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Ashes and Diamonds
Maciek and Andrzej, two home army fighters, were paired and ordered to kill an incoming communist party cadre. At the hotel where their target's welcoming party is being held. Maciek meets the barmaid Krystyna and the two have a brief, passionate affair, before he is pulled away from this fleeting happiness into his deadly mission.
The third and last chapter of Andrzej Wajda's thematic (wartime) trilogy (coming after A Generation and Kanal), Ashes and Diamonds, a study on the political and social chaos felt at the end of the WWII, follows the story of Maciek (the protagonist) and Andrzej, who are sent to kill a Polish Communist leader in the last day of the Second World War (in fact, the film is set within one single day, which is the famous day of Germany's surrender). A film that can be seen as a piece of anti-Soviet propaganda, Ashes and Diamonds is, simply put, a masterwork.
It's impossible to not to admire a film that's so fun and yet, feels so relevant, this is what happens…
War torn Poland is the setting for this tale about the power of love. Romantic love and love of country.
Maciek is one cool dude. He wears tinted glasses, a military coat, and a devil-may-care hair style. He is a Polish Peter Fonda. We are introduced to Maciek as he is attempting to assassinate a political figure. He is part of an underground revolution movement. I say attempting because the people he brutally kills end up being the wrong people. They were just passing through the wrong place at the wrong time.
Maciek soon discovers his mistake and volunteers to right his wrong by killing the correct man latter that night. That is, until he meets Krystyna. She is a…
End of an era
Looking into the unknown.
Shifting alliances push for power
While the young search for meaning.
Seen as part of a selection of Polish films by Martin Scorsese, and at the risk of triteness I can see a lot of this movie's influence on his work - the mix of flashy, old Hollywood expressionism with cold, hard reality with a liberal dose of religious imagery is pretty close to his signature style.
It also reminded me of von Sternberg, particularly in a gorgeous sequence made up exclusively of a series of close-ups of two lovers' faces (sorry for using the word "lovers" but as they say, sometimes "lovers" is all we have). But the visuals in this are flat-out gorgeous throughout, so much so that I kept waiting for them to detach from the narrative and fly off of this Earth completely.
Andrzej Wajda frames Polish youth in the fog of post-war disillusion as they rub up against the old guard in the shifting sands of the newly liberated Communist Poland. With an assassination plot in full force from the opening frames, we are drawn into the world of a young partly cool, partly goofy hit-man named Maciek as he battles a moral quandary about his nominated profession and the job at hand. Many scenes and shots are rich and iconic, with some being downright jaw-dropping (The fireworks scene comes to mind), but ultimately it didn't do quite enough for me on one viewing to fly its flag as high as gunrunners like Martin Scorsese who lists it as one of the…
“So often, are you as a blazing torch with flames
of burning rags falling about you flaming,
you know not if flames bring freedom or death.
Consuming all that you must cherish
if ashes only will be left, and want Chaos and tempest
Or will the ashes hold the glory of a starlike diamond
The Morning Star of everlasting triumph.”
Cyprian Norwid's poem contains the life of this film all in a few short verses. It summarizes everything that Wajda wanted to translate to his audience. This is the third and final film in his famous war trilogy and while I personally do not think its the best of the three it is still a bold statement to end with.…
There's part of me that finds Maciek's James Dean aesthetic very, very attractive. He's a roguish charmer the entire time.
It's very interesting to see a film not about war per se but the aftermath of war. The focus isn't on optimism for the future, fireworks, parties (although there are elements of that within here), but more on the existential question: what do we do now? It's messy, unstructured, and full of political insurgents like Maciek. I was actually surprised at how it isn't a depressing film but has elements of humour in there too. Also to see it projected onto national identity than another film about Britain or Germany etc. Each European nation's reaction to the war is important in its own way. I've not seen much Polish cinema (honestly, this might be my first, although I do need to check out more Polanski), so it's interesting to see this perspective.
To be reviewed on Episode 11 of The Immortals.
Engagingly made, but I'm ashamed to say I didn't have enough of a grasp of the politics that make up the back bone of the film to really connect to it.
Sick when Drewnowski gets hammered n fire extinguishes the dinner party.
Movie Night #70: Ashes & Diamonds
A WWII drama without Nazis or Jews reminds us of the scope of that war. This is set in Poland on the night the war ended. The conflict is between Communists and the Polish Resistance. The set up is that our hero - in the first 15 minutes of the movie - shoots the wrong guy and - in the last 85 minutes - of the movie, is tasked to shoot the right guy.
I don't know if this was a big budget movie at the time - modern day movies have blasted all sense of what used to be a big budget movie out of the water. But it doesn't feel very big. It…
Die Figur des Maciek, gespielt von Zbigniew Cybulski, besitzt die Coolness von Jean-Paul Belmondos Michel Poiccard aus "À about de shuffle" und die Leidenschaft von James Deans Jim Stark aus "Rebel without a cause". Andrzej Wajda setzt bei "Popiól i diament" nicht auf Subtilität. Doch es sind genau die Bilder voll überbordender Symbolik die den Film ausmachen; ihm seinen Charakter verleihen. "Popiól i Diament" gehört zu Martin Scorsese Lieblingsfilmen, wer den Film gesehen hat, wird verstehen wieso.
Watching this film you can see a lot of the influence it would have on Scorsese. Switch the Polish resistance for Italian mobsters, and you have the bones of films like Mean Streets and Goodfellas right here. Apart from the film lesson, it is a solid, if somewhat languid, character study of a trained killer who only recently discovers he might want to be something else. Great, if somewhat on-the-nose, cinematography is also worth mentioning.
I’d heard that this was supposed to be one of the great films of Polish cinema, and it definitely lived up to its reputation. The story takes place on the night of and morning after VE Day; a wild young resistance fighter has been ordered to assassinate a Commissar loyal to the Soviets, but a chance encounter with a young woman shakes his resolve. It was pretty fantastic — the film manages to convey the sense that you're watching a pivotal and tragic moment in a nation's history, but it brings the action to a human level by drawing in universal themes. If you can imagine a mix of Citizen Kane and Rebel Without a Cause, that's Ashes and Diamonds.
My first Wajda film, and the stunning direction and cinematography are the first things to stand out. The tale of a revolutionary's night with a barmaid, set against the backdrop of the end of German occupation in Poland. Moving, suspenseful and sharply politicial all at once.
(Also, is there any way Letterboxd can switch out the stupid poster for this one?)
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