Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Generation (1955)

Original title: Pokolenie

Director: Andrzej Wajda

Writer: Bohdan Czeszko

Composer: Andrzej Markowski

Starring: Tadeusz Lomnicki, Urszula Modrzynska, Tadeusz Janczar, Janusz Paluszkiewicz, Ryszard Kotys, Roman Polanski, Ludwik Benoit, Zofia Czerwinska, Zbigniew Cybulski, Tadeusz Fijewski

More info: IMDb

Plot: During the Nazi occupation of Poland, a generation of youth comes of age. Stach and his friends start with spontaneous acts of defiance, which can prove deadly, but have no organized purpose. Then, while at work as an apprentice, Stach learns elementary Marxian economics from a shop steward. When he sees the valiant and beautiful Dorota, a leader of the Youth Underground, he volunteers. He recruits his friends, and they become a cell in the resistance, tasting courage, discipline, and tragedy. In the background lies the potential conflict between the Communists and the partisans, both anti-Nazi, both Polish, and on their own collision course.

My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

What a great flick.  It's Wajda's first film.  In fact, it's just about everyone's first feature film behind and in front of the camera including a young actor by the name of Roman Polanski.  Filmed barely a decade after the war, Wajda created a marvelous piece of work with some wonderful imagery.

Dorata (Modrynska) schools the boys who think she's just another pretty face masquerading as a leader of the local resistance.

That was a great little scene.  Wajda's film is filled with little moments of humanity among those of horror and terror.  The way he throws in little details that make the difference between art and fluff are sometimes as subtle and impressive as this scene where Jasio (Janczar) is being pursued by the Germans.  He dead ends at a doorway, opens the door while turning away from it so as not to see that it has been barred and locked (pictured).  We know what's waiting for him for a second or two before he does and for us, the audience, it's heartbreaking to say the least. 

It's a powerful debut for one of the finest cinematic artists of the last century.  The performances are genuine, the emotions, situations, etc.  The cinematography and Jerzy Lipman's use of light, and lack of, are gritty and real.  It's probably been a couple of decades since I last saw any of Wajda's work.  I need to fix that.  Watching these mid-century, post-war European films makes me feel like nothing else. There's a special sensitivity of hope and despair that you don't see from the U.S..  Our films from that time largely offer escapism where as those from Europe inspired a reality devoid of Hollywood fantasy.  This Criterion DVD offers a nice print with a half hour featurette of interviews with Wajda et al, his second (of three) short films he directed prior to this film called CERAMICS FROM ILZA and a collection of still galleries to include production stills, publicity stills, movie posters (the 3 seen in this post) and Wajda's own paintings and drawings. 

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