The Issa Valley: Dolina Issy
About the Film:
"Dolina Issy / The Issa Valley", Poland 1981, 102 min.
Script: Tadeusz Konwicki, Czesław Miłosz
Directed by Tadeusz Konwicki,
Cinematography: Jerzy Łukaszewicz
Music: Zygmunt Konieczny
Produced by: "Perspektywa" film group
Principal cast: Anna Dymna, Maria Pakulnis, Danuta Szaflarska, Ewa Wiśniewska , Edward Dziewoński, Jerzy Kamas, Marta Lipińska, Hanna Skarżanka, Joanna Szczepkowska, Igor Śmiałowski
The film is an adaptation of the 1955 book by Czesław Miłosz, winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize in literature.
It takes place in Lithuania at the beginning of the 20th century, in the valley of the mythical river Issa. The banks of the river allude to the banks of the real-life Niewiaż river, where Miłosz spent his childhood. It is a poetic journey into the world of childhood dreams, where reality and fantasy intermingle. Individual characters are accompanied by devils and demons, well-known from Lithuanian legends. The plot revolves around the people living there: the story of a little boy named Tomaszek, the tragic romance of the local priest and his housekeeper, maid Barbarka's unrequited love for her lord, Baltazar, and a forester with existential anxieties that lead to madness and murder. This is a tale of coming of age, becoming familiar with the world, and maturing and growing in the face of adversity.
Tadeusz Konwicki, eminent Polish writer and film director, has left a lasting impression on post-war Polish literature and culture and is regarded as a spokesman for the dreams, hopes and frustrations of several generations of Poles. He offered several reasons for making this movie:
“After a long period of hesitation, the writer's family, who had originally turned to me with this request, finally persuaded me. I think that they requested me in particular, as I come from Lithuania. Without this deepened knowledge of the area, you couldn't possibly dream of adapting this kind of text to the screen. I found myself in a similar position to that which Czesław Miłosz must have been in writing the text. I often recall my childhood in Lithuania, even though I left the country over thirty years ago. For me, "The Issa Valley" is not a simple story. Instead it's like a lens that sharpens my own memories of the land….I remember the smell of the woods, the taste of the water, hue of the grass. I often return to Lithuania in my books; but I've never had the courage to re-visit it in film.
- Interview with Bogdan Zagrob for Film magazine (nr 39/1981).
The film is enriched by Jerzy Łukaszewicz's cinematography, which turned the Suwałki Region into a Lithuanian paradise.