By Don Simpson | January 8, 2011
Director: Aleksander Ford
Writer(s): Gustaw Bachner (novella), Jerzy Broszkiewicz (novella), Aleksander Ford (screenplay), Stanislaw Hadyna (novel), Jan Korngold (novella), Loeon Kruczkowski (dialogue)
Starring: Czeslaw Wollejko, Zbigniew Lobodzinski, Jerzy Duszy
As a devout member of the Communist Party (or as Roman Polanski refers to him: “an orthodox Stalinist”), Polish director Aleksander Ford created The Youth of Chopin as a “socialist-realist” film. Ford made certain to include all the Communist party prescriptions from the congress in Wisla; therefore Ford’s “biography” of Chopin — the famous Polish piano composer — is reduced to a mere propaganda piece, with the sole purpose of portraying Chopin in the image of the “friend of working classes.” (During the Filmmakers’ Meeting in March 1952, Communist Party officials maintained that The Youth of Chopin was a model film.)
The Youth of Chopin tells the story of Fryderyk Chopin’s (Czeslaw Wollejko) life between 1825 and 1831, a time of social unrest and rising nationalism throughout Europe. Ford depicts Chopin not just as an outstanding student in music but also as a young man impassioned with the revolutionary spirit of his native Poland. Chopin’s fame grows as he performs a series of well-received concerts for the Polish aristocracy. Then, while on tour in Vienna, Chopin receives word of the November uprising in Warsaw. Chopin attempts to return to Poland to join the fight, but his carriage breaks down and he becomes ill before finally arriving in Warsaw. At his doctor suggestion, Chopin settles down to a much quieter life in Paris, and continues making music…
Born in Kiev, Ukraine in 1908, Aleksander Ford became known as Poland’s postwar poet of the silver screen. Originally released in 1952, The Youth of Chopin definitely lives up to Ford’s renowned cinematic poetry with some noteworthy cinematography by Jaroslav Tuzar. Unfortunately, the narrative is a bit thin, and from what I have read about the subject The Youth of Chopin contains more fiction than fact and is a far cry from a faithful biopic about Chopin.
Admittedly, Ford is a glaring hole in my knowledge of cinema history (The Youth of Chopin is the only film I have seen by Ford — and probably not the best place to start); I am much more familiar with the work of Ford’s protégé Andrzej Wajda.
There are very few prints of this film available. Facets recently released a DVD of The Youth of Chopin (http://www.facetsdvd.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=DV100133) but the image quality is fairly grainy. The Facets release does appear to be the best version available at this time.