Jun 14, 2011

19th June 2011; Andre Wajda's ASHES AND DIAMONDS

Ashes and Diamonds
A film by Andre Wazda
Year: 1958
Runtime: 103 minutes
Polish with English subtitles
19th June 2011; 5.45pm
Perks Mini Theater, Perks School

Exclusive 30 minutes documentary :
Andrzej Wajda: On Ashes and Diamonds

Andrzej Wajda’s third full-length film, Ashes and Diamonds (Popiol y diament) established the director as a leader of the new Polish cinema. Set in a provincial town on May 8, 1945, the day of the German capitulation, Ashes and Diamonds deals ostensibly with the emergence of a Russian-backed Communist regime threatened by armed adversaries.
Previously the Nazis were the common enemy. Now the two groups who led the anti-German struggle—the London-directed Home Army and the pro-Moscow People’s Army—are on opposite sides of the ideological divide. Because the Red Army liberated Poland, the pro-Soviet faction (headed by Poles returning from the USSR) has gained control. A state of civil war exists as splinter groups of Home Army irregulars take to the forests. Members of such a band, Andrzej and Maciek have been conditioned to feel that they owe unquestioning military allegiance to their commanders.
Based on Jerzy Andrzejewski’s 1948 novel of the same name, Ashes and Diamonds was adapted for the screen by Wajda and the author. Time and space have been condensed to less than twenty-four hours in and around a single location—the hotel Monopol—giving the drama great theatrical intensity. Maciek, representative of Poland’s “lost” war generation, is the tragic hero, compelled to commit a crime by the fatality of history. Bound by the soldier’s code of honor to a past steeped in blood, he kills on order without doubts or remorse.
During long years of dismemberment and foreign occupation, literature and drama in Poland had always kept alive belief in the nation’s revival. In Ashes and Diamonds, Wajda continues this tradition, posing the question of Poland’s postwar identity. The thoughtful, tired, middle-aged revolutionary Szczuka adheres to the communist line about building a collectivist future. But he lacks the energy and resources to accomplish his own goals.
The terrorist Maciek has no answer but violence. Yet the handsome young rebel, overflowing with vitality, moves passionately among national mythic images of suffering and heroism: the white horse, the inverted crucified Christ, the poetry in the ruined church.Ashes and Diamonds has rightly been lauded as one of the finest of postwar East-Central European films, and the most vital work of the Polish School.

Andrzej Wajda

Andrzej Wajda (born March 6, 1926 in Suwałki) is a Polish film director He is one of the most prominent members of the Polish Film School. A major figure of world and Eastern European cinema after World War II, Wajda has made his reputation as a sensitive and uncompromising chronicler of his country's political and social evolution. The son of a Polish cavalry officer who was killed by the Soviets in 1940, Wajda fought in the Home Army against the Germans when he was still a teenager. After the war, he studied to be a painter at Kraków's Academy of Fine Arts before entering the Łódź Film School.

On the heels of his apprenticeship to director Aleksander Ford, Wajda was given the opportunity to direct his own film. With A Generation (1955), the first-time director poured out his disillusionment over jingoism, using as his alter ego a young, James Dean-style antihero played by Zbigniew Cybulski.Wajda went on to make two more increasingly accomplished films, which further developed the antiwar theme of A Generation: Kanal (1956) and Ashes and Diamonds (1958), also starring Cybulski.

Wajda was more interested in works of allegory and symbolism, and certain symbols (such as setting fire to a glass of liquor, representing the flame of youthful idealism that was extinguished by the war) recur often in his films Wajda's later devotion to Poland's burgeoning Solidarity movement was manifested in Man of Marble (1976) and Man of Iron (1981), with Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa appearing as himself in the latter film. The director's involvement in this movement would prompt the Polish government to force Wajda's production company out of business. In 1983 he directed Danton , a film set in 1794 (Year Two) dealing with the Post-Revolutionary Terror. The film carries sharp parallels with the Post-Revolutionary period in Russia as well as with fascist Germany.

At the 2000 Academy Awards, Wajda was presented with an honorary Oscar for his numerous contributions to cinema; he subsequently donated the award to Kraków's Jagiellonian University. In February 2006, Wajda received an honorary Golden Bear for lifetime achievement at the Berlin International Film Festival. Wajda , well past his 80th year, is still making films .

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