Sąsiedzi

Directed by Aleksander Ścibor-Rylski

This film by Aleksander Ścibor-Rylski is a response to the German propaganda about  Bloody Sunday in Bydgoszcz. The film is a reconstruction of the events which took place in Bydgoszcz in September 1939. The film combines a portrayal of the heroic defence of the Polish army against the German sabotage with a tragic love affair between a young Pole and a 16-year-old German girl.

The film by Ścibor-Rylski is an epic narrative with an unprecedented flourish, which takes us right into the heart of the tragic events which happened on the 3rd and 4th of September 1939, in Bydgoszcz. At the time, German saboteurs, a so-called  “Fifth Column”, opened fire from concealed spots at the retreating units of the  Pomorze Army. The attack was repelled by the Polish soldiers, backed up by citizens of Bydgoszcz. The saboteurs (or those whom the Polish people recognised as such) caught red-handed, i.e. with weapons in their hands, were arrested. Later on, the majority of them were released.  With the Polish army and Government in retreat, it was not possible to put them on trial.

The Germans used the events in Bydgoszcz as a weapon of propaganda against the Poles.

From the Nazi perspective, the dramatic events of 3rd September 1939 started to be called  “Bloody Sunday”. The propaganda of Joseph Goebbels claimed that the Polish people orchestrated a  bloodbath for the Germans, which justified the mass executions by the Nazi occupants that ensued, both in the city and its vicinity.  It was part of the so-called  “atrocities in Pomerania”, which claimed the lives of nearly 50,000 Poles.

Aleksander Ścibor-Rylski cast a number of excellent actors for his film. They included Janusz Kłosiński, Krzysztof Litwin, Jan Machulski, Leon Niemczyk, Józef Nowak, Marian Opania, and Tomasz Zaliwski. All the roles of Germans were played by actors from the German Democratic Republic.

The Historic Events in Bydgoszcz

The film was shot in downtown Bydgoszcz:

  • The first shot was fired on the bridge on ul. Królowej Jadwigi
  • On Aleja 1 Maja (today, it is ul. Gdańska) stretching from Plac Wolności to the  Pomorzanin cinema, on ul. Mostowa, and to ul. Grodzka,
  • Inside the old gasworks on ul. Jagiellońska;
  • All the battle scenes were filmed on ul. Dworcowa and Pomorska, on Pl. Wolności, and along Al. 1 Maja in the section stretching from ul. Dworcowa to ul. Śniadeckich (for example, the scenes of shooting from the church tower and the skirmish between railwaymen and the first units of the German reconnaissance patrol).

Trivia

  • The preview screening of the film took place on 3rd September 1969, in Bydgoszcz, commemorating the 30th anniversary of the tragic events.
  • Prior to starting the shooting of the films, the Department of Construction and Architecture of the City Council designed and produced scale models of the streets where action would take place. The models, made by engineers Meloch and Winiecki, featured shops, inscriptions, and signboards, which were in place in 1939.
  • Many protagonists shown in  Sąsiedzi/Neighbours had their historic models.  Actor Tadeusz Kalinowski played Mieczysław Rubaszewski, as policeman Rubach. Józef Nowak playing Marczewski was in reality Franciszek Marchlewski, the commander of a unit of railwaymen defending the railway station. Zdzisław Przyjałkowski, Brig. Gen., was played by Henryk Bąk, while Jan Machulski portrayed Wojciech Albrycht, a reserve army major and garrison commander – in real life, he was a teacher at a local grammar school. Today, Albrycht has his own street in Bydgoszcz.
  • When filming  Sąsiedzi/Neighbours, some changes in the timetable of trams.
  • At the same time, a different film crew was shooting scenes for the TV series Czterej pancerni i pies/Four tank-men and a dog.”
  • The making of the film meant a lot to the people of Bydgoszcz, which resulted in high audience numbers in the cinemas.

Information on the film

Sąsiedzi / Neighbours

Poland 1969, 135′

Directed by: Aleksander Ścibor-Rylski

Screenplay: Aleksander Ścibor-Rylski

Cinematography: Kurt Weber

Music: Wojciech Kilar

Produced by: PRF  Zespoły Filmowe”

Cast: Jerzy Matałowski, Józef Nowak, Marian Opania, Tadeusz Kalinowski, Henryk Bąk, Jan Machulski, and others.

Important people

Aleksander Ścibor-Rylski  

bio

Bydgoszcz

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