Ludzie Wisły / Vistula People is a story set in the everyday reality of the people working on barges for inland transport operating on the Vistula River, and of the owners of these barges. The film affords the only portrayal of the culture of Polish river rafters and skippers, which is now gone. The film is a story of the turbulent emotions and the tragedies they cause.
Ludzie Wisły in Toruń
Aleksander Ford chose Toruń as the setting for his film. The film crew took their cameras to several different locations in Toruń, namely
the Philadelphia Boulevard by the Vistula River, in the vicinity of Żeglarska Gate
the wharf of the Vistula River east from the Józef Piłsudski Bridge
Port Zimowy, where barges used to moor
in the opening scene, we see most of the Gothic city gates
in a number of shots, one can see a panorama of the Old Town viewed from a boat on the Vistula River, as some of the shots were taken from boats and barges going up and down the said river.
This film by Ford and Zarzycki was part of a leftist artistic manifesto of the Start Film Group, which meant that it had to be assessed by the censorship board before its release in cinemas.
The film was highly acclaimed by the film critics.
It portrays something which today exists in only one place in Poland – Barka Lemara (Lemar Barges) in Bydgoszcz, currently under the management of the Municipal Cultural Centre in Bydgoszcz). It was used to reconstruct the reality from the film by Ford and Zarzycki, i.e. big cargo holds with microscopic apartments for the families of skippers right next to them.
Stanisława Wysocka, who portrays Matyjaska, an old skipper’s wife and bar owner in the film, used to be one of the most-important figures in Polish theatre.
She founded Teatr Studya, the first-ever Polish experimental-theatre stage. Among others, she was famous for her role of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. She was the first Polish actress to have played the Danish prince.
In the film, the role of Mr Połoński was played by Jerzy Zelwerowicz, a great magician of the theatre and patron of the contemporary National Academy of Dramatic Art in Warsaw.
Members of Towarzystwo Żeglugi Rzecznej (the Society of River Navigation) Vistula helped to shoot the film.
Information on the film
Ludzie Wisły / Vistula People
Poland 1938, 76′
Directed by: Aleksander Ford, Jerzy Zarzycki
Screenplay: Helena Boguszewska, Jerzy Kornacki
Cinematography: Stanisław Lipiński
Music: Marian Neuteich, Roman Palester
Produced by: LegiaFilm
Cast: Stanisława Wysocka, Iza Benita, Jerzy Pichelski, and others.