All-star cast for ‘Jewish Messiah’ movie


Daas (2011); photo - Euzebiusz Niemiec AKPA

The movie Daas, telling the story of Jakub Frank, the self-proclaimed Jewish Messiah in 18th century Poland, is set to premiere at next month's Polish Film Festival in Gdynia


Written and directed by first-time film-maker Adrian Panek, Daas boasts a twenty-four carat cast, with a string of Poland's most acclaimed actors, including Andrzej Chyra, Jan Nowicki, Danuta Stenka, Maciej Stuhr and Olgierd Lukaszewicz as Frank himself.


Born in Podolia, Frank was one of the most distinctive characters of the late 18th century, rising from relatively humble Jewish beginnings to princely splendour, with his own castle and a retinue of 600 soldiers.


The plot hinges on charges of heresy against Frank, who infuriated Hassidic rabbis with his wayward practices.


As described by historian Adam Zamoyski, “one of Frank's theories was that evil could be destroyed through indulgence in it, leading to some spectacular orgiastic rites.”


Ultimately, the so-called Frankists were baptised en masse, with the King of Poland standing godfather to their leader.


As Poland began to be devoured by its neighbours, Frank found favour with Habsburg Emperor Joseph II – played by Maciej Stuhr in the new film - and some sources suggest an entanglement with the Emperor's daughter.


The film is a labour of love for thirty-five year-old director Adrian Panek, who first fell under the spell of the story whilst studying at his high school in Wroclaw.


However, in an interview with the Polish Film Institute during the making of the movie, he noted that it will not be a typical costume drama.


“I think it will be a rather dark film,” he smiled.


Daas is one of the twelve movies selected for the 38th Polish Film Festival, which begins on 6 June.


Festival director Michal Chacinski believes it is a vintage year for Polish film, noting that Panek's “metaphysical” historical drama represents a kind that “we have not had in our cinema for a long time.”


Whether Daas wins the approval of critics will become clear next month. (nh/pg)