Feature film directed by Andrzej Wajda in 1958.
May 1945, the last days of WWII. In a small town somewhere in Poland, army soldiers - Maciek, Andrzej, and Drewnowski receive an order to kill the Communist Polish Workers' Party secretary and a representative of the Soviet Union imposed by the government - Szczuka. They arrange an ambush near a chapel and shoot at the approaching military car. Their first attempt fails and kills two civilian workers from a cement plant. Driving in an identical car, Szczuka escapes death.
In the Metropol Hotel, where Szczuka is to reside, banquet preparations are underway to celebrate victory. Sitting at the hotel bar, Maciek and Andrzej reminisce about their fallen comrades. The third assassin, Drewnowski is in fact a double agent and attends the party as secretary to the city mayor. He triggers a scandal by getting drunk before the banquet dinner. Once again, Andrzej passes information to Maciek about the re-order to kill Szczuka. Both men, reflect on the point and meaning of this, however, they are still bound by the oath of secrecy.
Maciek becomes infatuated with the hotel's barmaid, Krystyna, and spends the night with her. He begins to dream of a normal life without conspiracies and killing. Meanwhile, the banquet is still underway at the hotel. Szczuka learns from a local security official that his seventeen-year-old son, Marek, has been caught by the Red Army during the liquidation of the Wolf squad, while fighting the communists and is being detained. Szczuka leaves the celebration alone and heads towards the headquarters of the secret police. This is the moment when Maciek's bullets reach him, consequently killing him. Fireworks, in honour of the victory, celebrating the end of the war fill the sky. Returning, Maciek runs into military patrol officers. He does not stop upon their request. The soldiers shoot at the fleeing man...
Andrzej Wajda, writes in Film Quarterly / Kwartalnik Filmowy, published in 1996-1997,
The fate of the boys in Canal / Kanał, Tadeusz in Landscape After the Battle / Krajobraz po bitwie, Marcin from Ring of an Eagle in a Crown / Pierścionek z orłem w koronie and Maciek Chełmicki from Ashes and Diamonds could have been my life. I just had more luck. It had been pure chance and coincidence that I did not find myself in their situation. So it was my duty, by measure of my talent and my possibilities to talk about their lives.(...) Endless discussion around the topic, what is Ashes and Diamonds as a novel and its film makeover, does not quite clearly reveal the essential theme. In the novel written by Jerzy Andrzejewski, the author tried to seek national reconciliation, he attempted to convince readers, that while Poland is politically torn apart and views are widely different, mutual agreement needs to be found. This message is most visibly contained in the last scene of the novel, where Maciek Chełmicki collapses, soldiers run over and say: "Man, why did you run away?" For Andrzejewski this question was always a real question. "Why did you run away?" If you had not run away, perhaps you would have lived, and could survive. When we were shooting the film in 1957, we had already learned what those words mean. Zbigniew Cybulski and I, knew perfectly well why Maciek escaped, we knew he had to flee. We understood that the pursuit of national consensus did not exist, and the attempt of reconciliation was impossible.
Alicja Helman writes in Screen / Ekran in 1958, "Wajda is explosive and passionate. He over-exaggerates and lets himself be fulfilled with the passion of fierceness of feelings. We will find fantasy and ornamentation in his work, cruelty, and even exhibitionism. The splendour and richness of formal means in Ashes and Diamonds lead to a climax, allowing for a refined mastery which will leave you breathless. Wajda uses emotions to shock, constantly tingling the nerves and senses, not losing control of the viewer. The film grabs you by the throat, shocks and shakes you.
- Ashes and Diamonds, Poland 1958. Directed by Andrzej Wajda. Screenplay based on the novel by Jerzy Andrzejewski Andrzej Wajda, Jerzy Andrzejewski. Cinematography Jerzy Wojcik. Editing Halina Nawrocka. Sound Bogdan Bienkowski. Music Jan Krenz, Michał Kleofas Ogiński. Scenography Roman Mann. Production Manager Stanisław Adler. Starring Zbigniew Cybulski (Maciek Chelmicki), Ewa Krzyzewska (Krystyna), Adam Pawlikowski (Andrzej Kossecki), Wacław Zastrzeżyński (Szczuka), Bogumił Kobieła (Drewnowski), Jan Ciecierski (porter), Stanisław Milski (Pieniążek), Artur Młodnicki (Kotowicz), Halina Kwiatkowska (Staniewicz), Ignacy Machowski (Waga), Zbigniew Skowroński (Słomka), Barbara Krafftówna (Stefka), Alexander Sewruk (Święcki). Film Production Zespół Autorów Filmowych KADR, Warsaw. Black and white, 35 mm, 108 ', 1:1.66
- 1958 - Golden Duck, Weekly magazine Film People's choice award in the poll for the best film of the year
- 1959 - International Award from the Federation of Film Critics FIPRESCI at the XX International Film Festival in Venice; - Distinction in the British magazine Films and Filming for best director at the XX International Film Festival in Venice
- 1960 - Award at the Canadian Federation of Associations of Film at the Third International Film Festival in Vancouver, for "outstanding achievement in the use of expression and a high level of film technology"; - Crystal Star from the French Film Academy for Ewa Krzyżewska
- 1961 - Diploma of Credit at the IFF in Ibadan
- 1962 - David O. Selznick Silver Laurel; - Film Critics Award of the German Federal Republic
- 1965 - Czechoslovakian Film Critics' Award