Based on a Kasimierz Brandys novel, Sons and Comrades, that appeared after the 1956 reforms, this is one of ten films that the government of communist Poland shelved in 1983 after only one look--and with good reason, since it depicts the destruction of idealist hopes at which Stalin's
supporters were so adept, even before WWII. Beginning in 1933, the film covers more than 20 years of Poland's tragic modern history, focusing on a poor Warsaw family.
The father of the Krol family is killed in a streetcar accident, leaving behind his young widow, Lucia (Magda Teresa Wojcik), with three young sons and a fourth on the way. A practical woman, Lucia rather easily resists the sexual blandishments of the carter, Cyga (Franciszek Pieczka), who
nevertheless helps out at crucial points in Lucia's life. She is apparently less indifferent to Victor Lewen (Zbigniew Zapasiewicz), a local lawyer, Communist, and Jew, whose office and apartment she cleans. She is sympathetic to his cause and tells him of police interest in his activities. She
is, however, unaware of the can of worms represented by his more doctrinaire and senior comrades. Eventually, Lewen is arrested by the Polish police. While in prison he learns that the Polish Communist Party has been officially disbanded on Stalin's express order. One comrade shrugs in disgust and
goes to sleep, leaving Lewen to contend with another who launches into a session of self-criticism, figuring that Stalin must have had good reasons for his decision.
The German invasion and the arrival of war cause constant hardship and peril. Lucia has to dodge a Gestapo roundup, all the while caring for her family and Lewen, released and living in her basement. When a drunk German soldier barges in looking for the local whorehouse, a fight with Lewen ensues,
leaving the soldier dead. Cyga helps Lucia dispose of the body.
Later, Lucia's favorite son, Clement (Boguslav Lina), is captured by the Gestapo and subsequently sent to Auschwitz. At the end of the war, he returns an idealistic Communist. In one of the film's ironically cheery episodes, he waves to Lewen, up on the podium, from his place among the ranks of
Soon, however, Lewen's pre-war political error (his membership in the old, dissolved Communist Party) catches up with him. Clement is arrested, and it becomes clear that he is to be the key witness against Lewen. He refuses to betray his mentor and suffers interrogations and torture for his
defiance. Lewen at first promises Lucia his help, but soon realizes the vulnerability of his own position. He does nothing while the police try to extract a confession from Clement. Cyga correctly tells Lucia that the worst treatment in the prisons of the People's Poland is reserved for
One of Lucia's other sons does everything expected of him, becoming a pampered official. The eldest ends up a drunkard, while the youngest becomes a petty criminal. Lucia petitions the new president for help.
MOTHER OF KINGS reveals in explicit detail the nasty inner workings of the Communist Party that help to explain why it collapsed in Poland. The Party had alienated many potential supporters, not to mention the vast majority of ordinary citizens. Using brief documentary film clips, the film is shot
in high contrast black-and-white that mirrors the melodrama but can make it difficult to read the subtitles. Many of the principal characters are familiar Polish types, including the martyred Clement; the long-suffering mother, Lucia; and the weary, wise Cyga. Zapasiewicz frequently has played
troubled intellectuals, and in this film he is doubly threatened as a member of the old, dissolved Party and as a Jew. Moreover, the lenient pre-war treatment of Lewen, like the far harsher punishment of Clement, is partially contrasted by recitation of the bare facts by the same official voice.
With a final irony, the film closes with film clips of the crowds shouting their approval of the 1956 reforms, one of the many false dawns in Polish history. (Violence, adult situations, sexual situations, nudity.)
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- Released: 1982
- Rating: NR
- Review: Based on a Kasimierz Brandys novel, Sons and Comrades, that appeared after the 1956 reforms, this is one of ten films that the government of communist Poland shelved in 1983 after only one look--and with good reason, since it depicts the destruction of ide… (more)