Boleslaw Smialy (1972)

  |  Drama, History


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3 June 2005 | steven-222
| The Polish "Becket"
This costume epic takes place in 1079 and portrays the power struggle between the king of Poland, Boleslaus the Bold, and the Bishop of Cracow. It seems Boleslaus has gotten a little heavy-handed with issuing death penalties, and even worse, he's in love with a woman other than his queen, whom he married purely for politics. The bishop threatens excommunication; the king threatens to behead him. Something's gotta give!

The crown-church conflict is a bit reminiscent of the clash portrayed in the prestigious 1964 movie BECKET with Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole, which was made a few years before KING BOLESLAUS THE BOLD and perhaps inspired its production. (The historical events in BECKET actually took place about a hundred years after the events in BOLESLAUS.) BECKET benefited from two world-class actors in the leads and a script from a play by the great Jean Anouilh, and in those departments BOLESLAUS definitely suffers by comparison.

You would have to know a lot more Polish history than I do to catch any subtle political nuances in the duel between Boleslaus and the Bishop, and you probably had to live in Poland in 1972 to understand any resonance this film might have had when it was released in regard to the conflict of Communism and Catholicism in that country. (It also does not help that the videotape I watched, available from Polart, features the most poorly executed subtitles I've ever seen...and I've seen a lot! Subtitles are badly timed, flash by too quickly, etc.)

For an interested US viewer in 2005, this film does cast a certain exotic spell, a bit like Eisenstein's IVAN THE TERRIBLE movies. Particularly memorable is the chanting of the monks, every bit as bizarre as the "backward monks" music of Jocelyn Pook in Kubrick's EYES WIDE SHUT. The fate of the king's mistress and the excommunication scene are quite powerful. Any viewer who does happen to see this movie may want to know that at the end, Boleslaus is riding into exile and will die within a year or so.

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Drama | History

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