TIFF ’23: The Peasants

Directed by DK Welchman & Hugh Welchman, The Peasants is based non Wladyslaw Reymont’s novel of the same name. Set in early 20th Century Poland, the story follows the Jagna (Kamila Urvedowska), the most beautiful and charming woman in the village of Lipce. When she marries Maciej Boryna, a weathy widower (and the village’s ‘First Farmer’), she does so out of obligation rather than love. Fading away emotionally, Jagna soon rediscovers her passion in the arms of Antek, causing chaos within her family and the village itself.

Without question, Peasants is one of the most gorgeous animated films that we have seen in some time. Using actual oil paintings as its animated palette, Peasants brings its performances to life with stunning, visual accuracy. In some moments, this is a film that feels like the very best of classical artistic interpretations. In others, it almost seems like reality itself. Transcribing over 40 000 paintings onscreen, there’s a tactile nature to these visuals that is absolutely remarkable on every level. 

In doing so, Peasants creates a third dimension to the raw, rural nature of its settings. As a result, the film’s tactile nature also leans into its thematic structure as Peasants finds beauty in the coarse nature of reality. These landscapes are meant to feel rough, and the artistry helps bring that to life. While beautiful, we also understand instantly the difficult nature of life in this area. In this world, the land is harsh and the masculinity is brutal and raw. 

Here, Jagna is the lone flower in this crude terrain. Other women have been broken down by its toxic masculinity yet there is a fire within her that wants to burn brightly. Despite the brutality that surrounds her, she recognizes that, as a woman, she has a choice to make. Will she submit to this particular world of dirt? Or will she attempt to venture out and find her own path? Trapped by the brutality of her world, this is the soul that lies within The Peasants as Jagna attempts to spark new life in a dark world.

To hear our conversation with DK Welchman and Hugh Welchman, click here.

The Peasants is playing at TIFF ’23. For more information, click here.

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