Ashes & Diamonds – Wadja (1958)

A new Criterion release of this classic that has been on my list of “to-watch” movies for a while. I’m not sure where I heard about it, but I know it is a noteworthy work, and Criterion describes it as “one of the most important Polish films of all time.”

The story is set on the last day of WWII, and Poland is in the middle of an identity crisis, with mixing influences of Nazi Germany, the West and communism. The main characters are actually anti-communist revolutionaries trying to assassinate a government figure. If you are a history buff, I’m sure this would be a great watch for you, but I found it pretty slow. Perhaps it’s our collective post-modern ADHD that makes films like this hard to get through. Perhaps it’s a boring movie. I can’t really tell.

A major difficulty for me was that I couldn’t connect with any of the characters. We aren’t really given much of where they came from, though they have all had pretty violent & desperate lives. We are also not given a “side” to join with, everyone seems to be grasping at either a dying political ideology or an immature one. This is, no doubt, intentional, but makes it hard to understand the characters’ motivations. Perhaps this is another vestige of a contemporary need to have Hollywood-style “good guys” and “bad guys” Perhaps it’s a bad movie.

The real feeling that I got from this was that it is an film adaptation of a novel (it is—by Andrzejewski) and that there is a huge story that is trying to be squeezed into 110 minutes. This is why we don’t get a clear picture of what is motivating the characters and who’s who. This is why the politics seem shallow and ambiguous. Maybe reading the novel first would be a better idea.

1 comment:

the coelacanth said...

hmmmm - this sounds mildly intriguing, although summertime ain't the right time for these sorts of films for me. i have to watch them in the dead of winter, snowed in when i can really focus on them. i don't think i've seen any wajda...actually, i've don't think i've ever seen a polish film before...thanks for the review, this caught my eye as well, but i'll probably pass for now.