Andrzej Wajda, the grand old man of the Polish cinema, adapts a seminal work in his nation's literature: Adam Mickiewicz's 1834 epic poem about two feuding noble families who are reconciled by the marriage of their heirs. The film opens with Mickiewicz reading his patriotic work to a group of exiles in Paris, and while he meant the poem as a call for unity, he also mocked the landed gentry for their frivolous pursuits, petty squabbles, and confused politics. Assisted by Adek Drabinski, Wajda has padded the tale with invented dialogue and tortuous plot twists while meticulously re-creating a gilded, idyllic world of bear hunts, banquets, and amorous dalliances. Mickiewicz's nationalist rhetoric survives in the declamatory speeches huffily delivered by some of the actors—at the expense of the story, which veers dangerously close to a static history lesson from Masterpiece Theatre. Wajda's longtime collaborator Allan Starski (Schindler's List) supervised the production design, and the distinguished cast (including Marek Kondrat, Daniel Olbrychski, Grazyna Szapolowska, and Boguslaw Linda) ranges from the eloquent to the barely believable.