Promised Land | Chicago Reader

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180 minutes

Turn-of-the-century Lodz supplies the backdrop for this epic critique of industrialization by Andrzej Wajda (Man of Iron, Danton). A near-operatic account of three young men—one German, one Polish, one Jewish—whose partnership in a mill leads to ruin, this 1974 film presents an uncompromising vision of industrial society tumbling into an abyss of violence, decadence, and cruelty. The story unfolds like a more cynical version of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre: instead of moving from rationality to gold-thirsty insanity, the three prospectors devolve from unpleasant greediness to utter despicability, making their tragic fate seem more like a long-overdue comeuppance. Wajda's humanitarian impulses are compromised somewhat by his Shylockian Jews and insatiable, bosom-heaving women; the film's sweeping vision and brilliant structure only make these shortcomings more glaring.

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