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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Promised Land aka "Ziemia obiecana" [Blu-ray]

 

(Andrzej Wajda, 1975)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Film Polski Film Agency

Video: Zebra (DMMS Media Distribution)

 

Disc:

Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:49:43.333

Disc Size: 44,853,909,039 bytes

Feature Size: 39,450,934,848 bytes

Video Bitrate: 25.42 Mbps

Chapters: 22

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: February, 2014

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.68:1

Resolution: 1080p / 24 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio Polish 2140 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2140 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
Descriptive Audio: LPCM Audio Polish 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit

 

Subtitles:

English, Polish none

 

Extras:

The cover, booklet and extras are in all Polish only (unknown)

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Andrzej Wajda's interpretation of a classic 19th century epic depicts the sweeping change in values ushered in by the industrial revolution. Three friends hope to build a factory, but their plans are quickly jeopardized by local politics and one of the partner's dangerous love affair. Critically acclaimed for its masterful direction and fine acting, this ever-current film has a strong statement to make about modern times. With the master director's brand new re-edit made possible by Poland's liberation from Communism.

 

 

The Film:

Three broke but ambitious young men to take charge of their own destinies and found their own textile factory in industrial Lodz. Polish aristocrat Karol Borowiecki (Daniel Olbrychski, THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING), German son of a textiles magnate Maks Baum (Andrzej Seweryn, ON THE SILVER GLOBE), and Jewish money broker Moryc Welt (Wojciech Pszoniak, THE TIN DRUM) decide to go in together and found their own textile factory. The trio outsmart and bankrupt their competition (who were already self-destructing before they came on the scene), and withstand tempting offers by others to betray one another; however, their own arrogance may prove their undoing.

Andrzej Wajda's epic-yet-intimate adaptation of Wadyslaw Reymont's tale of dehumanization in the industrial age THE PROMISED LAND (released both theatrically in its near three-hour length and on television as a four-part miniseries at a near four-hour running time) is fairly straightforward in terms of plot – even mundane in the way its trio of main characters are subject to the usual vices – but more interesting in its depiction of the central trio’s amorality in the social context of Polish society during this period and their individual backgrounds. They set themselves apart by rejecting tradition and heritage. Karol convinces his father to sell their country estate and move to the city along with his kind fiancee Anka (Anna Nehrebecka, FAMILY LIFE) who is betraying with Lucy (Kalina Jedrusik, THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE), wife of industrialist Zucker (Jerzy Nowak, SCHINDLER'S LIST). Maks has no plans to succeed his father (Kazimierz Opalinski, THE SARAGOSSA MANUSCRIPT) and leans on him to sell the factory (which is on the verge of collapse because his father would rather continue to borrow money than fire more workers). Moryc secures his portion of the needed funds by double-crossing old contacts. It is also interesting just how not unlike their predecessors the young men turn out to be. Maks' father slips into depression and the into madness as his factory collapses, and Maks - who is less ambitious than Karol or Moryc, preferring wine and women and seeing the business as a means to that end - feels pangs of conscience not only over what he has done to his father but also what he knows about Karol's betrayal of Anka. Karol declines to help a desperate factory owner - also Polish and aristocratic like himself - who refuses to torch his own factory and considers it beneath him to borrow money from fellow factory owner Mueller (Franciszek Pieczka, THE DELUGE). When construction of the factory is halted, Karol similarly is too proud to borrow from Mueller, even though the older man is more willing to help him (with an eye on marrying him to his addlepated daughter Mada [Bozena Dykiel, MAN OF IRON]). During the labored construction of the factory, Moryc fusses over the expenses and complains that what Karol is building is more like a palace than a factory (similarly, Mueller has spent millions on a grand manor house that sits empty since he prefers to live with his wife and daughter in their older house on the factory property). The building of their factory is to coincide with new social programs to help the workers and their starving families (displaced as more of the factories go bankrupt and their owners torch them for insurance or commit suicide rather than face disgrace). The trio trade on the idea of Polish Karol as the president of the company since the textile trade in Lodz being mainly the domain of the Jews and the Germans; the latter perceived as having been abusive to the Polish workers (although Karol has been treated rather well by textile baron Bucholz [Andrzej Szalawski, NO END] due to his aristocratic heritage, and Karol himself proves rather ruthless on the factory floor). The decision made by Karol in the final scene over how to deal with striking workers makes him a worthy successor to Bucholz. Subplots include the sexual exploitation by a young female factory worker by a foreman, the trials of a widow whose husband was gruesomely killed in a machinery accident, and the ways in which Karol's ambitions and libido complicate his business life.

THE PROMISED LAND went largely unseen elsewhere due to criticisms of anti-Semitism levied against the film. While the film certainly does present the usual negative stereotypes about Jewish people and money (and money lending) - and Moryc casts aside any sense of social graces when the subject of money comes up - it could be argued that the Polish and German capitalist characters are generally portrayed in no more positive light. The workers and peasants are the only characters aside from Anka and Maks’ father portrayed consistently in a sympathetic manner (Karol’s father is more upset at the thought of his son bringing a Jewish money lender’s daughter into the family than of his betrayal of Anka). In 2000, Wajda prepared a shorter director's cut of the film - with a brand new 5.1 mix - in an attempt to address these charges; however, he has since disavowed this cut in favor of the original theatrical cut.

Eric Cotenas

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Firstly, like the Second Run DVD (reviewed HERE) this is the longer, original theatrical cut of the film (not the shorter re-release), but unlike that SD it has no PAL Speedup. The Promised Land looks quite strong on Blu-ray from DMMS out of Poland. We've compared to the previous DVD editions and while supporting the general color scheme of the Second Run - it advances handily in just about every visual area.  It shows impressive depth and a high level of detail. There is a fine layer of grain. I gauge the aspect ratio at around 1.68:1 (IMDb says 1.66.)  The transfer is dual-layered and the, almost 3-hour film, has a supportive bitrate. Depth and rich, layered, contrast are the most notable superiorities over the SDs. This Blu-ray has no gloss nor noise. It looks extremely film-like. All positives.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Subtitle sample

 

1) Vanguard Cinema (2000 Director's Cut) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Second Run DVD (Polish Cinema Classics Volume 2) - Region 0 - PAL - MIDDLE

3) Zebra - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Vanguard Cinema (2000 Director's Cut) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Second Run DVD (Polish Cinema Classics Volume 2) - Region 0 - PAL - MIDDLE

3) Zebra - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Vanguard Cinema (2000 Director's Cut) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Second Run DVD (Polish Cinema Classics Volume 2) - Region 0 - PAL - MIDDLE

3) Zebra - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Vanguard Cinema (2000 Director's Cut) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Second Run DVD (Polish Cinema Classics Volume 2) - Region 0 - PAL - MIDDLE

3) Zebra - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Vanguard Cinema (2000 Director's Cut) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Second Run DVD (Polish Cinema Classics Volume 2) - Region 0 - PAL - MIDDLE

3) Zebra - Region FREE - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

More Blu-ray Captures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Similar to the other DMMS Polish Blu-ray releases we've covered - there is the option for a DTS-HD Master 5.1 surround upmix at 2140 kbps or a linear PCM stereo - "Descriptive Audio" track - at 1536 kbps. The surround gave some separations (btw, the original film was mono.) It shows depth and minor range in the factory machines and a decent high-end notable in the score by, the recently (Dec 2013) passed, Wojciech Kilar (award winning music for Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula, as well as Roman Polanski's The Pianist, and composer for other Polanklsi films; The Ninth Gate and Death and the Maiden - to name a few). It includes a powerful waltz - Kilar’s great music to the film a rich collection of dance music. It is classical in nature but has a driving force - and is often considered some of his best work. It is wonderful. There are optional English, and Polish, subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.

 

Extras :

The cover, booklet and extras are in all Polish only (unknown) but only trailers and there doesn't appear to be anything of a substantial nature (nothing is longer than 3 minutes.)

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
The Promised Land is brilliant. It evokes the epic feel of Visconti's The Leopard. There is a very strong representation of the opulent bourgeoisie and their selfish values, timeless desire for wealth and also the grimy side of production with dangerous Dickensian factories and an air of revolutionary discontent. An absolute masterpiece. The DMMS Blu-ray
is a fantastic find. We have yet another piece of important cinema, that is seemingly made for HD - it's lengthy running time and rich, sumptuous, visuals only suitable for the higher resolution and massive film size this format is capable of. Our highest recommendation! 

Gary Tooze

March 24th, 2014

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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Gary W. Tooze

 

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