Andrzej Wajda

[Ceneri] T. int.: The Ashes. Sog.: dall’omonimo romanzo di Stefan Żeromski. Scen: Aleksander Ścibor-Rylski. F.: Jerzy Lipman. M.: Halina Nawrocka. Scgf.: Anatol Radzinowicz. Mus.: Andrzej Markowski. Int.: Daniel Olbrychski (Rafal Olbromski), Boguslaw Kierc (Krzysztof Cedro), Piotr Wysocki (Jan Gintult), Beata Tyszkiewicz (principessa Elżbieta), Pola Raksa (Helena de With), Władyslaw Hańcza (il padre di Raal), Jan Świderski (generale Sokolnicki), Jan Koecher (generale de With), Janusz Zakrzeński (Napoleone Bonaparte). Prod.: Zespół Filmowy Rytm
35 mm. D.: 169′. Bn.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Beginning with Dąbrowski’s Mazurka (the Polish national anthem) sung by soldiers marching on Italian shores and ending on the icy tundras of Russia, this nearly four-hour drive over the Napoleonic wars – a key epoch in Polish history – may well be the most stirring experience among all super-spectacles made in the 60s. Based on a novel by Stefan Żeromski, the story focuses on a young, restless nobleman (Daniel Olbrychski), who seeks his place in the apocalyptic atmosphere of the dawn of the 19th century through romantic and military adventures.
Throughout the 50s and the 60s the archetypical character of Polish cinema was ‘a futile hero’, a personification of the nation’s battle against the windmills when it came to taking the course of history into its own hands. Olbrychski’s protagonist in Wajda’s Popioły is the best known example of this approach. The film raised a lot of controversy at the time of its release because it enlarged this image of futile national heroism to epic proportions; Wajda’s use of deeply national symbols even seemed to suggest that Poland had no alternative.
Whatever you think about the historical-philosophical side of the film, there is an unrestrained power in the feverish kaleidoscope that Wajda – working with higher production values than in all of his previous films combined – creates about the epoch that once more deceived all idealism and the hope for a better tomorrow. Who could ever forget the gruesome sequences, where a glorious Polish battalion turns out to be a group of cutthroats in Spain, or the hallucinatory moment where a messianic Napoleon appears all alone in front of hundreds of wounded soldiers? In the end, Popioły is much more than just another national version of War and Peace: it is the cinematic tomb of the Age of Romanticism. Visual splendor is provided by Jerzy Lip-man, one of the finest cinematographers of his country (Kanal, Lotna, Knife in the Water).

Petteri Kalliomäki


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