We’re all selfish and greedy, and we’d all compromise our principles for the right price.
So says a fast-paced, densely packed black comedy from Poland called Wesele, or The Wedding, released recently on Facets Home Video.
All About the Sigismunds
Our story takes place over the course of a single evening, beginning with a wedding. The priest sets the tone by working into the ceremony the maxim that the love of money is the root of all evil. Before long, the harried father of the bride (Marian Dziedziel), anxious over the late delivery of his gift for the new couple, is relieved to see an expensive silver Audi tearing up the drive and interrupting the joyful proceedings.
Father justifies his gift of the Audi as a practical measure for a newlywed couple. But we see how his generosity is competitive. It’s self-aggrandizement through generosity. Judging by how the other guests treat him, he has a long reputation for “generosity,” as just about everyone tries to wring a few Zlotys from him.
Writer/director Wojciech Smarzowski keeps things moving like a screwball comedy, with one development after another introducing more and more chaos into the story. The videographer turns out to be a guy who used to date the bride. The bride’s grandfather is on death’s door and he has locked himself in the gents’. The women preparing the bigos worry that it’s beginning to make the guests sick.
What really keeps coming up, however, is that damned Audi. Father bought it from some scoundrels for too good a price. The bargain included giving up a little patch of land that belonged to granddad. But granddad was supposed to be dead by now, and when he hears about the land deal, he insists on keeping the land in the family. The black-market car dealers won’t take no for an answer. Father is trapped in the middle, trying to keep the wedding from being ruined by his crimes and misdemeanors, paying whatever bribes, fees, or hush money is required to keep his daughter happy, his reputation intact, and the thugs from killing him.
The Wedding is probably funnier in Polish, but even to this American the timing looks impeccable. When a scene needs to keep moving, writer/director Wojciech Smarzowski and editor Pawel Laskowski will use jump cuts to get to the point. And before any joke can play too long or any situation get too neatly resolved, Smarzowski introduces another comic development to keep father juggling more and more balls.
The casting and costumes help the comedy immensely. There are rugged, authentic faces, women of impressive girth, and only-in-the-sticks hairdos like the greasy combover of the local notary public.
What makes The Wedding one notch better than a mere decent comedy is the careful script by Smarzowski. He keeps most of the jokes and situations focused around greed, instead of randomly tossing them in. As Father tries to get the deed from granddad, the drunken guests start singing an anthem: “... we shall not yield our forebears land.”
One guest, insincere but polite, unknowingly curses the family with “May your whole life be as beautiful as this night.”