Andrzej Wajda, who earlier made Ashes and Diamonds, has turned for his latest film to a Polish play by Stanislaw Wyspianski. The Wedding reconstructs a marriage which in fact took place in 1900 at the village of Bronowice on Poland's borders with Russia and Austrata. The bridegroom was a popular poet, and he had chosen to marry a peasant girl.
As the film opens, the procession of wedding guests leaves the town and moves through a landscape dotted with soldiers. Military manoeuvres are taking place, heavy weapons trundle past: it is clear that war is about to break out. But the guests shut themselves up in a manor house for one night of hysterical celebration. They plunge into a whirl of incessant and fragmented conversation and dancing. Individual faces emerge briefly: the bridegroom encouraging his guests to wilder enjoyment, the bridesmaids pursuing the best man, a farmer hectoring a journalist with his opinion of the situation in China.
The guests include leading artists and intellectuals, a journalist from Cracow, the parish priest, and a mysterious girl called Rachel. Wajda enlarges the scope of this frenzied and threatened gaiety as the film moves into fantasy. The drowsy guests are haunted by figures from the past: the journalist by a clown from Polish legend; the poet by a medieval hero; and the host is visited by an old soldier who calls upon him to summon the Polish army and bring freedom to them all.
Rachel persuades the bridegroom to invite a strawman (used to cover roses in winter) to the party, and his arrival introduces other phantoms: a king's jester, a peasant leader, the dead fiance of the bride's sister.
The mood of the film changes as strange discords creep into the music and mist steadily surrounds the house. Occasional figures can be seen, soldiers and horsemen. They merge with the ghosts from the past. As dawn approaches, the guests lapse into a trance-like exhaustion. The peasants, who have been about to take up arms for war, abandon the cause. Their patriotic energy has failed, and the marriage of intellect and rustic simplicity has failed to save them. On the frontier, the armies stand ready.
Wajda has said of The Wedding that he wanted to create ‘a film reality in which the worlds of thoughts, feelings and occurences might co-exist on an equal footing; where dream and reality would imperceptibly intertwine.'
'Wajda's achievement is to make the original event, extraordinary and uneasy as it must have seemed at the time, not only accessible but also hauntingly significant to the present. His film shudders with menace and regret, a lament for the Polish predicament both as it was in 1900 after yet another century of being used as Europe's doormat, and as it is now, its independence as elusive as ever.'
Philip Stick, Sight and Sound