Based on the biography of the legendary general Nil, commander of the Home Army's Diversionary Directorate (Kedyw), General Nil is the third part of Ryszard Bugajski's trilogy
Bugajski's trilogy includes his much discussed 1981 film Przesłuchanie / Interrogation
and the acclaimed 2006 TV Theatre production Śmierć rotmistrza Pileckiego / Death of the Cavalry Captain Pilecki. What spans the trilogy is resistance as the subject-matter; an outstanding (or at least interesting) individual defending his or her dignity as the main character; and the narration which takes the form of police interrogation to confront the ideologically clashing attitudes of prisoners and functionaries of the regime. This is how Bugajski explains why he has chosen to make a film about August Emil Fieldorf:
The film about Fieldorf is an attempt to remind or inform the wider audience that there was someone like that. One of the top commanders of the Home Army (AK), founder of Kedyw and of the organization NIE, he was murdered by the communist authorities and wiped out from Polish history. His role was not mentioned until 1989 - and, regrettably, the name Fieldorf still means nothing to lots of people." ("Kino" no. 4/2009)
August Emil Fieldorf was born in Cracow on 20th March 1895. His military career started in August 1914 with the joining of Józef Piłsudski's Legions. He was the commander of the 51st Strzelcy Kresowi Rifle Regiment during the September 1939 campaign. He then got to France. In September 1941 the Polish government in exile sent him to Poland as its first emissary and Fieldorf joined the Union for Armed Combat (ZWZ). He was appointed commander of Kedyw [Kierownictwo Dywersji - Directorate of Sabotage] in August 1942. Among the key acts of sabotage he masterminded was the killing of Franz Kutschera, the commander of SS and head of Warsaw police, on 1st Feburary 1944. In July of that year Fieldorf was appointed vice-commander of the Home Army and in September he was promoted to the general's rank and appointed commander of the organization NIE [the name deriving from 'niepodległość', the Polish word for independence] which was set up to organize Polish resistance under Soviet occupation. Arrested accidentally in March 1945, Fieldorf was exiled in the Ural Mountains and returned to Poland in 1947. He settled in Łódź and stayed away from anti-communist underground activity. He was arrested in 1950. Although tortured, he refused to cooperate with the Security Office. In 1952 he was charged with co-operation with the Nazis and, based on fabricated evidence, was sentenced to death. Having not been granted presidential pardon by Bolesław Bierut, Fieldorf was executed on 24th February 1953. Exonerated and rehabilitated in 1989, he was decorated posthumously with the Order of White Eagle by President Lech Kaczyński.
Bugajski's film focuses on the final period of General Fieldorf's life, the time when he returns from exile and, realistic about the political situation, not only refuses to return to underground activity but also discloses his identity when amnesty is declared in expectation that the authorities will take note of his military status. However, the Security Office's plans for him are different, and he is the only Home Army general in Poland to be made an offer to head a Security Office-controlled clandestine organization through which other resistance groups could be exposed. When Fieldorf refuses, he gets punished by incarceration in a water-flooded cell without a bed and a trial which defies the law and ends in a death sentence.
Bugajski's film is, however, not so much about the workings of the Stalin regime as about the General himself. Although the way in which the screenplay shows Fieldorf was challenged by his family (and resulted in the credits saying "a film based on August Fieldorf's biography"), you cannot deny this picture a credibility. After all, thousands of people took the same 'wait-and-see' approach when the war had ended. But more important is compelling acting by Olgierd Łukaszewicz, whose 'Nil', who seems like a man from a different world in the harsh post-war realities, has no intention of giving up the principles which have shaped him.
"What intrigued me about Nil", says Olgierd Łukaszewicz, "was why someone so aware and so afflicted by the Soviet Union did not escape to the West. The screenplay has a scene with Major Bajer, who had worked with Nil and who asks him after the war what he would be doing now. The answer is: I will have a piece of cake and a coffee. To me, this was the key. This simple answer contains a possibility of suicide. To maintain a certain image, Fieldorf did take such a sacrifice into account. His commitments to his next of kin as well as his former reports make him face all this. Not only was the world around him changing, but all values burst, too. In General Nil's case one talk about a kind of a self-immolation" (from the distributor's materials).
Unlike the heroine of Przesłuchanie, who is driven by contrariness, or the hero of Śmierć rotmistrza Pileckiego, who is an incurable romantic, Fieldorf played with such perfection by Łukaszewicz strikes you with pragmatism which made him ready to accept whatever came with dignity. In normal circumstances, such an attitude would deserve every respect, but did it do in Poland during the abnormal and absurd period of Stalinist domination?
- Generał Nil / General Nil, Poland 2009. Director: Ryszard Bugajski, screenplay: Ryszard Bugajski, Krzysztof Łukaszewicz based on August Emil Fieldorf's biography, photography: Piotr Śliskowski, music: Shane Harvey, design: Aniko Kiss, costume: Małgorzata Zacharska, Andrzej Szenajch, editor: Ewa Romanowska-Różewicz, sound: Aleksander Musiałowski, Wojciech Ślusarz. Starring: Olgierd Łukaszewicz (gen. August Emil Fieldorf "Nil"), Alicja Jachiewicz (Janina Fieldorf), Anna Cieślak (Maria Fieldorf), Magdalena Emilianowicz (Krystyna Fieldorf), Zbigniew Stryj (Major Stefan Bajer), Jacek Rozenek (Colonel Józef Różański), Stefan Szmidt (General Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski), Maciej Kozłowski (Tadeusz Grzmielewski). Producer: Wytwórnia Filmów Dokumentalnych i Fabularnych / Documentary and Feature Film Studio, Fundacja Filmowa Armii Krajowej / Home Army Film Foundation, Monolith Films, Telekomunikacja Polska SA. Co-financed by Polski Instytut Sztuki Filmowej / Polish Film Institute, Urząd Miasta St. Warszawa / Warsaw City Council, Ministerstwo Obrony Narodowej / Ministry of National Defence. Distribution: Monolith Films. Duration: 125 min. Released on 17th April 2009.
Author: Konrad J. Zarębski, March 2009