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Commaner Edelman (Also: Marek Edelma. Life. Just Life.)

Witold Bereś

H-11-EMarek Edelman is well-known as a Polish hero: a commander of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, an activist of the Committee for the Defense of Workers KOR and the Solidarity opposition movement, and a member of the Round Table negotiations between the communist government and the opposition.

He is relatively well-know as an outstanding cardiologist and surgeon. But not many people know that Edelman is a sensitive and expressive. He is a role model to many, yet with his ways—caustic tongue, rudeness—he may be… unconventional.

“You are staffed, full up… and journalists. You ask what he thought when he was fired at, what he thought when he was starving, did he think he would survive. You are idiots, the lot of you. I’m totally serious, and it’s driving me mad for even if you didn’t know, I have been talking toy for three days and if you don’t get it you must be morons. It’s incredible… You are asking me if those haulers did believe they would survive on 3 kilograms of bread or a kilo of marmolade. I can talk to you.”

For the filmmakers it is Edelman who is the most important hero—a wise man who, in his life, is guided by universal values. Can we talk about the Ten Commandments? Edelman underlines that he is  not a believer but, beyond any doubt, he is guided in his life by a sort of a decalogue—a list of commandments of a descent man. Among them, on of the most fundamental rules is that of friendship. But he would not talk about himself.

It is a movie portrait of Edelman, who, from the perspective of his armchair defines the limits of decency. And the world outside of his room spins faster and faster.

 

Screenplay: W. Bereś, K. Burnetko, A. Więcek “Baron”

Direction.: A. Więcek “Baron”

Photography: Piotr Trela

Music: Adrian Konarski

Editing: Piotr Zmyślony

Sound: Bartek i Marian Bogaccy

Production director: Piotr Uss Wąsowicz

Producer: Witold Bereś

Production: Bereś & Baron Media Productions with support from the Łódź Cityhall, TVN, and the Polish Film Institute.

 

Cast:

Marek Edelman, Witold Bereś, Krzysztof Burnetko, Bronisław Geremek, Hanna Krall, Jan Lityński, Simcha Rotem, Pnina Grynszpan.

 

Review:

The last surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, cardiologist and surgeon, member of the democratic opposition after the WW2, gets angry quite often and calls the journalists who interview him idiots and morons. “If he doesn’t understand what hunger is, how can I talk with him?” he cries.

He is ruthless but this is how we can grasp that some questions are inappropriate. They seem banal for what people had been through in the ghetto can not be narrated. The movie shows a collision of two different words and value systems. It transpires that our ideas about those events are, one one hand, too simplistic, and on the other hand, too pathetic—it is and will be beyond out comprehension that people would die for 3 kilos of bred. And that a girl could live “three months in paradise” for, before she died, she fell in love for the first time in her life.

The movie, divided into bit parts, revisits the Ten Commandments. Each becomes relative, for, as Edelan says, “there are different morals in war time, the morals of hunger, and in peacetime, when your talkes with you to kindergarden, feeds you with pudding and so on.” But he does not talk ethics. (…) He keeps towering meanings to the ground. He has no delusions, contrary to those who feed on them. “We have to assume that humans are evil, always destroying everything that was weaker. Reason counts, but later, after death, there is nothing. You need to understand what nothing is.

 

By Donata Subbotko, Gazeta Wyborcza, May 24, 2008