“The Young Girl and the Peasants”: a sumptuous painted fresco, a hymn to nature and men


Seven years after The Van Gogh Passion , their first film written and directed as a duo, DK Welchman (then known as Dorota Kobiela) and her husband, Hugh Welchman, return with a new rotoscoping animated feature film (process creating animated sequences by drawing frame by frame on real shots), The Girl and the Peasants . A vast pictorial fresco inspired by a no less gigantic literary work, Les Paysans (L’Age d’homme, 2009), by Ladislas Reymont (1867-1925). That is, four volumes written from 1904 to 1909 (and published in France in 1925-1926 by Payot) which earned its author, in 1924, the Nobel Prize for Literature and a late recognition.

Both realistic and naturalist, the work which bears witness, over four seasons, to the grandeur and misery of the peasants in the Polish countryside at the end of the 19th century, composes a hymn to nature, to the earth and to men who viscerally cherish it.

“The fact is that Ladislas Reymont is both a chronicler and a poet, a painter of all the colors of time and the world, but also a novelist of the eternal human tragedy,” wrote in Le Monde , in August 1981, the critic and writer Swiss Jean-Louis Kuffer, about the Peasants . The observation can also be well suited to the film directed by DK and Hugh Welchman, which, through the technique of painted animation, gives body and substance to the power and poetry of the landscapes, illustrates this organic link (uniting the characters and the earth) that the writer describes with infinite nuances in his novel.

An adulterous passion

As the title suggests, The Girl and the Peasants is built around a heroine, a central figure subject to the law of men from whom she will attempt to free herself at the cost of numerous sacrifices. The heroine in question is called Jagna, she is the most beautiful girl in the village and the most dreamy. Forced to marry a rich landowner, much older than her, the young woman will choose to take as a lover one of her husband’s sons, Antek, himself married and father of four children.

This adulterous passion, brought to incandescence, does not take long to cause scandal, to arouse the jealousy of the men (all eager to possess the beauty), and the anger of the women, who now rise up in fury against this rival. From then on, the rumor spread, hatred was unleashed, characters asserted themselves, harsh, violent, proud. The drama smolders, then swells with the passing of the seasons, before sinking into tragedy, a mirror of a peasant condition in distress.

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