Between two activist films with a strong anti-communist message (Man of Marble from 1977 and Man of Iron from 1981), one of the greatest Polish filmmakers of all time, Andrzej Wajda, made this politically harmless drama set in the late 1920s. . “The Maids of Wilko” or “Panny z Wilka” reached the nomination for the Oscar for the best foreign film, and this somewhat philosophical, existentialist, Proustian – Chekhovian drama about the passage of time, youth that has passed, missed opportunities and wrong decisions, filmed Wajd based on a short story by Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz.
Wiktor Ruben (Daniel Olbrychski) has turned 40 and is a successful industrialist in Warsaw, where he runs a small factory. After he falls ill at a friend’s funeral, he decides to return to the province where he grew up and where his uncle and aunt still live. He spent his youth in Wilko, that is, his teenage years and even his early twenties before the First World War, and he was a tutor there for the sisters who lived in the neighborhood. They are all grown up now, of course, and all the sisters were in love with Wiktor at one stage of their lives. He, on the other hand, was in love with one of them, Fela, who he didn’t even know had died in the meantime, and her sisters don’t want to talk about her at all while her grave is almost forgotten.
In the end, Wiktor will spend more time in Wilko than he originally planned, even without realizing it, probably not even thinking among the sisters that he will reawaken some long-forgotten dreams and hopes. He will be especially surprised by the fact that all those women he once knew as girls and girls have completely changed, and he doesn’t seem to realize that he, too, changed during that period. And not, of course, only physically, but as a person who went through the war among other things, and the past and remembering how he may not have had enough courage to make some decisions, as if it will start haunting him.
He will spend a lot of time in conversations with all the sisters who mostly turned into disappointed and unhappy women and that idyllic time when they were all young and life was ahead of them, now remains only in memories. Wajda made an interesting, reflective drama, which seems to raise the question of whether people tend to idealize certain moments and remember them somehow beautified compared to how they really were. Wiktor will also understand through conversations with his sisters that a lot of things were not as he remembers, but also that it is impossible to return somewhere after fifteen years and try to continue where you once left off.