Wajda, Andrzej

   Arguably the most prominent Polish film director whose distinguished career spans more than five decades of cinema. Graduate of the Łódź Film School in 1953 (diploma in 1960), he began by assisting Aleksander Ford on his Five Boys from Barska Street (1953). Wajda's first feature film, A Generation (Pokolenie, 1955), a coming-of-age story set during World War II, was shot mostly on location with young, then unknown actors: Tadeusz Janczar, Zbigniew Cybulski, Tadeusz Łomnicki, and Roman Polański. Wajda, a proponent of the Polish romantic tradition, often portrayed protagonists who are caught by the oppressive forces of history and function as its unfortunate victims. Kanal (Kanał, 1957), the second part of his war trilogy, concerned the final stage of the Warsaw Uprising. His next film, the world cinema classic and landmark of the Polish School, Ashes and Diamonds (Popiół i diament, 1958), introduced another tragic romantic hero, Maciek (Cybulski), torn between duty to the national cause and the yearning for a normal life.
   After directing Lotna (1959), another war film, this time about the September 1939 campaign, Wajda tried to broaden his oeuvre. In 1960 he made a film about the young generation, Innocent Sorcerers (Niewinni czarodzieje), which introduced a new lyrical tone to his films. At the beginning of the 1960s, after the Holocaust drama Samson (1961), he began making films abroad, such as Siberian Lady Macbeth (aka Fury Is a Woman, Sibirska Ledi Makbet, 1962), produced in Yugoslavia. In 1965 Wajda adapted Stefan Zeromski's novel Ashes (Popioły, 1965), set in Napoleonic times, which portrays the fate of the young Polish legionnaires. This almost four-hour-long black-and-white film generated one of the most intense debates in Poland. The year 1969 marked the release of Wajda's most personal film, Everything for Sale (Wszystko na sprzedaż), following the tragic death of his Ashes and Diamonds star, Cybulski. Although the film deals with Cybulski's legend, it is not so much a film about the actor as it is about Wajda, his actors, his other films, and the uncertainty of the future of his artistic career.
   The majority of Wajda's films are adaptations of the Polish national literary canon. At the beginning of the 1970s, he produced a number of important adaptations revolving around characters' psychology rather than the historical and political contexts. Among them are Landscape after Battle (Krajobraz po bitwie, 1970), based on Tadeusz Borowski's short stories, and Birchwood (Brzezina, 1970), an adaptation of Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz's short story, both films starring Daniel Olbrychski, Wajda's favorite actor in the 1970s. In 1973 Wajda made The Wedding (Wesele, 1973), an adaptation of the canonical Polish drama by Stanisław Wyspiański and a film abundant with national symbolism and references to Polish mythology, history, and national complexes. Another film, The Promised Land (Ziemia obiecana, 1975), based on Władysław Stanisław Reymont's novel about the birth of Polish capitalism in Łódź, is one of the most treasured films in Poland. The 1979 film The Maids of Wilko (Panny z Wilka), another adaptation of Iwaszkiewicz's prose, introduces a forty-year-old protagonist (Olbrychski) who moves to the village of Wilko to revive happy memories from his first visit there before World War I. The erotic and moody photography (by Edward Kłosiński) evokes a Chekhovian atmosphere.
   In the late 1970s, Wajda played a crucial role in the Cinema of Distrust. One of his most celebrated works, Man of Marble (Człowiek z marmuru, 1977), a pioneer film about Stalinism in Poland featuring Krystyna Janda and Jerzy Radziwiłowicz, became an inspiration for a number of younger filmmakers associated with his film unit X. Its sequel, Man of Iron (Człowiek z zelaza, 1981), won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Another film made during the same period, Rough Treatment (aka Without Anesthesia, Bez znieczulenia, 1978), depicted the professional and personal downfall of a middle-aged journalist (Zbigniew Zapasiewicz). Coscripted by Wajda and Agnieszka Holland, Rough Treatment dealt with a Communist-style "conspiracy theory."
   Like many other Polish films, Wajda's Danton (1983), a complex historical drama about the French Revolution of 1789, was read by viewers in Poland as an allegorical reference to the country's political situation. Although Wajda has produced several films since Danton, the majority of them received mixed reviews. He revisited issues first explored in Ashes and Diamonds in his 1992 film The Ring with a Crowned Eagle (Pierścionek z orłem w koronie). Among his much-discussed recent films are Holocaust dramas—Korczak (1990) and Holy Week (Wielki tydzień, 1996). Korczak portrays a figure of great importance for both Polish and Jewish cultures, a famous writer, a well-known physician, and a devoted pedagogue who died in the gas chamber of Treblinka with two hundred of "his orphans" from a Jewish orphanage. As if unharmed by some negative responses to Korczak (or perhaps because of them), in Holy Week Wajda returned once again to an examination of Polish-Jewish relations and focused on the Polish experience of the Holocaust. In recent years, Wajda has won back his audiences with faithful adaptations of the Polish literary canon: Pan Tadeusz (1999) and Revenge (Zemsta, 2002). With more than six million viewers, Pan Tadeusz, an adaptation of Adam Mickiewicz's book-length poem, is one of the most popular films screened in Poland after 1989.
   During his long career Wajda received numerous awards. The list includes the Academy Lifetime Achievement award in 2000, three nominations for Oscars in the Best Foreign Language Film category (The Promised Land, The Maids of Wilko, and Man of Iron), awards at the Cannes, Berlin, and Venice film festivals, and several honorary doctoral degrees. Wajda also headed the Polish Filmmakers Association from 1978 to 1983.
   Other films: Roly Poly (Przekładaniec, TV, 1968), Gates of Paradise (Bramy raju, 1968), Hunting Flies (Polowanie na muchy, 1969), Pilatus and Others (Pilatus und Andere, 1971), The Shadow Line (Smuga cienia, 1976), The Orchestra Conductor (Dyrygent, 1980), A Love in Germany (Eine Liebe in Deutchland/Miłość w Niemczech, 1983), A Chronicle of Amorous Accidents (Kronika wypadków miłosnych, 1985), Nastasia (Nastazja, 1994), Miss Nobody (Panna nikt, 1996), Franciszek Kłos' Death Sentence (Wyrok na Franciszka Kłosa, TV, 2000).
   Historical Dictionary of Polish Cinema by Marek Haltof

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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  • Wajda, Andrzej — ▪ Polish director born March 6, 1926, Suwałki, Pol.    leading director in the “Polish film school,” a group of highly talented individuals whose films brought international recognition to the Polish cinema during the 1950s.       Wajda became… …   Universalium

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  • Wajda,Andrzej — Waj·da (vīʹdə), Andrzej. Born 1926. Polish filmmaker whose works, including Ashes and Diamonds (1958) and Man of Iron (1981), concern Polish history and politics. * * * …   Universalium

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