The film is set in Łódź at the end of the nineteenth century as the Polish textile industry flourishes and expensive intrigues set three businessmen at odds.
Karol Borowiecki is a managing engineer at the Bucholz textile factory, dreaming of starting his own factory, with the help of his friends - the intermediary independent Jewish businessman Moritz Welt and Max Baum, the German son of the owner of the old ailing mill. Since his affair with Lucy Zucker who he met at the theatre, the beautiful wife of a wealthy industrialist, Karol is informed in advance of a disclosed secret: the tariffs on cotton are going to be raised soon. The three friends join their capital and Moritz goes to Hamburg, to buy as much raw material as possible. After the sale they will have the capital to build their own factory.
The Łódź factory owners, fearing the competition from Borowiecki's factory - who as a Pole could count on the very best profit from his goods - offer resistance. Borowiecki's loan forecloses, but refuses to sell his machines. More money has to be found, so all three characters cast aside their pride to raise the necessary capital. Karol sells the family's estate to a man enriched via supplying goods to the city's plants. Karol's landowner father does not comprehend the new era, and along with Anka, Borowiecki's fiancée, moves to Łódź. The factory manages to complete construction.
The old Zucker learns about his wife's affair with Karol. Despite the assurances of the groundlessness of these accusations, he orders her to be followed on the day she is set to leave for Berlin. Karol secretly accompanies her on the train. The spy sends the news of the affair back to Zucker. Zucker has taken his revenge on Borowiecki by burning down his brand new, uninsured factory, on the train Karol receives a telegram that his factory is on fire. That same night his father dies.
As the plant was not insured and the friends are ruined. The only solution for Karol is to break up with Anka and marry the daughter of a German millionaire, Mada Mueller. Borowiecki reaches his goal and becomes a great industrialist.
'Promised Land' depicts the raw, real, uncivilised reality of capitalism, as if being an emanation of the animal nature of man. The business world in Łódź is so open and natural in its wickedness, that paradoxically, it seems like the world has not come into contact with ethical standards, a world without sin. Only one streak of light illuminates this dark area, the friendship linking a Pole, a Jew and a German. The friendship and solidarity is a challenge to the wolf herd.
(Konrad Eberhardt, Kino, 1974)
On the surface it may appear that Wajda is fascinated with the inexhaustible vitality, energy, entrepreneurship, as well as the lack of inhibitions and appetite for sex and life of the three young heroes of the 'Promised Land'. In fact, he brings to light the whole emptiness of their lives, covered with dynamic infantilism and the automatic quest for 'big money' at all costs. At the end of the film, when they have made the profits which they had long dreamt of, and reached the peak of their career, we see discoloured, faded, old lords and owners of big capital - real people who 'have no future'.
(Tomasz Burek, Kino, 1974)
Karol Olbrychski was a contemporary individual. This was someone who was in touch with the spirit of the times: left his home education far behind, and turned his soul to ice. From a state of self-guilt, he ended up shooting his own workers. Therefore, despite all the monumental demonisation, 'Promised Land' was a loyal portrayal of the situation at the time. And in no way did it break away from the traditional Polish school of film-making: the collective psychotherapy. A final gesture of the bravest of the workers, to which the police responded with a reflex volley of violence, not only reflected the recent events of December - as audiences whispered after the première - but rather prophetically anticipated events which were to come soon …
(Tadeusz Lubelski, Kwartalnik Filmowy, 1997)
Wajda's vision of this city of Łódź is amplified, exaggerated, possessed by a single goal. The sound of looms and the turmoil stock market is his music, which stuns and kills feelings, numbs the mind and lures in a mad rhythm. Wajda's city is an exaggerated and monstrous black kingdom of capital and financial speculation. This is Łódź, but also the jungles of Manchester or Chicago. Łódź has its own theme song - the staccato sound of the looms. In the background is the ever-increasing noise of machines and conveyor belts. The mega-factory rhapsody drowns man's cry. Red drops of blood appear on white dresses like flowers.
(Aleksander Ledóchowski, Film)
I took a new look at this film. For years, the rhythm and momentum of 'Promised Land' was praised (by audiences and critics alike), but today it seems to me to be insufficient, so I re-edited the film, significantly shortening it. The soundtrack also had to be subjected to a wide-ranging treatment, due to new technical possibilities of today's cinemas. I added a scene in which Łódź bankers and actuaries - people from very different backgrounds - made music together. Heroes who think only about money and set their eyes on tariffs and business deals, meet to play together a quartet by Mendelssohn and Schumann. It's not only surprising, it makes for a more paradoxical and deeper film.
(Andrzej Wajda, on the new version of The Promised Land, released in 2000, Kino, 2000)
- Ziemia obiecana / Promised Land, Poland 1974/2000. Direction and screenplay based on a novel by Władysław Stanisław Reymont - Andrzej Wajda. Director of photography Witold Sobociński, Edward Kłosiński, Wacław Dybowski. Editor Halina Prugar, Zofia Dwornik. Sound Krzysztof Wodziński, Leszek Wronko. Music Wojciech Kilar. Set Design Tadeusz Kosarewicz. Production Barbara Pec-Ślesicka, Janina Krassowska. Cast Daniel Olbrychski (Karol Borowiecki), Wojciech Pszoniak (Moryc Welt), Andrzej Seweryn (Maks Baum), Anna Nehrebecka (Anka), Tadeusz Białoszczyński (Karol's father), Franciszek Pieczka (Mueller), Bożena Dykiel (Mada Mueller), Danuta Wodyńska (Mueller's wife), Marian Glinka (Wilhelm Mueller), Andrzej Szalawski (Bucholc), Jadwiga Andrzejewska (Bucholc's wife), Kalina Jędrusik (Lucy Zuckerowa), Jerzy Nowak (Zucker), Stanisław Igar (Gruenspan), Kazimierz Opaliński (Maks's father), Andrzej Łapicki (Trawiński), Zbigniew Zapasiewicz (Kessler), Piotr Fronczewski (Horn), Wojciech Siemion (Wilczek), Jerzy Zelnik (Stein), Włodzimierz Boruński (Halpern), Marek Walczewski (Bum-Bum), Bogusław Sochnacki (Grosglueck), Bohdana Majda (Grosglueck's wife), Teodor Gendera (Endelman), Aleksander Dzwonkowski (Priest), Kazimierz Wichniarz (Zajączkowski), Zdzisław Kuźniar (Kaczmarek), Jan P. Kruk (Servant Mateusz), Jerzy Obłamski (Malinowski), Zofia Gryglaszewska (Malinowska), Grażyna Michalska (Zośka Malinowska), Maciej Góraj (Adam Malinowski), Lidia Korsakówna (Widow), Emilia Krakowska (Gitla), Kazimierz Kaczor (Kipman), Jerzy Przybylski (Bucholc's Doctor), Mieczysław Waśkowski (August - Bucholca), Alicja Sobieraj (Anka's servant), Krzysztof Majchrzak (Socha). Produced by PRF Zespoły Filmowe - Zespół X. Colour, 35 mm - 4896 m and 70 mm - 6100 m, 175'
- 1975"Golden Hugo" 11th Chicago International Film Festival, Gold Medal, 9th Moscow Film Festival- Grand Award "Lwy Gdańskie" (ex aequo), as well as an award for set design, music and acting for Wojciecha Pszoniaka at the II Polish Feature Film Festival in Gdańsk
- 1976 - Nomination to the Academy Award "Oscar"
- 1977 - Grand Award "Golden Corn", 21st IFF Valladolid (Spain)- 1st Prize at the 18th International Film Festival in Cartagena (Columbia)