by guest writer
Ashes & Diamonds (1958) is a groundbreaking European piece of cinema that bears the signature of Polish director Andrzej Wajda. The screenplay is inspired by Jerzy Andrzejewski’s novel by the same name, having as main contributors its writer and Wajda himself. Ashes and Diamonds was to create a pure visual cinema in Poland, leaving behind the dialogue films of the past. Part of the war trilogy, together with A Generation (1955) and Kanal (1957), this one’s action is placed in the last day of the WWII. The screenplay is cleverly constructed in such a way that we have drama, political analysis of Poland’s situation and inclinations towards the end of the war and strong satire.
Maciek Chelmicki (Zbigniew Cybulski), a young ex-soldier, is part of the Partisan movement carrying on different dangerous jobs when ordered to. Cybulski was a special actor from the Polish perspective, a sort of James Dean in a comparison made by a few, including the author of the film. Wajda listened to him when he requested some parts to be played in his own way and the result is just natural, nothing is forced or imposed. Ashes and Diamonds seems to bear a bit of Neorealism in its artistic texture, but, on the contrary, the movie was mostly shot inside the studio with a special kind of design that permitted light to glow as the cinematographer wanted. A deeply censored product that made its way to international film festivals almost ten years after the initial release, it stands out as a benchmark of European art cinema. The photography is nevertheless amazing with its inventive artistic shots and close-ups.
photo: still from the film