory and marries Sophie. It is the spring of 1812. The Poles are united and, fulfilled with hope, honor and love, they all dance the Polonaise.
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Every line of dialogue is taken directly from the poem “Pan Tadeusz” by Mickiewicz. Some lines have been shortened and tightened up, but nothing has been altered or added. I believe that it is possible to recreate on screen the fullness of life that we find in the poem. The characters in it are marvelously drawn. When I asked Polanski a few years ago what he thought was necessary to make a good film, he replied that if you have good characters full of expression and tied by a strong dramatic knot, the film will be good. In “Pan Tadeusz” the characters all have this, almost to excess.
Andrzej Wajda, director