Jan Komasa, and his team, have taken six hours of original newsreel footage from the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, shot by volunteer cameraman from the Polish Home Army’s Bureau of Information and Propaganda and created a masterful journey through time. A project by the Warsaw Uprising Museum, the docudrama, edited, colorized and set to a score by Bartosz Chajdecki,is a startling look at 63 days of the Polish Resistance’s attempt to liberate Warsaw from the Nazis.
The Bureau of Information and Propaganda (BIP) created newsreels and sent Polish ex-pats in London news of the Polish government. They also documented actions of the German occupying forces and engaged in psychological warfare with the German propaganda. Section A (Information and Film) of BIP organized clandestine workshops on photo reportage, directing and how to operate a megaphone.
Historians and members of military, clothing and architecture consultants helped with the reconstruction.
Colorizing work was supervised by Polish cameraman Piotr Sobociński Jr. (Normally I hate colorization, but here it works- lending an air of hand tinted silent films and making the experience oddly more contemporary and intimate.) In fact it was an exhibit of colorized photos by famed athlete Eugeniusz Lokajski, alias ‘Brok’, a soldier and photographer of the Home Army that inspired the film. Lokajski, was killed looking for photo stock in a photographic shop at Marszałkowska Street
Lip readers identified the text of the silent footage and additional actors voiced the footage.
Editors Joanna Brühl (“Chopin Reloaded “) and Milenia Fiedler (“Katyn”, “Walesa: Man of Hope”) abetted by Sound Designers Bartosz Putkiewicz and Kacper Habisiak has created a fresh and tragic documentary.
The Warsaw Uprising Museum has identified many of the faces in the edited footage, but a link to the site invites identification of the remaining unknowns. Go to http://warsawrising-thefilm.com/identify/
Komasa structured a fictional story around three characters: two young brothers, cameramen for the Bureau of Information and Propaganda of the Polish Home Army and a US airman who escaped from a German Stalag. They are tasked with documenting the Uprising. Never seen on screen, we hear their voices discussing plans and options as the week long uprising, descends into the destruction of Warsaw by the Nazis.
As things worsen in the besieged city, they realize the importance of their mission, and the shoot at any cost, aware that the world needs to know about Poland’s courageous stand.
Worldly 26-year-old Karol and his 19-year-old brother Wituś hoped to fight the uprising. Their leaders gave them an equally important mission.
Armed with a camera and were ordered to shoot reality, everything around them: temporary hospitals, bakers, gunsmiths, civil ceremonies and enlistment oaths.
At first, it’s almost hard to believe the city is besieged. The brothers shoot pretty girl workers. They show a private screening of their footage at the ‘Palladium’ cinema. People are enthusiastic, optimistic, and eager to drive the Germans out.
Volunteers of the clandestine Polish Home Army are drilled. Teams, each with their electrician are instructed and fan out across the city, sewers are opened as supply and retreat lines.
Embed with their mission, they convince their local commanders to let them follow the front light fighting. As they argue about what to shoot, and the importance of their job, we see
a rocket destroy the upper stories of the Prudential skyscraper. Tanks are shelled, and a victorious Home Army restores a captured German tank and takes it into battle
Buildings collapse, civilians die in the street. As things grow desperate the boy’s record house-to house battles.
American expat actor Jeff Burrell (“Nymphomaniac”) plays Howard the airman, Piotr Adamczyk (“Karol. The Man who Became Pope”) plays Karol and Józef Pawłowski (“Walesa. Man of Hope “) plays Witek.
At the end of July of 1944, Poland was in its fifth year of German occupation. On the eastern front, German armies were in full retreat suffering from the Red Army’s spring offensive which is approaching Warsaw’s eastern suburbs. The liberation of Poland’s capital seemed to be within reach.
General ‘Bor’ Komorowski, commander of the Polish Underground Home Army (Armia Krajowa, AK) expected the uprising to last 4 days, disarming the retreating Germans and to welcome the incoming Russian Army. But Stalin’s army stopped at the Vistula River while Poles fought for their city and their lives.
Warsaw’s insurgents (about 40,000 soldiers, including 4,000 women and children armed with weapons for 2,500 fighters), face off 15,000-strong German garrison which will grow to a force of 30,000, armed with tanks, planes, and artillery.
Poles have recaptured the city’s left bank districts including: the Prudential high-rise building, the main post office, and the state mint. Gas, electric, and water works are in Polish hands. The Warsaw Power Plant in the Riverside district is restored to operation providing electrical power for hospitals, printing presses, weapon production facilities, and other services until September, 1944. Communication through the crucial west-east front supplying arteries is severed. Throughout the siege, sewers are used as communications links and transportation and evacuation lines for the duration of the Uprising.
Himmler dispatches relief troops to Warsaw (SS and police units from Poznan, Dirlewanger penal brigade, Kaminski RONA brigade, Azerbaijan infantry battalion) and units of the Hermann Göering divisions are incoming.
(The SS-Sturmbrigade, led by Dirlewanger Oskar Dirlewanger was credited with the destruction of Warsaw, and the massacre of ~100,000 of the city’s population during the Warsaw Uprising; the S.S. Sturmbrigade R.O.N.A. (AKA the Kaminski Brigade) was an anti-partisan formation composed of people from the so-called Lokot Autonomy territory in the Nazi Germany-occupied areas of Russia during World War II. Azeri SS Volunteer Formations were volunteer prisoners of war, mainly from the USSR, or from countries annexed by Russia after 1939. They were organized to fight against the Soviets on the German side.)
Himmler gives the order to kill all of the inhabitants and level Warsaw as an example for the rest of Europe.
An estimated 200,000 inhabitants lost their lives during the 63 days of the Uprising,s. Eighty percent of the buildings on the city’s left bank were destroyed. All of the city’s inhabitants–both insurgents and civilians– were expelled from Warsaw and sent to POW, death, labor, or concentration camps and German forces razed many buildings that were still standing.
The film will be released in cinemas – in Poland and abroad – next year, before the uprising’s 70th anniversary. Jan Komasa has completed a companion dramatic film “Warsaw 44”, inspired in part by this material. UNFORGETTABLE MUST SEE. Opens Oct 31st Laemmle Town Center 5