Andrzej Wajda's film adaptation of Adam Mickiewicz’s epic poem. Written in Paris between 1832 and 1834, for Mickiewicz it was supposed to be an escape from the Parisian reality of the Polish emigrants’ conflicts after the unsuccessful uprising against Russia (1830-31).
The idyllic image of the ‘childhood land’ was created to soothe the nostalgia for the past and help him – as well as his generation – lick their wounds. Remembering the times when the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte had given hope to the Poles in going to war with Russia in 1812 – he wanted to bring unity back to his compatriots as well as faith in the fight against the Russian invaders. Andrzej Wajda in magazine Film explained:
The plot takes place in Lithuania (which was united with Poland in 1569, and after the partitions of Poland, annexed to Russia) in 1811 and 1812, in a manor house in Sopliców, and in Dobrzyn, an abode of the gentry.When we return to ‘Pan Tadeusz’ now, it’s not for the same reason as readers from previous times. It’s not because of nostalgia for a lost, imagined land. Pan Tadeusz, which was a political and social poem, is now existential. Everyone wants to understand where one came from, who one’s parents were, who one’s grandparents were. It is easier to make important decisions when you are aware of your family and social background. (…) The new generation will want to know where it comes from. ‘Pan Tadeusz’ was born out of a need to show who we were, what we were called, what we were like and what characters were born among us. ‘Pan Tadeusz’ shows an amazing gallery of human types! (…) It’s all described and I am sure the audience will want to see it. ‘That’s us’ – they will say. That’s all. And that’s a lot.
After graduating from school, the young Tadeusz Soplica returns to the country estate. There’s no one there, since his uncle and caretaker Judge Soplica has gone on a walk in the woods with the other inhabitants. Walking around the house, Tadeusz enters his old room, where now a girl lives. Unfortunately she’s scared and escapes to the garden. This short meeting awakens the boy’s imagination and emotional turmoil unfolds in his mind. In the evening, during a dinner in the castle – which is the cause of conflict between the Soplicas and a count from the Horeszko family – Tadeusz comes to the conviction that the woman he saw was the coquettish Telimena and starts a romance with her. To his shock, soon he discovers that it’s young Zosia who lives in his room, and Telimena is her aunt. He doesn’t suspect the mysterious connection he has with Zosia. Zosia is Ewa Horeszko’s daughter, who was once forced to marry the rich Voivode against her will by her father Stolnik. Ewa’s love was Jacek Soplica, who killed the girl’s father, angry after the treatment he received. He was excluded by the local community and, due to an unfortunate coincidence, named an ally of the Russians, and then got lost somewhere in the world. Even though it happened many years earlier, Horeszko's faithful servant Gerwazy hasn’t abandoned the idea of revenge. The judge, Jacek’s younger brother, has been taking care of his son Tadeusz for many years. They haven’t seen Jacek Soplica, who only sends his brother orders through his secret emissary, Father Robak, who at the same time is preparing for a new uprising of the gentry against the Russian invader. Unfortunately, these preparations are spoiled by Gerwazy, who incites the gentry to attack the Soplicowo estate. His last foray into Lithuania provokes a premature explosion of anti-Russian rebellion.