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Peasants paints a harsh but lovely world

A century-old Nobel Prize winning novel from Poland gets a visual twist with The Peasants as filmmakers spice up a story in a painterly fashion. Hugh Welchman and D.K. Welchman, who previously put movement into Van Gogh works for Loving Vincent, use a similar effect with their script adapting a 1904 novel turned live action turned painting. More than 100 artists painted into and over sequences using live actors to create an eye-popping feast of color and movement that feels like Impressionist period art, well-suited to a story about poverty and country life before the Industrial Age took hold. The inventive approach adds spike to a story that today seems more predictable and less shocking than it probably did back when Władysław Reymont published his book in 1904. That human cruelty crosses sex and class lines should come as no surprise in a story where a smart and beautiful woman played by Kamila

constantly faces crushing blows from men, women, rich, and poor alike. Stark, sometimes formulaic action, lets actors reveal their character’s emotions simply, even as paint covers wrinkles, warts, and subtle lines. The performers’ challenges included working with green screens in sets made of cardboard so that a team of painters could move in after the fact as they present a new version of the past, one whose shimmery effect lacks clutter and modern sensibility. Frequent use of folk music and dance enhance the period mood. Lovely to look at, The Peasants provides a window revealing beautiful scenes that soften a harsh and sadly believable world.

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