Chronicle of Amorous Accidents is a 1985 film by Andrzej Wajda, based on Tadeusz Konwicki’s novel. Its plot, which takes place in the spring and summer of 1939 and tells the story of a passionate love which brings together two high school graduates right before the outbreak of the war, gave Wajda a chance to revisit the world which he remembered from his own youth.
The film’s protagonist, Witek (Piotr Wawrzyńczak), senior high school student, wishes to attend university after his exams and become a doctor. The studious and disciplined boy, however, stops thinking about his education as soon as he meets Alina (Paulina Młynarska), a middle-school girl. Even though the pious and superstitious mother of the boy (Krystyna Zachwatowicz) defends her teenage son from stepping on the wrong path, and Alina’s father (Leonard Pietraszak), a strict colonel, fires salt bullets at his daughter’s admirer, it seems that nothing can keep the lovers apart. The teenagers are, however, completely unaware that Europe will soon be taken over by war, and that their idyllic, romantic world is doomed to be short-lived…
The protagonists go through romantic obsessions and make mutual plans, as if they lived outside of history: they have no idea what is about to happen. The plot of the Chronicle takes place in the Vilnius area, a magical and multicultural region, home to people of different nationalities and religions. Witek is friends with a German pastor’s son Engel (Dariusz Dobkowski), who contemptuously refers to his non-Polish-speaking father (Tadeusz Łomnicki) as a ‘hakatist,’ and with the Orthodox Lowa (Jarosław Gruda), whose unfulfilled drive makes him hyperactive and overzealous. The protagonists have their first erotic experiences with two thirty-something sisters, Cecylia (Joanna Szczepkowska) and Olimpia (Gabriela Kownacka), who suffer from a constant ill temper and spend most of their time flirting with the young boys, listening to records, and indulging in decadent suicide fantasies. At times, however, the mythical space-time of the film is interrupted by history, which surfaces for instance when soldiers can be seen in the background. Wajda subtly but clearly signals that their relaxed, carefree life is about to end.
Chronicle of Amorous Accidents begins with a quote from Pan Tadeusz:
there is but one region in which there is a crumb of happiness for a Pole: the land of his childhood! That land will ever remain holy and pure as first love…
Wajda idealises the Vilnius region, but to accuse the film of historical falsification would be a misunderstanding, as the director gives numerous hints that we are dealing with a subjective world. First of all, it is the world of the author of the book and screenplay, Tadeusz Konwicki, who spent his youth in Lithuania and described his own experiences. Wajda came up with the excellent idea of casting the writer in the bit part of the Stranger, which was key to understanding the movie. The mysterious man, wearing contemporary clothes and listening to metal music (!) visits Witek as if he was a ghost and tells him the future. There is no doubt that the world presented in Chronicle is a land of memory in which Konwicki’s character is looking for his identity.
Second of all, it is also ‘the land of childhood’ of Andrzej Wajda, who did not in fact grow up in Lithuania, but in Suwałki, but had similar experiences. In his adaptation of Chronicle of Amorous Accidents, the director had the opportunity to visualise one of his own childhood memories – exercises in chivalry. It is not a coincidence that the photograph of Witek’s dead father in fact shows… Second Lieutenant Jakub Wajda, the father of the director.
In Chronicle of Amorous Accidents, Wajda and Konwicki create a mythical land in which they search for their own roots. The authors do not pretend to copy the real world. The surrealism of the space is emphasised by Edward Kłosiński’s photography, slightly dimmed and filled with bright, almost white light – which adds an oneiric feel to the story. Just like in the majority of the works from this director, the mythical world is from the very start infected by death and decay, and threatened by history and reality. The contrast between the idyllic life and the awareness of the upcoming disaster adds melancholy to this plot and makes Chronicle of Amorous Accidents perhaps the most beautiful Polish film about the pre-war period.
Chronicle of Amorous Accidents (original title: Kronika wypadków miłosnych), Poland 1985. Directed by Andrzej Wajda. Screenplay: Tadeusz Konwicki. Cinematography: Edward Kłosiński. Scenography: Janusz Sosnowski, Barbara Nowak. Music: Wojciech Kilar. Cast: Piotr Wawrzyńczak (Witek), Paulina Młynarska (Alina), Krystyna Zachwatowicz (Witek’s mother), Jarosław Gruda (Lowa), Dariusz Dobkowski (Engel), Joanna Szczepkowska (Cecylia), Gabriela Kownacka (Olimpia), Leonard Pietraszak (Nałęcz, Alina’s father), Tadeusz Łomnicki (Pastor Baum), Bernadetta Machała (Greta), Tadeusz Konwicki (the Stranger). Produced by Perspektywa Film Group. Colour, 114 mins.