The aim of this article is to analyze the differences in the portrayal of women characters in Kraszewski's novel and its screen adaptation by Jerzy Hoffman. The article also examines the factors which made the script writers and the director adopt a strategy which resulted in a reconfiguration of the female cast of the film version of 'An Old Tale'. Kraszewski's women characters are fascinating and far from schematic. Their significance is determined by three basic dimensions of the action of the novel - politics (Brunhilda, Rzepica), the love plot (Mila, Dziwa) and the magical and spiritual theme (Jaruha). In the film, the director gives priority to the presentation of the beginnings of Poland, a Slav state, and squeezes out most of the women characters' complex roles. Falling back on his previous experience, he creates something that could be called 'popular men's cinema'. This formula can be characterized as follows. In casting preference is given to actresses that are well known from popular entertainment, especially TV films and soaps, and their parts are cut down to prevent them from outstaging their male partners. Even their psychological portraits are reduced to one or two simple traits, eg. Brunhilda is cruel, power-hungry and sinister, while Dziwa, by contrast, is a lively, sweet young girl. Special attention is paid to the question of popularity of the book and the film in the context of cultural responses elicited from various types of readers/audiences. The comparisons suggest that Hoffman's film can be interpreted in a number of ways, depending on the spectators' cultural competence. While some focus on the connection between the film and its literary source, others prefer to view the film exclusively within the framework of the director's artistic career.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.