Ashes and Diamonds

Ashes and Diamonds

Available on MUBI
Regarded as one of the greatest of all Polish films from its premiere in October 1958, Andrzej Wajda's third feature Ashes and Diamonds retains that stature over half a century later. The entire film takes place on the 8th of May 1945, when the war in Europe ended with Germany's formal surrender; but while other countries celebrated, Poland's post-war power struggle was only just beginning. In depicting the various factions jockeying for position, including ambitious Communists, aristocratic patriots, cynical journalists and anti-Nazi rebels recently emerged from the Warsaw sewers, Wajda brilliantly anatomises a riven country desperately trying to find its identity at a time when a fifth of its population had recently been killed and many more driven into exile. Maćiek Chełmicki (Zbigniew Cybulski) embodies this conflict outwardly: a calculating assassin, his ultra-cool facade begins to crack when he badly botches a mission, falls in love with the barmaid Krystyna (Ewa Krzyżewska) and dares to dream of a life outside the armed resistance that's characterised his entire adult life. His all too human indecision makes him Polish culture's Hamlet, and Cybulski's performance remains iconic to this day.
Starring Zbigniew Cybulski, Ewa Krzyzewska, Waclaw Zastrzezynsky
Director Andrzej Wajda