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"The last day of the war. The morning of the first day of peace. That special night and the fate of a young man caught up in the past, tired of heroism, sensing a different, better life. What a beautiful subject for a film. On that special night the past and present meet and sit down at one table. To the rhythm of tangos and foxtrots Maciek Chelmicki searches for an answer: how to live, how to rid himself of the suffocating burden of the past. He solves the eternal dilemma of the soldier: to obey or to think? But nevertheless Maciek kills...

He would rather kill a man, even against his own will, than give up his arms. He is typical of his generation: he depends only on himself and on a well concealed gun, reliable and accurate. I love these uncompromising young men and I understand them. I want my modest film to reveal to the cinema audience the complicated and difficult reality of my generation".

~ Andrzej Wajda, http://www.wajda.pl/en/filmy/film03.html

Director: Andrzej Wajda
Screenplay: Jerzy Andrzejewski and Andrzej Wajda
Director of Photography: Jerzy Wojcik
Music: Jan Krenz
Art Director: Roman Mann


Maciek Chelmicki - Zbigniew Cybulski
Krystyna - Ewa Krzyzewska
Szczuka - Waclaw Zastrzezynski
Andrzej - Adam Pawlikowski
Drewnowski - Bogumil Kobiela
Mrs. Stankiewicz - Halina Kwiatkowska

"In the closing days of WWII, a Polish resistance fighter assassinates the wrong man, tries to find love with the right women, and questions the meaning of struggle. A seminal Eastern European masterpiece that defined a generation of pre-solidarity Poles."


Ashes and Diamonds (Popiol i diament) is a film directed by Andrzej Wajda in 1958. It is the last in his war trilogy that includes A Generation, and Kanal. The film was based on a novel of the same name written by Jerzy Andrzejewski who also wrote the screenplay. The title is taken from a well known Polish poem by Cyprian Norwid.

From you, as from burning chips of resin
Fiery fragments circle far and near:
Ablaze, you don't know if you are to be free,
Or if all that is yours will disappear

Will only ashes and confusion remain,
Leading into the abyss? -- or will there be
In the depths of the ash a star-like diamond,
The dawning of eternal victory!

~ From "Prolog" Tragedia fantastyczna, Cyprian Norwid.

The poem in the movie is read by the Krystyna off of a crypt inscription and when she cannot finish reading it because the words are blurred out, Maciek finishes it off from memory. This is a great shot and another wonderful shot is when there is a crucifix hanging upside down in the church in the foreground, the face of Christ very visible, while in the midground Maciek and Krystyna are separated by the crucifix and in the background the rest of the ruins of the church can be seen.

The film is about how the people were affected during the transition between a war and a revolution. The Germans have just been defeated and are no longer occupying Poland. It takes place on the last day of the war May 8, 1945 in a hotel where the main character, Maciek, and the man he must assasinate, Szczuka, are residing. During this time Maciek meets the barmaid, Krystyna, and falls in love. She tells him the only reason why she is with him is because she knows that she will not fall in love with him, but this is apparentally a lie. Maciek admits that he has never loved before and never knew what it was, and this makes him question what he is doing, he becomes reluctant to murder Szczuka, but he must or he will be known as a deserter since he is a member of the Home Party and volunteered to undertake this mission.

The film is filled with the best "framed shots" I have seen in film, and the lighting is very important also. Everyone's eyes are lit up except for Maciek's who hides behind his glasses.

It also has very memorable shots like when Maciek finally kills Szczuka, the man falls into his arms after being shot and dies. Also when Maciek is fleeing from guards he is running through a field of laundry hanging, clean white sheets, and eventually falls in a heap of garbage. These scenes have been reused many times in cinema, but they are the best in this movie.

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