The film is set in the year 1914. A young apprenticeship Filipek meets Jerzy, a student, while attending a Legion’s draft board. Being sent on the front line, where they are joined by the landowner Kazik, together they go through the whole combat trail – up till 1920.
The film starts with the military mobilisation of the year 1914. Filipek works as an apprenticeship in a winery. Being thrown away by its owner, he joins the newly established legions. While attending a draft board, he meets Jerzy Recki, a student who abandoned his classes in Switzerland to take part in the fight. The two men become inseparable and as such are sent together on the front line. Their officer in charge assigns them on a reconnaissance, where they encounter Russian soldiers, which leads to a firefight. Jerzy is badly wounded. Filipek leads him to a nearby court, but its owner refuses to let them in. His daughter Zosia clandestinely hides Jerzy in her room and lovingly takes care of him. Filipek returns to the troops to bring back help.
In the meantime, the Muscovites turn up in the court and take it up as their headquarters. Luckily, Filip arrives with two soldiers and they manage to move Jerzy out through the window. Kazik has words of farewell with his older sister Zosia, as he joins the legions. From that moment on, the three men serve in the same unit. Zosia receives a letter from Kazik and Jerzy, with the latter calling her his “protective angel”. Meanwhile, the Russian army moves on to offensive. During the fight, the three “daredevils” are wounded. They are moved to a lazaret, where Zosia works as a nurse. Jerzy confesses his feelings. The wounded men recover quickly. The legionnaires in the barracks refuse to obey orders nor take an oath of allegiance to the Regency Council. They end up in a prison, from which they are released by Józef Piłsudski on his way back from Magdeburg.
The action of the film moves to the year 1920. The battle against the Bolsheviks for the Eastern borderline has already begun. Kazik is fatally shot while fighting his way through the front line. His friends sing “Sleep in the dark grave, friend and may you dream about thy Poland” at his grave. Kazik is posthumously awarded with Virtuti Militari.
Daredevils. We have finally learned to look through the camera lenses at our countryside and Polish wars. A polish soldier, especially the first one, as the first one always bears primacy, is close to our hearts, and, regardless of the fact that too many battle scenes are now being shot with our films making use of the cheapness of armed acting, it touches us deeply. All the more so in Daredevils, where the war depiction, being naïve at its core, despite portraying terror, death and blood, is discreet and artistically detailed. War is indeed an element profoundly primitive that denudes man of culture, it takes a whole bunch of motives surrounding ideals and sentiments to transform war into something beautiful. Daredevils is a rare example of directorial craft. Especially the beginning complies with the American standards. Although it is not the first time we see “layering” images, a synthetic view of a particular occurrence, one has to admit that the director portrayed it in a highly artistic and logical way. The war itself deserves cuts, as its depiction is doubled in almost identical takes, but we have to appreciate the wonderful particularisation when it comes to the representation of military equipment, for instance tanks and machine guns. It is a pity that by that repetitiveness, the whole artistic merit of the film is blurred. The talented Jerzy Kobusz has been greatly spotted and brought to the forefront. He is the first Polish born actor who came out to be destined for the screen and absolutely unexcelled by his fellow artists, like for instance Irena Gawęcka with a face as pretty as frowned but uglified and forced to play sentimental roles while she was fitted for dramatic and gloomy parts. The same applies to Marian Czauski, who was exposed to the camera lenses regarding only his good look and without taking into consideration particular situations or acting. The countryside in Daredevils is like in no other Polish film: locations in Biedrusk next to Poznań reminds of the most subtle copperplate engraving, lighting is masterfully crafted, even the lipstick, so rare in Poland, is used with a European manner. Daredevils is a great step forward for the Polish cinema. [GR]
Kino-Teatr 1928 nr. 1
Kino-Teatr 1928 nr 1
• The average production time for a film in interwar Poland was about one month. Daredevils was truly remarkable in this regard: production took a total of eleven months, proving that the film truly was the first blockbuster-scale motion picture made in Poland.
• Unlike nearly every picture made at the time, Daredevils was shot not in Warsaw, but in Poznań. Diana-Film’s studio occupied an entire wing of the Fair Palace at what is now the Poznań International Fair. Though originally designed for other purposes, the building’s giant skylight made it an excellent studio space.
• Diana-Film’s studio was equipped with a state-of-the-art lighting system, but malfunctions were common on set, as can be seen in some shots.