Andrzej Wajda’s films have been screened all around the globe and have won awards at the world's most prestigious festivals. Culture.pl presents seven of the most intruiging posters for his films from around the world.
Innocent Sorcerers (Niewinni Czarodzieje, 1960)
Innocent Sorcerers is one of Wajda’s most apolitical films. It is the result of a meeting between artists representing three generations: the director and two scriptwriters – Jerzy Andrzejewski and Jerzy Skolimowski.
The film, which tells the story of a young doctor who leads the life of a ladies’ man and plays the drums in Krzysztof Komeda’s jazz band in the evenings, was the portrait of a generation – maybe a modest one, but very provocative to the authorities at the time. Janusz Wilhelmi, a reviewer for the communist Trybuna Ludu daily, wrote in 1960:
Many viewers, especially younger ones, will fail to notice the delicate attempt at criticism present in the film. What they will definitely find attractive is the model of an easy life, so temptingly exhibited by the film's creators. And this can be categorised as socially destructive.
Innocent Sorcerers was shown in cinemas all over the world. At the International Film Festival in Edinburgh in 1961, the film received a honourary award. It was also shown in Japan, where Wajda is very well known. Many years later, Wajda was awarded the very prestigious Kyoto Prize – the Japanese equivalent of the Nobel Prize, and the $340,000 in prize money that he received was allocated for the creation of the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology in Kraków.
Everything for Sale (Wszystko na Sprzedaż, 1968)
In Everything for Sale, an actor playing the main role in a film never shows up on set. His wife and former lover, who is now the director’s partner, try to find him. While searching for the actor, they learn that he was killed while attempting to jump out of a moving train.
Everything for Sale is a goodbye to Zbigniew Cybulski, who died tragically in 1967, and at the same time it is Andrzej Wajda’s artistic examination of the conscience. This humble, somewhat under-appreciated film is now considered one of the most personal pictures in Wajda’s oeuvre.
After the premiere, Krzysztof Mętrak, legendary Polish film critic, wrote in Film magazine:
Everything for Sale is, in my opinion, an excellent and exceptional, not to say (...) a ground-breaking film. But contrary to what is commonly thought, it is not a film about Zbigniew Cybulski and the impression he made on the minds of those closest to him; it is simply a film about Andrzej Wajda. And also the most personal film that creative cinema has known since 8 ½. (...) Moreover, I shall venture the opinion that a film about Cybulski had indeed been Wajda's original intention and it was only during the making of the film that the brilliant director realised that he was in fact, quite unintentionally, making a film about himself.
The Maids of Wilko (Panny z Wilka, 1979)
Years after Andrzej Wajda made the film The Maids of Wilko, he recalled:
When I ask myself what The Maids of Wilko is about, the best answer I can find is that it deals with all sorts of things one cannot clearly define. And this is a precise answer. There is a very fine thread connecting us with the story, as if we were trying to retrieve something precious and long lost, the happier memories of our bygone childhood days. What the film reveals is a world rooted in a clearly defined system of values. The women in the film know very well what is not allowed, where one has to stop. But it was by no means easy to convey this on the screen.
This adaptation of the short story by Polish writer Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz is one of the most intimate of Wajda’s movies. It tells the story of Wiktor, who returns after fifteen years to a manor in Wilko to meet people who all left traces in his memory. It is a meditation on the passing of time, lost love and human memory. This sentimental journey to the past has a universal appeal: suspended between Chekhov, Proust and Bergman’s Wild Strawberries, it won Wajda an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film in 1980.
As Claude Mauriac wrote in the French V.S.D. magazine (Paris, 31 May 1979):
All it takes is (…) a birdsong (an oriole, as is often the case in Poland), of which one cannot say whether it opens the gates of hope, or closes them. (...) It is sad, beautiful and poetic. Yes, poetic, in the now often contested but irreplaceable meaning of that beautiful word – poetry.
The Orchestra Conductor (Dyrygent, 1979)
When Ingmar Bergman was asked to make a list of 11 films that impressed him the most, he put Andrzej Wajda’s The Orchestra Conductor second on his list. This film was much better received abroad than in Poland. Starring Krystyna Janda and John Gielgud, The Orchestra Conductor won awards at film festivals in San Sebastian and Santander. At the Berlin Film Festival in 1980, Andrzej Seweryn won the Silver Bear for Best Actor for his supporting role as Adam.
The Orchestra Conductor tells the story of Marta, a violinist on a scholarship in the United States, who meets John Lasocki – a world-famous conductor, and once her mother’s lover. His meeting with Marta and the intense emotions evoked by it make the old master want to go back to his past. Lasocki breaks contracts and ignores commitments to return to the provincial town in Poland where he was born seventy-odd years earlier. He wants to conduct Beethoven’s 5th Symphony there, performed by the local orchestra. Its director is Marta’s husband – the ambitious and somewhat confused Adam. The three protagonists play out a drama of unfulfilment, longing and ambition.
Wajda recalled years later:
Frustrated as we all were at that time in Poland, not knowing what to do, we felt in the air a kind of expectation for a miracle to happen; perhaps a longing for some kind of model, especially if it came from the West. It was to be personified by a world-famous conductor, leading an anniversary concert in the small Polish town where he was born. Accordingly, the story had to take place in a provincial town, with its obtrusive and ruthless local dignitaries having grandiose ambitions and knowing how to realise them by all available means.
Man of Marble (Człowiek z Marmuru, 1976)
As Jerzy Radziwiłowicz recalled in an in-depth interview conducted by Łukasz Maciejewski, entitled Everything is a Little Strange:
There was a feeling that this movie was of immense importance to Andrzej. I started to get that feeling during production. I would be lying if I said that I knew from the start how momentous the film would become. From my point of view, it was the story of a hero – seen from the human side – and this was of particular concern for me. I was riveted by Mateusz’s behaviour in the various circumstances which befall, which surround him. I was more interested in the man that I played than with the film’s message. I would be lying if I said that I had a feeling of mission when working on one of the most important movies in the Polish People’s Republic. That wasn’t the case.
In Man of Marble, Radziwiłowicz played Mateusz Birkut, a labour leader whose fate in the 1950s is being uncovered by Agnieszka, a TV documentary filmmaker. This story about disappointment with the system and the enslavement of minds won Wajda the FIPRESCI Prize in Cannes. For Jerzy Radziwiłowicz and Krystyna Janda, Man of Marble was a major breakthrough in their acting careers.
When, despite the ban imposed by communist politicians, Wajda’s film was shown at Cannes, it received the critics award – the only award it was eligible for as a production that was not part of the official competition.
Man of Iron (Człowiek z Żelaza, 1981)
Jerzy Radziwiłowicz described the making of Man of Iron as follows:
We started shooting in December, I think, and the strike had ended on 31st August. Writing a script, getting the production ready, organising everything, having the film completed and taking it to Cannes in May the next year. Exceptionally fast.
Man of Iron, a story about strikes, Solidarity and the moral choices facing Poles at a crucial historical moment, received a great deal of publicity worldwide. In 1981, Andrzej Wajda’s Man of Iron won Grand Prix Palme d’Or for the best film at Cannes, and one year later the film was nominated for an Oscar and a French César.
Years later, when supporting Wajda’s candidacy for the Oscar for lifetime achievement, Steven Spielberg wrote:
The example of Andrzej Wajda reminds all of us as filmmakers that from time to time history might make profound and unexpected demands on our courage; that our audiences may call on us for spiritual uplift; that we might be required to put our careers at risk in order to defend the civic life of our people.
Wajda enjoyed great esteem in France from the very beginning of his career. His films won Césars from the French film academy and prizes at Cannes. In 1982, Wajda was bestowed the distinction of Chevalier (Knight) in the French Legion of Honour, and nineteen years later he was made a Commander.
And it was in France that Wajda created one of his best movies. Danton was commissioned by legendary French film studio Gaumont and originally the movie was to be produced in Poland. However, after the imposition of martial law in Poland in December 1981, the project was moved to Paris.
A story of revolutionary France, its streets filled with terror, was in fact an allusive picture of the Polish transformations and a reflection on the essence of politics. The dispute between Danton and Robespierre comes alive on the screen thanks to daring roles played Gerard Depardieu and Wojciech Pszoniak.
When preparing for his role, Depardieu even came to Poland to see what revolution looked like. Years later Wajda recounted:
I wanted Depardieu to see the face of revolution – inhumanly tired, with eyes wide open, suddenly falling asleep and never fully sleeping. Depardieu, guided by Krystyna Zachwatowicz, stood for a long moment in the hall of the Mazowsze Region headquarters with its endlessly milling crowds, where the history of those days was being made… No words and no director could have done a better job of introducing Depardieu to the subject of my new film Danton than the scene what he saw with his own eyes.
Sources: Filmweb, Filmpolski, Film magazine, Andrzej Wajda's official website, "Wszystko jest lekko dziwne", Łukasz Maciejewski, Jerzy Radziwiłowicz, Wielka Litera, Warsaw 2012; compiled by BS, 28 May 2013, translated by MF, Jan 2018