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Andrzej Wajda

Andrzej Wajda: History, Politics & Nostalgia In Polish Cinema

Janina Falkowska
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Andrzej Wajda
    Book Description:

    The work of Andrzej Wajda, one of the world's most important filmmakers, shows remarkable cohesion in spite of the wide ranging scope of his films, as this study of his complete output of feature films shows. Not only do his films address crucial historical, social and political issues; the complexity of his work is reinforced by the incorporation of the elements of major film and art movements. It is the reworking of these different elements by Wajda, as the author shows, which give his films their unique visual and aural qualities.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-848-3
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction. Andrzej Wajda: His Words and His Archives
    (pp. 1-10)

    On 6 June 1998, all eyes in the Novorol Café in Kraków turn toward a man with gray hair and lively eyes. Andrzej Wajda, the best-known filmmaker in Poland, approaches me with a smile. Still active and healthy in his seventies, he cracks political jokes, painstakingly explains the organization of the Andrzej Wajda Archives at the Manggha Center¹ in Kraków (on a piece of paper he draws the floor plan of his archives, a big room filled with countless materials related to his films’ production and reception), and asks questions about my project, a film biography about Wajda.

    Clearly accustomed...

  5. 1 The Life and Times of Andrzej Wajda
    (pp. 11-29)

    There are many ways in which an author can approach the biography of a filmmaker. One can use commonly accessible sources like books, articles, and press releases, or one can go directly to the source: the filmmaker’s diaries, personal notes and kalendaria. I chose to do the latter and tried to reconstruct Andrzej Wajda’s personal story from these sources. Additionally, I used material from conversations with Wajda and from his personal letters to me. All these sources were laconic and concise, however; only in conversations did Wajda sometimes reveal his private thoughts. What the reader has below is my attempt...

  6. 2 The Birth of a Master: Films of the Fifties
    (pp. 30-74)

    In the first part of this chapter, I concentrate on Wajda’s early attempts at filmmaking. The three student études he produced at the Łódź Film School—“When You Sleep,” “Bad Boy,” “Ilsa Ceramic,” and a short film produced afterA Generation, “I Go to the Sun”—already reveal his talent and the meticulousness with which he plans and organizes his projects. Particularly in the last two of these four films, Wajda reveals his painter’s eye in his lighting technique and careful construction of mise-en-scène.

    In the second part of this chapter, I examine the historical conditions leading to the production...

  7. 3 Fight for Perfection: Films of the Sixties
    (pp. 75-119)

    This chapter describes the films Wajda produced near the beginning of his career.Innocent Sorcerersportrays the emotions and unfulfilled desires of young people in a new, post-World War II Poland.Samsonis the first film in Wajda’s career to describe the fate of Jews in contemporary Poland, a subject Wajda will revisit in three later films(Promised Land, Korczak, andHoly Week). Siberian Lady Macbeth, based on Nikolai Leskov’s story (itself based on Shakespeare’s play), relates the events of a brutal murder in distant Siberia.Siberian Lady Macbeth, Love at Twenty, Ashes, andThe Gates to Paradiseall illustrate...

  8. 4 Between Politics and the Themes of Life and Death: Films of the Seventies
    (pp. 120-181)

    The 1970s mark Wajda’s consummate creative period, during which his most highly celebrated films were made.The Birchwoodgarnered the highest praise both in Poland and abroad for its mature treatment of the subject of death and for the film’s tasteful aesthetics.Landscape after Battleis the subtle portrayal of a young man’s internal struggles after the end of World War II; in it, the cynicism of the internment camps is juxtaposed with the death of a young woman ready to start a new life after the war. The third film,Pilate and Others, treats themes of Christianity in a...

  9. 5 Nostalgia and Remorse: Films of the Eighties
    (pp. 182-223)

    The four films Wajda created between the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 80s—Man of Marble, Without Anesthetic, Man of Iron, andDanton—comment on actual political events in Poland and uncompromisingly criticize the Socialist system for its totalitarianism, opportunism, and moral inadequacy.Man of Iron, which illustrates the struggle of the working class for dignity and decent working conditions, shows the historical events leading to the abolition of the Socialist government in Poland and the creation of the Solidarity movement.Danton, the last film in this outwardly political series, refers to the implementation of martial...

  10. 6 Grande Finale: Films of the Nineties
    (pp. 224-259)

    In the 1990s, Wajda nostalgically continues with World War II themes. In this period, he is more solemn than in his earlier films—as if he wanted to address the areas that had bothered him for years but that he felt he had not fully addressed before. One of the most interesting films produced in this period isKorczak, based on the true story of the Jewish doctor admired by Poles and Polish Jews alike, and who died in the Treblinka concentration camp with two hundred orphans in his charge. InThe Crowned-Eagle Ring, Wajda presents young people taking political...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 260-268)

    The exploration of Wajda’s life and work has been quite a journey through the years of history: from the Middle Ages inThe Gates to Paradise, through the eighteenth century inMr. ThadeusandRevenge, to the 1990s inMiss Nobody. It has also been a journey through geographic Europe: Poland (in most of his films), Germany (Pilate and OthersandA Love in Germany), Siberia (Siberian Lady Macbeth), France (Danton), Lithuania (Mr. Thadeus), and Russia (The Possessed). These journeys involved many film protagonists, with their various passions, obsessions, social and political problems, and humor and despair. In a Bakhtinian...

  12. Endnotes
    (pp. 269-292)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 293-304)
  14. Filmography
    (pp. 305-332)
  15. Andrzej Wajda—Selected Prizes
    (pp. 333-334)
  16. Index
    (pp. 335-340)
  17. Illustrations
    (pp. None)