Ashes and Diamonds (Wajda, 1958)

Doesn’t have the epic, devastating quality of Kanal, but does foresee the contradictions in a modern occupation zone, both the attempt to save a society in the name of popular ideology but destroying the infrastructure at the same time. Wajda has changed tones completely from his earlier war films, shifting from the relentless journey of a group to a more sedate, but confined vision of post war Poland through the eyes of a series of individuals. The Communist influence is seeping it’s way into local and national identity, the motives and goals that seemed so clear during the Polish resistance from the Nazi’s becoming more convoluted and muddy. Why are we still killing? Will it ever stop? The hero, Maciek, can never find his own voice within these questions, and his ending sums up much of what Wajda wishes to address in terms of idealism changing into uncertainty. Wajda once again displays his masterful eye for faces and his use of bars and window sills to frame them. Ultimately has the feel of a quagmire, a long journey for our hero, and series of heroes he represents, coming to a point of attrition, for some unacceptable, for others a welcome moment of peace.

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