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Andrzej Munk's Eroica DVD Reissue
Manish Agarwal , August 9th, 2012 07:30

New high-definition transfer for brilliant Polish anti-war satire

Boasting the mordant subtitle 'A Heroic Symphony In Two Parts', Eroica (1958) is a pitch-black comedy which concisely subverts the romantic notion that dire circumstances - World War II, in this case - can bring out the best in people. Restored under the supervision of its cinematographer Jerzy Wójcik, the 81-minute main feature has been supplemented by director Andrzej Munk's short film A Walk In The Old Town Of Warsaw plus extensive sleeve notes for a typically handsome home entertainment release by UK DVD imprint Second Run (read our label profile).

The film's first half revolves around a wine-sodden wheeler-dealer who tries to desert the Warsaw Uprising only to become a reluctant link between the city's true underground patriots and some smartly uniformed Hungarian soldiers (one of whom has taken an interest in his wife) who might be able to aid their resistance, despite being nominally allied with the occupying German force. Edward Dziewoński plays the feckless, foul-mouthed coward with tragicomic verve, while Munk fills the screen with memorable images, juxtaposing his selfish anti-hero's drunken antics against the hair-raising urban destruction wreaked by the Nazi artillery. Part two takes place in a POW camp, where Polish officers have been interned for so long that they've started to go crazy - dreaming of escape just to get away from each other, rather than fulfilling the noble duty to defy their captors. This illusory hope forms the basis for an extraordinary secret, leading to a bitterly ironic twist and poetic parting shot. Dark humour lingers, albeit curdled by the bleak setting. A daringly irreverent treatment of sometimes staid subject matter, Eroica is out this week; further details can be found at the Second Run DVD website.