#TJFF22 ‘The Wedding Day’ Review: A Sobering Commentary on Modern Antisemitism

Director Wojciech Smarzowski captures the peril of a nation forgetting its history in The Wedding Day. The 2022 Toronto Jewish Film Festival was arguably the perfect venue to showcase this story. This movie is a venue to explicitly explore Polish culture with unflinching honesty. As we get further and further away in time from the Holocaust, making the refrain “Never Again” a reality becomes even more imperative. 

The Wedding Day is a follow-up to Smarzowski’s 2004 film, The Wedding. The Wedding Day tells the story of a Polish wedding disrupted by two Israelis who come to present a Righteous Among the Nations award to the family patriarch. The story unfolds between the current timeline and Antoni’s past and his experience in watching the Jewish community of his village be mercilessly slaughtered. The comparison between the nazis of the 1930s and 1940s and modern-day Polish people is sobering. 

Director Wojciech Smarzowski’s signature is all over this project. Is it even a Smarzowski film if there isn’t an axe and a fire? This story features both, and so it’s clear that the project belongs to him. His signature dark humor is everywhere, that gets progressively less humorous as it gives into the darkness. His meta commentary is found everywhere, and it makes his message that much more poignant. 

The Wedding Day is an absolutely unflinching look at Poland’s collective role in the Holocaust. As time has passed, Holocaust history has been revised to focus on those who aided their Jewish neighbors. The reality remains, however, that so many Polish people not only aided and abetted nazis, they took glee in the destruction of their Jewish neighbors. It may be an unpopular part of history to re-visit, especially in the modern day, but it remains the truth.

Speaking of modern Polish culture, The Wedding Day is also a sobering look at how hate has evolved over the years, and what it looks like in a Polish context today. The casual manner with which otherwise ordinary-looking people drop horrific slurs and racist anecdotes is not surprising, but it is alarming. Most disgusting of all is how small children, who have no further context, simply repeat racist songs and sayings with impunity. The words themselves, however, translate directly to violent actions, including the assault of the wedding’s only Black guest. The entire movie is a deep look at the sickness that continues to pervade Polish culture, as a direct result of them revising and refusing to acknowledge their history. 

The use of violence throughout The Wedding Day is incredibly effective. It’s never egregious nor unnecessary. Rather, each horrifying shot prompts deeper thought into how on Earth the characters came to that point in their lives. On a deeper level, it’s an exploration of the worst of human nature, and the very real impact that violent rhetoric has. It never stays as words only, of course. Each act of violence represents a journey of hate that culminates in humanity’s worst impulses. 

The Wedding Day may be a fictional story, but its message is an authentic one we need to hear. In a world where nationalism continues its comeback, The Wedding Day unmasks this ideology for what it really is, and where it inevitably leads. All involved showed a tremendous amount of bravery, to call the Polish nation to account for their history so that their present and future might be a better one. Aspirational, perhaps, but more than worth the journey. 

The Wedding Day was featured at the 2022 Toronto Jewish Film Festival.

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