Digitally re-mastered cinematic essentials of a director who had the courage to say what many thought.
Few film-makers were as tenacious as him in questioning the prevailing reality and common understanding of Polish history. Wajda sought to unburden the collective imagination of overly simplified generalizations. Through his work, he pointed to those elements which had been swept under the rug - the embarrassing and the seemingly insignificant.
Shattering Empty Form
In 1976, with Man of Marble, he showed the painful downfall of the socialist fool's dream. On the inside he found nothing but emptiness and systemic degeneration. He had the courage to say what many thought. "Although the film had two and a half million viewers, Wajda received mostly insults" (Krzysztof Kłopotowski, 1980). A couple of years later, history did Wajda justice. In the 1978 Rough Treatment, he talks about the defeat of individualism in the People's Republic of Poland and about envy, hypocrisy and opportunism on a national scale. The film is considered a precursor of the cinema of moral anxiety.
The digitally re-mastered films preserve the image of the director as a critical witness of history. With the additional of the documentary Andrzej Wajda: Let's Shoot!, the publishers of the DVD Box set (Kino Polska television) also show a lesser known but no less interesting side of the director.
Andrzej Wajda on the set of "Katyń", 2007, photo: INTERFOTO / Forum
A Different Andrzej Wajda
With a grimace on his face, he looks straight at the camera. After a minute or two, he starts waving his hands. He is in the middle of shooting a scene of Katyń. His ominous gestures are instructive and scolding at the same time. He rarely screams. Instead of the common-place "Action!" he simply says a shrouded "Let's shoot!".
For the documentary Andrzej Wajda: Let's shoot!, the young film-makers Maciej Cuske, Thierry Paladino, Marcin Sauter and Piotr Stasik (the Paladino Group) observed Wajda working on the set of Katyń. Their film exceeds the confines of a report from the set or a classical biographical documentary. They show an intimate profile of the director and an insider look at his film methodology with a salubrious dose of humour. "It's cold as heck. Mr Andrzej, shoot already, for crying out loud" out of the extras mutters.
Seen through the young film-makers' lens, the creator of Lotna appears a workaholic who lives and breathes cinema. Explaining his struggle for perfectionism to his colleagues, he brings up an anecdote about Luchino Visconti. During shooting, the Italian director always paid attention that the garments in the closet on the set, which would never be opened, were perfectly arranged.
"The details that you cannot see but which build the film are important" Wajda explains in the documentary. The years have not changed his need for flawlessness. Another scene in the Paladino Group film illustrates the trait even better. A little girl asks Wajda for a picture. Caught up in work, the director reluctantly agrees. But once he is standing next to the little actress, he poses for as long as is needed for the result to be immaculate. He knows that she will keep the picture safe for many years and refuses to settle for mediocrity. Perhaps that's precisely where the film-maker's genius lies.
"Arcydzieła Polskiego Kina: Andrzej Wajda" / "Masterpieces of Polish Cinema: Andrzej Wajda":
"Człowiek z marmuru"/ "Man of Marble", dir. Andrzej Wajda, 1976
"Bez znieczulenia" / "Rough Treatment", dir. Andrzej Wajda, 1978
"Człowiek z żelaza" / "Man of Iron", dir. Andrzej Wajda, 1981
"Andrzej Wajda: róbmy zdjęcie!" / "Andrzej Wajda: Let's Shoot!", dir. Maciej Cuske, Thierry Paladino, Marcin Sauter, Piotr Stasik, 2008
Author: Bartosz Staszczyszyn, translator: Mai Jones 24.02.2014