‘The Peasants’ Ending Explained & Film Summary: What Happens To Jagna?


The Welchman couple clearly have a penchant for creating something groundbreaking, with each element in the film having a rather fascinating story affixed to it. While going for painted animation for Loving Vincent made all the sense in the world, one might wonder why the same creative choice was made for a film adaptation of the Nobel Prize-winning novel by Władysław Reymont. It wasn’t simply the fact that they could pull it off, considering recreating each of the live-action frames took over 100 painters, some of whom were Ukrainian and faced tremendous trouble continuing their work in the war-afflicted country. A significant theme in Reymont’s novel, a crucial part of the Polish school curriculum even today, was the changing seasons. What else, if not the transformative effect of different seasons on their livelihood, is of consequence to a village of farmers? Making The Peasants visually breathtaking was the only way to bind your attention to the unique temperament of each season. And the closer you look at each frame and try to take in all that beauty, the more immersed you get in the lives of the farmers. Wretchedly imperfect—bordering on being Hell itself for any dreamer—yet vibrating with love, kinship, and the traditions that speak to their identities.

Spoiler Alert

What happens in the film?

The Peasants is a keen observer of the lives of the farming community in a small Polish village, Lipce. Nearing the end of the 19th century, Lipce, being detached from the rest of the world, is content with the way things have been going. The whole village being a breeding ground for bitter gossip doesn’t make life easy for Jagna, a 19-year-old girl of ethereal beauty. A free-thinker and a dreamer, Jagna is detached from the things of pragmatic importance in the village—crops, lands, and dowry. It’s of all the more pain to her that her mother wishes to trade her for the ownership of Lipce’s wealthiest widower’s lands. She’s far from the master of her own fate, and she can only do so much about all the terrible turns her life decides to take. 

What causes a rift between Boryna and Antek?

Jagna’s often in denial about her inevitable fate. As she loses herself in the fields of dandelions and spends her days taking care of animals and making beautiful paper cutouts, she forgets that she’d have to leave her mother’s home someday. Men all around the village are already lining up with vodka—the way Lipce’s men propose to the women they fancy. Maybe it’s the fact that Antek is married and wouldn’t want to tie her down that draws Jagna even closer to him. Trouble is, Antek’s father has been talked into marrying Jagna, a proposal her mother practically forces her to accept. Boryna may be old, and his children are far older than Jagna, but he’s also the richest and most influential farmer in the village. It’s not that Boryna doesn’t know about Jagna and Antek’s love, but the wish to marry someone so young and beautiful makes him blind to everything else around him. Antek’s a shell of a man now. But it’s not just because the girl he’s so smitten with is about to become his stepmother. Boryna holds on to his lands like he’d lose himself if he passed them down to his children. And no amount of back-bending work from Antek or the snide remarks from Blacksmith, his son-in-law, could change his mind about dividing up his land among his children. So when this man, who’s so proud of his legacy as a farmer that he wouldn’t even acknowledge his own children’s claim on his lands, hands over the best acres to Jagna, Antek’s fury knows no bounds. With a broken heart and a bruised ego, Antek loses his home and is sent away with his wife and children. 

Does Jagna move on from Antek?

It’s not just that the marriage clips her wings, but now that she’s wife to the chief farmer, the villagers’ jealousy grows tenfold. She’s met with frowns and judgment everywhere she goes, and even as she tries her best to be a devoted wife, her heart can hardly deny those passionate escapades whenever Antek is around. They’re caught a few times, and the gossip spreads like wildfire in the village. It takes Boryna a while to realize that Jagna will never belong to him. It’s not just that he cheats on Hanka so blatantly that makes Antek an awful husband. It’s also his boneheaded pride. In his arrogance to never bend before his father, he doesn’t even allow a starving Hanka and their children to take food and supplies from him. Jagna isn’t naive. Sure, she continues to be involved with Antek, knowing how he’s hurting his family, given that the time they spend together is the only time she feels alive. But eventually, she does recognize the signs that tell her that Antek’s not so different from the men who want her, but not out of love. The growing distance, his lack of concern over how their meetings subject Jagna to the villagers’ bullying, and the time that his anger takes an abusive form—all of it gives Jagna the much-needed clarity about Antek. 

Does Boryna forgive Antek?

Contrary to the idea all that hateful gossiping and pettiness gives you, the people of Lipce come together against threats from outsiders. Their lands and the cattle are all they have. So they’re justifiably furious at the idea of the squire selling off the woods that belong to the farmers, too. While it was easier to shelf the revolt for another day when it was just words, the threat took an undeniably menacing form when workers actually started chopping down the trees. Boryna isn’t a perfect man. But he’s brave enough to lead an armed revolt against the rich, taking what’s theirs. Antek was rather late to the party. And the fire of vengeance was almost about to get the better of him when he considered taking advantage of the mayhem and killing his father. But when it came to it, he couldn’t tolerate Boryna’s torment in the hands of a guard and saved his life at the cost of his imprisonment. Boryna might not have explicitly forgiven Antek. The two hardly even shared a word before the old farmer’s death. But the fact that Boryna handed over the management of the farm to Hanka was proof enough that he was grateful to have them around. 

Why does Jagna get exiled from the village?

The idea of The Peasants is neither to demonize the simple, hardworking people of Lipce nor to dismiss their wrongs. It simply observes this specific terrarium and leaves it up to you to ponder over how things work in a community such as this one. A village full of God-fearing people who haven’t been exposed to more liberal ways of life can only be expected to have their ways rooted in patriarchy. In a place like that, Jagna’s beauty was her biggest curse. The women who envied her were already prone to blaming a woman for the advances men make at her. And the amount of wealth that fell into Jagna’s lap when she married Boryna only served to aggravate that jealousy. Jagna didn’t want a man, let alone a village full of them. Even when Mayor Piotr promised to bail Antek out, only to get her drunk and force himself on her, Jagna was the one to be attacked by the vile accusations all around the village. 

Jagna was never one to give her individuality up to please people around her or to get them to stop vilifying her. Even though the marriage was never a good one, things only got worse for Jagna when Boryna was nearing his death. For a man who’d given his life to the land and even chased off his own kin to have control over his life’s work, dying in his own field was what Boryna would’ve wanted. He wanted to keep his lands for himself as long as there was breath left in his body, and when his time came, he became one with the dirt. In a better world, Boryna’s death would’ve liberated Jagna. But it only made it all the more convenient for the villagers to come at her with all that pent-up rage and jealousy. 

Hanka’s hostility toward Jagna, while born out of the pain of her husband destroying their family over his obsession with another woman, was not entirely justified. As Jagna herself pointed out before handing over all of Boryna’s lands to Hanka in a fit of rage, it took two to break that family. Antek didn’t have to follow Jagna around despite his wife’s ardent pleas. But the Anteks, especially in a setting like Lipce, never take their part of the blame. Jagna could’ve taken the easy way out and married Mateusz when he proposed. But even though he was kinder and much more loving than the rest, Jagna saw no point in binding herself to yet another man. 

The Peasants‘ ending is witness to a disturbing witchhunt, which was a long way coming. For someone who’d offended the women of the village with her beauty and the men with her rejection, Jagna didn’t have anyone advocating for her when they made up their minds about kicking her out. Even Antek, the man who claimed to love her, chose to secure his position as the chief farmer after Boryna’s death and left Jagna to be torn apart by the vicious mob. Jagna didn’t have a say in the matter. She knew what was coming when simply talking to Jasio got his mother enraged. They’d pinned the misfortunes of Lipce on the village Jezebel, branding Jagna as the seductress God is punishing the village for. As she’s stripped, molested, and thrown in the dirt on the edge of the village, Jagna has as little control over her condition as she’s always had. When they throw dirt on her, I wonder if Jagna looks back to the day when Antek scooped up a handful of dirt and told her that’s what she was to him. Considering how he turned his back on her in her most dire state, I wonder if Antek meant what he said when he corrected her: Jagna isn’t dirt but the holy soil that brings life. 

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Lopamudra Mukherjee
Lopamudra Mukherjee
In cinema, Lopamudra finds answers to some fundamental questions of life. And since jotting things down always makes overthinking more fun, writing is her way to give this madness a meaning.

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