More than half the 35 feature films made by Andrzej Wajda (1926-2016) deal with war, mostly World War II. He spent his whole life studying his country’s past, and present. He was its living memory, and became its moral conscience. Born to an officer father, he dreamt of making a career in the army, yet it was the resistance against the Nazis that he joined after his father’s execution at Katyń, a Soviet crime camouflaged as a German war crime. This would become the subject of one of the greatest films of his last period. His second film Kanal, for which he was awarded the Special Jury Prize at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival, established him as an important filmmaker. In this magnificent and terrible film about the last resistance fighters of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, Wajda depicts, with a mixture of realism and the fantastical (the second part takes place in the sewers), the chaotic madness of the men and women who sacrificed themselves before the Russian intervention.
His next film, Ashes and Diamonds, takes place the following year when the nationalists used terrorist tactics against the communist control of Poland. Wajda is careful not to take sides but portrays this lost generation with romanticism and humour.
Made in 1976, Man of Marble (International Critics’ Prize at Cannes) is a “Cold War” film. It questions his country’s past through the figure of a deceased exemplary worker. An uncompromising film on communist Poland and communism in general, and a surprising piece of work for this period.
Danton (1983, Gérard Depardieu, Wojciech Pszoniak, Anna Alvaro, Patrice Chéreau...), is a film about Poland in 1982, made when the communist regime had just banned Solidarność and arrested its leaders, in which the man of the people (Danton-Wałęsa) confronts the man of power (Robespierre-Jaruzelski). A filmmaker full of panache but always mindful of realism, Wajda was a great militant filmmaker and a witness of his time.
ASHES AND DIAMONDS, by Andrzej WAJDA (1958) - Poland
KANAL, by Andrzej WAJDA (1957) - Poland
DANTON, by Andrzej WAJDA (1982) - Poland, France, West Germany
KATYN, by Andrzej WAJDA (2007) - Poland
MAN OF MARBLE, by Andrzej WAJDA (1976) - Poland