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Andrzej Wajda: Three War Films (A Generation / Kanal / Ashes & Diamonds) (The Criterion Collection)
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Kanal (1957) tracks the final hours of the Warsaw Uprising, a rebellion by the Poles and their Home Army against the Germans. (The Russian army, parked on the other side of the Vistula River, allowed the Poles to be wiped out without interference.) First we meet the characters in a last stand at a bombed-out field of urban rubble, then follow them in a miserable escape through the dank, gas-filled sewers beneath the city. The desperation of final heroic acts, and Wajda's ingenuity in finding new ways to shoot in the sewer sets, keeps the film balanced in nerve-wracking suspense.
Set on the final day of World War II, Ashes and Diamonds explodes with mixed-up passion and anger, and with the deliberately James Dean-like performance of Polish icon Zbigniew Cybulski. Wadja expands his range here with a visual dynamism that includes a heady use of symbols and striking borrowings from Citizen Kane and film noir. The nervy, dark-spectacled Cybulski plays a Home Army member out to assassinate a Communist official, an assignment bungled in the opening sequence. So the job still needs completing, but the would-be assassin is diverted by a melancholy barmaid and the possibility of turning away from violence... but this is Poland, and wry fatalism prevails. The doomed national feeling is maintained in powerful fashion in these three movies--which are not, technically speaking, a trilogy, though they have always spiritually been of-a-piece.
Criterion assembled this DVD set with Wajda's approval, and he appears in illuminating half-hour interview segments on each disc (along with filmmaker Janusz Morgenstern and critic Jerzy Plazewski). Valuable production stills and posters, Wajda's film-school short "Ceramics from Ilza," and essays are included. Most importantly, the digital transfers themselves are perfectly stunning. --Robert Horton
- Audio commentary by film scholar Annette Insdorf on Ashes and Diamonds
- Exclusive new interviews on each film with Andrzej Wajda, assistant director Janusz Morgenstern, and film critic Jerzy Plazewski
- Vintage newsreel on the making of Ashes and Diamonds
- Ceramics from Ilza (Ceramika Ilzecka), Wajda's 1951 film school short
- Rare behind-the-scenes production photos, publicity stills, and posters for all three films
- A gallery of Andrzej Wajda's original drawings and paintings
Top Customer Reviews
Kanal is a very compelling film, very accessible to American audiences. It is taut, suspenseful and portrays the WWII conflict from a perspective I think many Americans will be unfamiliar with. Much of the film takes place in a sewer, as the refugees try to find an escape from certain death at the hands of the Nazis. Fans of claustrophobic thrillers will appreciate this. The atmosphere is almost choking at times. It's a powerful experience. Steven Spielberg revealed in an interview that he screened Wajda's war films to his crew in preparation for Saving Private Ryan, to give them a better sense of how to create the mise-en-scene of war torn Europe.Read more ›
Criterion has provided an excellent treatment. The transfers are terrific. Wajda himself, along with his co-writer Morganstern, and a prominent Polish film critic, Plazewski, provide interviews, filmed in 2003 - there is 90 minutes of this and, while highly illuminating in many details, it also hints at the spirit which leadens the actual films. The weight of history and circumstance is felt by the director, and his peers, and it is hard for them to evade a tone of self-importance - this is well-justified, but still confers a heavy tone to proceedings. Criterion also include an early short of Wajda's and period newsreels and historical matter, and a commentary by a film scholar on Ashes and Diamonds - if sold separately, these would all be premium releases, so they represent good value here.
Ashes and Diamonds is billed as the best of the trilogy, and the lead performance by Zbigniew Cybulski is especially lauded.Read more ›
A GENERATION (1955) - 9/10
For an audience to appreciate the magnitude of A Generation, Andrzej Wajda's first film and the initial story in his war trilogy, some historical background is necessary. The story is set in 1943 in the middle of the Nazi occupation of Poland where the Poles were held under the fascist shadow of Adolf Hitler while the Communist leader Stalin was infiltrating the Polish community for future expansion. Initially, the Poles welcomed the help from Stalin, as they were fighting the same enemy. However, Stalin made a deal with the Allies in the 1943 Tehran Conference, a year and half before the war was over, that would grant him parts of Poland. Consequently, after the war Poles went from fascist regime to communist control while Poland also had suffered the loss of approximately six million Polish lives in the war between Hitler and Stalin. A Generation takes place during this year when the story's protagonist Stach (Tadeusz Lomnicki) gradually becomes involved with the Polish resistance and the Communist party.
In the backdrop of the World War II, the poverty-stricken seem to assemble in the outskirts of Warsaw, as they can only afford living in this location. The naïve Stach is one of these poor who finds himself living on the fringe of shattered society. Together with his friends Stach steals coal from passing German trains, until the day when one of his friends are shot by the Nazis while leaving him wounded. In a tumbling escape from the German train Stach enters the sewers where he encounters a man that introduces him to Sekula (Janusz Paluszkiewicz) who later finds him an apprenticeship as a carpenter.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have been looking for a copy of Popioi i Diament for ages. It was even happier for me that I could find the rest of the trilogy at a reasonable price. Read morePublished 5 months ago by linguist
The quality of the three films was really good. They where great to watch. I really enjoyed the interview with Jan Nowak.Published 7 months ago by Stephen J Harris
I enjoyed all 3 films though to varying degrees. They run in sequence from early in the war to mid-war to post-war. Read morePublished 12 months ago by 70's teen
One of the great filmmakers. Ashes & Diamonds is worth the price of admission on its own. In the commentary by scholar of Polish Filmmaking Annette Insdorf we are provided with... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Greg Reyna
These movies should be mandatory to view in every Polish High School.
These three show Polish patriotism to the core. Read more
PERFECT AND CLASSIC BOXSET. I GUESS BUYING THIS WILL TRULY BE AN HONOR TO SOMEONE WHO LOVES FILMS AND COLLECTING THEM.Published on April 7, 2013 by HAN XIAO
You can find synopses for these films on the internet, so I will go straight to the heart of Andrzej Wadja's war trilogy: You will rarely watch such gritty, heart-wrenching films... Read morePublished on April 23, 2012 by Douglas G. Thomas
written, produced & directed by Andrzej Wadja it is the first war movie in what has become known as his war trilogy. Read more
All three of the films are awesome, so I won't write a review about them. The quality of the films are all superb, another triumph from Criterion. The extras are really good. Read morePublished on January 27, 2009 by Justin Morgan
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