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Film Reviews by Lisa Blanck
The Peasants
| Friday, 03.15.2024, 09:54 PM |   (83 views)

I’ve participated in the Claude Monet Immersive Experience when it visited Orlando,  You sit at a table while famous pieces of art, greatly oversized, pull you into their frame.  That’s the best way I can describe it.  You enter gardens, watch water lilies float, experience wheat fields bowing to the wind in famous paintings by Monet, Renior and other artists of the era.  The Peasants, the new film from the creators of the Academy Award Nominated Loving Vincent, has an identical feel, and with advances in oil painting animation techniques, this film takes their unique art to a higher level of texturization.

The best way to describe this animation is that it breathes.  Colors flow and melt together.  Edges are roughened, smudged.  It’s multi-dimensional.  One early sequence is striking.  A woman sits at a table, crafting with paper and scissors, while you can see her reflection in the mirror to her left.  It’s small touches like this that infuse The Peasants.

For the story: Jagna, the village blonde-haired beauty, had no use for a husband.  She’s content with her life, creating beautiful things, living with her family, flirting innocently with the neighborhood boys.  Though she does exchange not-so-fleeting glances with the handsome Antek, who is currently living with his wife, children and his father, Maciej Boryna.  Everyone resents everyone in the Boryna home. The father, Boryna, is a rich widower, who resents son Antek for being young and handsome, but keeps him land-poor.  Boryna’s late wife had land that was supposed to go to their children, but instead, it’s been consolidated into Boryna’s own holdings.  And his son resents him immensely for that slight.  Boryna eventually throws Antek, his wife and their children, out of his home.

Meanwhile Boryna’s friends, neighborhood busybodies, are trying to marry him off, telling him it’s in his best interest. They run through the list of possibilities, eventually stopping on Jagna, the beauty who is more than half his age.  Ah, even in the world of animation, some things never change.  You can see the leering grin on his face as he contemplates the idea.  They run into each other at the local market.  Boryna flirts, gives Jagna an expensive gift, which she accepts even while rebuffing his advances. 

A song, 20 minutes in, foreshadows what’s to come.  Two young people, hunger, passion.  A local leader comes to Jagna’s home to pitch for Boryna, and Jagna still refuses.  Her mother, on the other hand, is very interested in selling off her daughter to the town’s richest man, in exchange for land.  Eventually Jagna gives in to her mother’s wishes. Though she is miserable, wanting only the forbidden Antek.

And that sets the stage for what will, eventually, bring misery, violence and shame upon the townspeople in this 19th century Polish village.  The film itself is divided into four seasons, moving the Lipce villagers from Autumn, through Winter and Spring to the following Summer.  Over one year, Jagna and Antek come together, fight, separate, but still long only for each other.  

Mud, dirt, muck, rain and snow.  Even Mother Nature is given a feature role in this outstanding film-as-art treatment, based on Wladyslaw Reymont's Nobel-prize winning novel of the same name.  

Lisa Blanck is the Associate Editor / Movie Reviewer for In and is a member of the Critics Association of Central Florida.  Her background includes 30+ years of digital editing for NBC and CBS News affiliates.  She also edits national promotional spots for Matter Of Fact, the #1 nationally syndicated news & information program.  For 30+ years she has covered the Florida Film Festival & the World Peace Film Festival, and has additional award-winning experience in advertising, marketing, promotions and live special events with MTV Networks

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