ASHES AND DIAMONDS (POPIOL I DIAMENT) (1958) B/W widescreen 105m dir: Andrzej Wajda
w/Zbigniew Cybulski, Ewa Krzyzewski, Adam Pawlikowski, Waclaw Zastrzezynski, Bogumil Kobiela, Jan Ciecierski, Stanislaw Milski, Artur Mlodnicki, Halina Kwiatkoska, Ignacy Machowski
ASHES AND DIAMONDS, based on a controversial postwar Polish novel (by Jerzy Andrzejewski, with the screenplay written by Wajda and Andrzejewski), is about the first days of peace in Warsaw at the end of WWII, examining the loyalties and emotions of young Polish partisan Maciek (Cybulski).
From Georges Sadoul's Dictionary of Films: "Wajda felt that it would be a marvelous theme to show, during the first night of peace, 'the fate of a young man weary of heroism and having had a taste of a better life. Past and future sit at the same table to the sound of tangos and fox trots. The hero has to resolve the soldier's eternal dilemma: to obey orders or think for himself. However, he kills rather than give up his arms, typical of a generation that relies only on itself and on the concealed revolver. I wanted to show the complex and difficult world of the generation of which I was a part.'
"In Ashes and Diamonds, the third part of an unplanned trilogy with Pokolenie ... and Kanal ..., a pattern of gradual disillusionment reveals itself. Its hard-hitting bitterness and the restlessness of its central character, a young man searching for a way out of his confusion, seems as much a reflection of the youth of Poland in the Fifties as of postwar youth. This parallel is reinforced by Cybulski's anachronistic dark glasses.
"Wajda's re-creation of a small war-torn town celebrating the end of peace gives the film much of its depth. The film opens with a violent massacre. The bodies from the opening sequence are later seen again in the film's most famous sequence: the love scene in a bombed church under a baroque Christ hanging upside down. It ends with Maciek's death on a garbage dump --- surely one of the most powerful scenes Wajda has created.
"None of the characters is merely a black and white symbol. Cybulski is a complete incarnation of the complex, disoriented Maciek, and Kobiela is excellent as the drunken secretary. Regrettably, there are several touches that suggest an unnecessary striving after effect: the drinks being slid along the bar in the manner of an American western and then set alight as though to suggest the flame on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier."