A major Second World War operation attempting to liberate Warsaw from German occupation forces, the Uprising is commemorated every year in Poland on the anniversary of its outbreak - the 1st of August 1944. In line with remembrances in 2013, and coming to cinemas soon, the film Warsaw Uprising brings back to life the bravery and sacrifice of young Poles
The insurgents fought for two months in a doomed battle against overwhelming German forces, as Soviet forces failed to move forward from Warsaw's eastern outskirts to help liberate the city. After the uprising was crushed, Hitler ordered the destruction of Warsaw by specialist demolition squads. Warsaw Uprising / Powstanie warszawskie, made by award-winning director Jan Komasa and a group of experts, utilizes 112 clips of originally black-and-white photography selected from six hours of archival material chronicling the events of August and September 1944. "The Warsaw Uprsing as we known it is no longer black and white" the voice in the film's trailer says, and the archival footage has undergone a colourization process.
The film tells the story of two brothers, camera operators for the Office for Information and Propaganda / Biuro Informacji i Propagandy, tasked with documenting the Uprising. They want to film the "real" war and ardently try to join one of the fighting units. To their dismay, the underground army had very low tolerance of reporters, and soldiers. So they start documenting the life of civilians: sustaining households, cooking and working. Still searching for the best shots, they go deeper and finally manage to join a fighting unit. Entering the war zone, they begin to realise what war means.
The process of photographic selection was undertaken with the aid of historians. Each still required detailed analysis to identify where in Warsaw the shot was taken and who was in it. "We managed to identify around 30 people, the leaders of the Uprising among others", says Piotr Śliwowski, the director of the historical section of the Warsaw Uprising Museum. "The material is wonderful, but also very difficult: chopped up, short shots, with varying levels of technical quality".
The colourization process was overseen by the acclaimed cinematographer Piotr Sobociński Jr. It involved research into the exact types of dyes used to colour clothes in the 1940s. The director of the Warsaw Uprising Museum says,
We showed the film to veterans of the Uprising. There was a deep silence in the room after the screening, you could feel a lot of emotion. They, who remember that world, saw the truth in the film.
The archival footage is silent clips, and the reconstructed film required lip-reading and the re-creation of missing dialogue. Recited by actors Maciej Nowicki, Michał Żurawski, Mirosław Zbrojewicz and Antoni Królikowski, the dialogues are the work of Joanna Pawluśkiewicz and Michał Sufin. Editing was done by Milenia Fiedler and Joanna Bruhl, with music by Bartosz Chajdecki.
The script is by Jan Ołdakowski, director of the Warsaw Uprising Museum, along with Piotr Śliwowski and Komasa, the film's director. Warsaw Uprising is built from chronicles of camera operators of the Office for Information and Propaganda of the Home Army's Armed Combat Union Police Headquarters / Komenda Główna Związku Walki Zbrojnej Armii Krajowej [editor's translation]. They were Antoni Bohdziewicz "Wiktor", head of the Uprising Film Chronicle camera operators team, Stefan Bagiński and Jerzy Zarzycki "Pik".
Jan Komasa, whose debut, Suicide Room (2011), won international awards, is currently working on a feature film about the Uprising, Warsaw '44 / Miasto '44, with professional and amateur actors. Warsaw '44 is scheduled to premiere in the National Stadium in Warsaw in 2014, for the 70th anniversary of the uprising. The Hollywood Reporter quotes Komasa saying that his film will reflect modern issues and concerns, concentrating on the relationships between the mostly young men and women involved in the 63-day uprising.
For more information on the Warsaw Uprising see the Warsaw Uprising Museum website.
Editor: MJ 31.07.2013, translated and edited from the original Polish article
Additional sources: Hollywood Reporter