A young, mortally wounded man wearing shades falls on a clothes-line and staggers across a dumping ground where he finally doubles up like in a womb – that was the finale of the trilogy that more than anything else contributed to Polish cinema garnering world recognition. A Generation, Kanal and Popiół i diament possess an enduring fire as well as a distanced historical view of the roles of individuals and groups that participated in the battles.
Ado Kyrou recognized in Andrzej Wajda “an artist of tomorrow” and probably the only young European artist who has “a violent and passionate quality which reminds us of Buñuel”. Popiół i diament was more than the most notable film from Eastern Europe: it was a tale of all post-war Europe, the fiercest testimony of the immense division between the West and the East, which had been scourged by war, occupied, raped and divided, with national identities violently fragmented. The film’s brilliant title comes from a Romantic poem by Cyprian Norwid: Will only ashes and confusion remain, / Leading into the abyss? ? or will there be / In the depths of the ash a star-like diamond, / The dawning of eternal victory!
In the year 1945 everything changed once again: political organization, moral hierarchies, patriotic principles and the social and economic system. How could all of this be reflected on the screen? The stylistic and philosophical key to Popiół i diament is nineteenth-century Polish Romanticism: a blend of gravity, nobility, eloquence, wit, sarcasm, mystery and martyrology – loyalty to a tradition in which history, national identity and a personal approach all meet.
In such an exalted atmosphere people, their phantoms, dreams and nightmares are distilled into a realistic comedy with visionary symbolism. The logic of poetic associations and the aesthetic freedom of language flow effortlessly. When Wajda spoke of Romanticism he certainly spoke of himself and Popiół i diament: “A Romantic artist must transcend his limitations and himself. He must be more than an artist: a conscience of the nation, a prophet, and a social institution”.
Peter von Bagh, in Elämää suuremmat elokuvat [Films Bigger Than Life], Otava 1989, edited by Antti Alanen
Cast and Credits
Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo di Jerzy Andrzejewski. Scen.: Jerzy Andrzejewski, Andrzej Wajda. F.: Jerzy Wójcik. M.: Halina Nawrocka. Scgf.: Roman Mann. Mus.: Jan Krenz. Int.: Zbigniew Cybulski (Maciek Chełmicki), Ewa Kryżewska (Krystyna), Adam Pawlikowski (Andrzej), Wacław Zastrzeżyński (Szczuka), Bogumi Kobiela (Drewnowski), Jan Ciecierski (portiere), Stanisław Milski (Pieniażek), Artur Młodnicki (Kotowicz). Prod.: Stanisław Adler per Zespół Filmowy Kadr. DCP. D.: 103’. Bn.
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