Polish film director and Oscar winner Andrzej Wajda has died aged 90. The Polish Filmmakers’ Association confirmed the news. He directed over 40 feature films in a 60-year career. Some of his most famous films such as Kanal, Man of Marble, Man of Iron and Katyn, show his passion and interest in Poland’s disturbing and chaotic wartime and communist history. Wajda was awarded with an honorary Oscar for his contribution to world cinema in 2000.
Andrzej Wajda is a pioneer in Polish cinema, key driver in taking it to the world, setting a grand stage for Polish films on the map of world cinema. His three war films made in the 50s stay as masterpieces even after 50 years since its initial release.
Yet it is ironical not many cinema lovers are aware of him and his films – 40 in numbers. Yes he’s made 40 films, most of which enjoy a cult status. In fact, in 1999, Andrzej Wajda was awarded with the Honorary Academy Award for his impressive body of work. His films have garnered high critical acclaim, yet rarely do we see them being screened at a arthouse theatre near us, exclusive festivals or even on TV. And seldom are they mentioned in the prestigious ‘Top 100’ lists.
Here our focus is primarily on his war trilogy that set the ball rolling for Polish cinema’s success and recognition. These three films are groundbreaking to say the least – starting with A Generation (1955), followed by Kanal (1957), concluding with Ashes and Diamonds (1958). The Polish School movement got a boost with these three war films – but each one of them stands tall on its own as well. These films set in the harsh backdrop of a war-torn country, showcase stories of national and personal struggle and freedom.
Stunning cinematography, complex stories, believable performances by every actor, the presence of this unique filming ability that makes each film a masterpiece by itself. Every character in these three films is more than just a person – each one of them symbolize the revolution and movements of the Polish history.
Stach is a wayward teen living in squalor on the outskirts of Nazi-occupied Warsaw. Guided by an avuncular Communist organizer, he is introduced to the underground resistance—and to the beautiful Dorota. Soon he is engaged in dangerous efforts to fight oppression and indignity.
“Watch them closely, for these are the last hours of their lives,” announces a narrator, foretelling the tragedy that unfolds as a war-ravaged company of Home Army resistance fighters tries to escape the Nazis through the sewers of Warsaw. Kanal, is the first ever film made about the Warsaw Uprising, that also won the Special Jury Prize at Cannes.
Ashes and Diamonds
On the last day of World War II, Polish exiles of war and the occupying Soviet forces confront the beginning of a new day and a new Poland. In this incendiary environment, we find Home Army soldier Maciek Chelmicki, who has been ordered to assassinate an incoming commissar.
The three DVD set for these films can be bought here.