Abstract

This article compares the role played by painting in Stanisław Wyspiański’s 1901 play Wesele [The wedding] and Andrzej Wajda’s eponymous 1973 film adaptation. Both Wyspiański and Wajda were trained as painters, and were highly aware of the importance of visual culture in forging a nation’s sense of self. Moreover, both found themselves exercising a powerful position as “the voice” of their nation at a time when it was subjugated by foreign powers. Noting Wyspiański’s interest in Nietzsche and Wagner, the article argues that intermediality provides an occasion first for the playwright and, later, for the filmmaker to question the difference between history and myth—as well as their own role in this political context. In the original play, Wyspiański uses painting above all, but also music and dance, to critique the popular belief in a messianic leader who will one day be sent to liberate Poland. It is by bringing these different art forms into conversation, that he is able to comment on their deleterious influence in perpetuating a vision of Polish history as myth. Wajda’s use of painting in the film is far more ambivalent. By playing with the placement and scale of the paintings, he emphasizes the points of continuity between Wyspiański’s time and his own but ultimately evades the question of historical agency.

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