Andrzej Wajda • Director
Polish Cinema back into Play
by Dorota Hartwich
Andrzej Wajda, Poland's greatest filmmaker will soon turn 80. When he received everyone's acclaim and recognition for his entire work, through the Platinum Lions Prize, during the 30th edition of Gdynia's Polish Film Festival , all he had to say was: "Allow me to leave this prize here and return for it next year, when I shall be presenting my newest piece of work"
You have been awarded an Oscar, a Felix and other prizes for your entire works. You've also been awarded in numerous festivals, such as Cannes, Venice, Berlin, San Sebastian, Moscow, etc. But, in this edition of Gdynia's Festival you were chairing the jury…
True, I don't need to compete as a director any longer. This time, it was my turn to appreciate the work of others. I felt it wasn't necessary for me to compete against other filmmakers; I already have won enough prizes in my lifetime. But out of all the prizes I have achieved, the one I hold dearest is the one I got in 1977: after presenting The Man of Marble in the Gdansk Festival (Gdynia's predecessor before 1987), the journalists awarded me with a brick, on the stairway, in the building where the event took place. It was a bit of an unofficial award, since censorship made sure that information stayed out of the spotlight..
You later filmed The Man of Iron. The journalists' as well as the public's reaction to it, was even more enthusiastic – You won the Golden Palm. This film refers to the events related to the big protest movements in 1968, 1970, and 1980, which brought change to the political system, directly influencing Poland's course of history.
It's a very unique situation when a director who's filming actively participates in the important historic events. This was the case with our team; we filmed at the right time at the right place, right among the action, side by side with the workers. We didn't even know into what the whole situation would develop. The Man of Iron taught us a great lesson– we understood all the ideas of the revolt movement and what we expected from our country. Everything became very clear to us, and we, along with all the others there, became the people of Solidarność.
Poland has just celebrated the 25th anniversary of Solidarność. The biggest filmmakers also paid tribute to the historic event, producing a joint compilation of stories which give a contemporary interpretation of what happened.
I'm so happy that the filmmakers accepted the invitation and participated in the project, although, we were also able to see the reactions of Polish society during several demonstrations resulting from this anniversary. You can listen to people complaining about some of the ideas of Solidarność being hidden or undervalued. It's true though, what was done in the past was very beautiful and only part of the ideas were put into action. It's like the first love: short and it flies by.
Do you always intend to follow the characters' lives from The Man of Marble and The Man of Steel, showing where they are today?
There was a time where I wanted to film a 3rd part, a type of sequel to the first two. But I don't think that it would make sense, because the scripts that I received were dark and showed the characters in an unsuccessful situation. What I wanted to show were successful people that came from Solidarność. As life shows, the actors Krystyna Janda andJerzy Radziwiłowicz apparently carry out their dreams. Krystyna has a theatre built and Jerzy acts in French and Polish cinematic and theatrical productions..
The 70's and 80's were a time of activism cinema. On one hand, the artistic value played a huge role; while on the other hand, it was a way of fighting. The reality nowadays is completely different; the actors don't have a mission as such. How can you judge the condition of Polish contemporary cinema?
In Poland, activism involved films have a long, always appreciated and fruitful tradition. But as we all know, Polish cinema has suffered in recent years. The 30th Gdynia Polish Film Festival shows how situations change. Many films from young directors are competing. I believe that, as we did in the past, they also need to reflect what's surrounding them. The good practices of cinema are coming back. Once again, films become a space for reconsideration, where we ask questions about our identity. The new generation knows how to express itself. We can see this through the 3 students from the Łódź film school (Anna Kazejak, Jan Komasa, Maciej Migas), whose filmOda do radości (Ode to Joy) is competing. The cooperation with other countries must also be pointed out. Many of the films competing were co-produced with Germany, France, China… There are Russian, German and French actors working for Polish producers as well, while our films are featured in many international festivals. Polish cinema is back into play in the world scene. Our financial situation will also improve cinematically speaking. A new law was voted in, so hopefully this will mean real support.
Your newest work, Post mortem, is focused entirely on the crime committed in Katyn in 1940. Why did you choose this subject?
The issue has laid heavy in my heart for many years. The massacre of thousands of Polish officers by Stalin's services in Katyn is a subject which hasn't been used by the artists, with the exception of Zbigniew Herbert (who does it through poetry) and the composer Krzysztof Penderenki (Polskie Requiem).The same happens with the insurrection of Warsaw or the Auschwitz genocide, filmmakers must begin to make films about it.
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