26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sunglasses After Dark (Spoilers)
The third in Director Andrej Wadja's war trilogy, Ashes and Diamonds is set in Poland on the last day of WW2. The German High Command have issued their unconditional surrender and the Communists quickly fill the vacuum left by Hitler's goose-steppers and set up shop. Warsaw is lousy with rats and not all of them are of the rodent variety as power hungry bureaucrats jostle...
Published on 13 Feb 2008 by Adrian Stranik
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Poles Apart
Wajda is still making films - recent Katyn was harrowing in places. This one is from way back in the '50's when post-WWII Poland was tearing itself even more apart by fighting between the victorious Communists and the still pro-west partisans.
Zbigniew Cybulski is the star with the unpronounceable name & his performance alone is worth the price: excellent...
Published on 28 Jun 2010 by jimbo cool
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sunglasses After Dark (Spoilers),
This review is from: Ashes And Diamonds  [DVD] (DVD)The third in Director Andrej Wadja's war trilogy, Ashes and Diamonds is set in Poland on the last day of WW2. The German High Command have issued their unconditional surrender and the Communists quickly fill the vacuum left by Hitler's goose-steppers and set up shop. Warsaw is lousy with rats and not all of them are of the rodent variety as power hungry bureaucrats jostle for position in the new order.
Having spent the last half a decade under the Nazi junta; the prospect of a future under Stalin's jackboot is met with keen opposition. Maciek, a resistance fighter, is ordered to kill a local Socialist party official, which he is more than happy to do, but soon discovers he has killed two innocent civilians instead.
Maciek books a room at a rundown hotel where his quarry is staying. While he waits for the right moment to make amends he meets and falls in love with the barmaid Krystyna. His connection to the girl leads him to rethink his part in the endless cycle of violence.
The central role of Maciek is played by the brilliant Zybigniew Cybulski who came to be known as the `Polish James Dean.' Dean's death in a highway smash in 1955 meant he would never fulfil his promise and so would forever be frozen in movie goer's minds as a deeply troubled boy. Cybulski was 30 when he played the role that made him and gives us a glimpse of what his western counterpart could have achieved. Cybulski's Maciek is a worldly wise, vodka fuelled skirt chaser, (not a million miles away from his real life persona allegedly) and far from being made twisted and bitter by his war experiences, Cybulski plays the character as a man who laughs at the cruel joke of life that has been played on all of us and is determined to "have fun and not be swindled" even in the face of imminent annihilation.
It was a conscious decision on Wadja and Cybulski's part that despite their story taking place in 1945, ASHES AND DIAMONDS' central character was going to be `all out' 50's cool. Parts Brando, Dean and Clift - Maciek, in his army fatigues and `sun-glasses after dark' became a symbol for Polish teenagers who would emulate his style for years to come; and his Anna Karenna-esque death beneath the wheels of a late night train in 1967 only exacerbated his legendary status. Even now we see shades of him in any number of Hong Kong `glock operas' and John Cusack's `assassin in Raybans' from Grosse Point Blank is a clearly a direct decendant.
Often charged with being overloaded with symbolism as scenes are obscured by upside down crucifixes; characters rendered almost invisible in morning light whilst unfurling flags or inexplicably joined by white horses as they ponder the possibilities of a brighter future, ASHES AND DIAMONDS makes no secret of its Expressionist credentials. The youthful hero dying on a mountainous rubbish dump to the accompaniment of screeching crows is an image lifted almost directly from Van Gogh's apocalyptic `Crows over Wheatfield's'.
Two years after Cybulski met his destiny on the snowy platform of Wroclaw station Wadja made EVERYTHING FOR SALE about an actor missing from the set of a film. The missing actor was clearly meant to be Cybulski who even in death dominated every scene. It still stands as probably the best film an actor never made.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New Dual Format Edition from Arrow Academy,
I shan't bore you with more analysis and description of the film but just give a brief update on the quality and content of the package.
Starting with the Blu-ray disc itself, the quality is really very high, the film looks excellent. So everything one might have hoped for there. The aspect ratio is 1.66:1 so you need to make sure it's viewed correctly with a small amount of black down the left/right sides on a 16.9 screen.
The video extra finds Wajda speaking direct to camera and discussing the films historical, political and artistic context.
The case comes inside a slip cover with a transparent window. This is designed to display the new cover artwork or one of three reproduction original posters. I'm not so keen on the new artwork, but the posters are very interesting. Once the disc is on and you encounter the various menu headings; Auditorium, Reel Change, Kiosk and Projection Booth, you may, like me begin to think that the pudding is being a little over egged.
There's a very good booklet with new writing from the ever excellent Michael Brooke as well as other interesting re-printed material and images.
Above all the film looks and sounds very impressive.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adrian said it all, but....,
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This review is from: Ashes And Diamonds  [DVD] (DVD)This is a truly wonderful film, a genuine masterpiece. Cybulski, or Spishek to his friends, was the lover of my great friend Marlene Dietrich and it was her train that he was rushing after that fateful night. She tearfully recounted the whole episode for my "Marlene, My Friend". What Adrian (sublime review by the way) failed to add was that the film's theme is "J'ai perdue ma jeunesse", a French song created by Damia and reprised by Marlene. In this film, Cybulski dies arguably the most eloquent death in any film, and I cannot praise this film enough. I can only complain that Amazon do not allow us to give more than 5 stars.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't imagine film history without this movie. (6*...!),
This review is from: Ashes And Diamonds [VHS] (VHS Tape)one of the best films ever made. The story of people touched with "polish syndrom", tragedy of choices on the edge of life and death. And, suprisingly - very powerful film, sometimes even funny. A character played by Cybulski is a polish James Dean, in his highest point of career, unforgettable. Not many words, lots of action, passion, love, war, joy, tragedy, friendship. It's not a history of cinema. It's still alive.
5.0 out of 5 stars Wajda's Masterly Tale Of A Conflicted Soul,
Of course, at the centre of Ashes And Diamonds is a bravura performance from the relatively inexperienced Zbigniew Cybulski as the charismatic, shades-wearing, care-free Mr Cool, Maciek Chelmicki, whose life as a 'post-Warsaw uprising' political assassin sits uneasily alongside his playful persona, making practical jokes and chatting up the girls. Cybuski's performance here has been compared to that of James Dean (another actor who died young in tragic circumstances, although Dean, at 24, was 15 years Cybulski's junior when tragedy struck him) and it is easy to see why - not only does the Polish actor have an obvious physical resemblance to Dean, but his care-free, rebellious demeanour (certainly in this film) and facial expressions and tics also call to mind Dean.
The action in Wajda's film takes place over the course of 24 hours as Maciek and his resistance 'boss' Andrzej (Adam Pawlikowski) attempt to track down and assassinate (Communist) Party Secretary Szczuka (Waclaw Zastrzezynski). The director brilliantly fuses Maciek's increasing sense of doubt over his own life course, with the film's political and social context of Poland's equally uncertain future under Soviet political rule (Wajda includes strategically placed billboards of Stalin to reinforce the point). Maciek's inner turmoil is fostered by his meeting with barmaid Krystyna (Ewa Krzyzewska, in an impressively subtle performance), a liaison, which after some initial flirtation, begins to prey on Maciek's mind as a potential way out of his increasingly despairing situation (a feeling also reinforced for Maciek in the brilliant church scene where he comes across the dead bodies of the two men he murdered in error at the start of the film). In addition to Maciek's conflicted character, Wajda also provides no easy get-outs for the audience as party official (and Maciek's intended target) Szczuka appears to genuinely want what is best for his country and is himself conflicted by his long lost son, who whilst fighting for the resistance has now been captured by the authorities.
Wajda also brilliantly (and, given the political backdrop at the time, no doubt, carefully) depicts the imminent political turmoil about to beset his country, as party officials squabble over their positions and status, a drunken journalist (obviously an international phenomenon then) lambasts members of the political classes at a dinner gathering as being past collaborators and members of the existing Polish aristocracy talk about leaving the country.
A superb (and important) film by one of Europe's finest directors, made at a time of evolving and conflicting political pressures, and containing one of the most evocative (and controversial) endings in cinema.
5.0 out of 5 stars Shadows & flames,
This review is from: Ashes And Diamonds  [DVD] (DVD)Fire and flame, light and shadow...they are motifs throughout this astonishing 1958 film directed by Andrzej Wajda and photographed by Jerzy Wojcik, who must on this showing be one of the world`s finest cameramen.
The film opens with a shot of a church spire seen from below as the camera pans down to show us two men lying on a grassy bank, who will soon set in motion the tragic mistake which forms the impetus for the rest of this startling story. We are in Poland in May 1945, the last day of the war, but there are still scores to settle...
One of the men is young Maciek, played by the now legendary Zbigniew Cybulski, who was to die a pointless death eight years later at the age of 39, falling under a train moments after he`d said goodbye to his friend Marlene Dietrich, a traveller on the same train. He`s been compared (perhaps too often!) to James Dean, but there`s more of a hint of the early Mickey Rourke about him. One thing`s certain, the guy sure could act, and casually dominates each scene he`s in, though never to the detriment of the story nor his fellow actors. Direction, screenplay and performances are pitch-perfect, making this a mesmerising, sometimes almost hallucinatory experience to watch.
The role of the barmaid whom this hapless Resistance gunman falls for, and who shares part of a night with him, is taken by Ewa Krzyzewska in a subtle, soulful portrayal which makes me long to see her in other films, such is the truthfulness of her acting. Her scenes with Maciek are heartrending, as well as gently funny too, and are at the heart of Wajda`s beautiful, shadowy film. (Sadly, the actress died at 64 in a car crash.)
I was reminded too of The Third Man; both films, so different in other ways, share a jaded, sickly mood, and both make haunting use of the atmospheric potential of black-and-white photography.
The final scenes are symbolic, purely cinematic, and lift the film into the realms of the mythic. Unlike a director such as Tarkovsky, who can be so esoteric at times that one struggles to find meaning in his personal imagery, Wajda doesn`t forget to
`universalise` his images, so that one partakes as well as observes.
I will watch this wonderful film again, knowing I`ll find something to admire or gasp at with each viewing.
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Film for the Era.,
This review is from: Ashes And Diamonds  [DVD] (DVD)As another has said already, Cybulski was the Polish James Dean and cinema had high hopes for him. In this film the 50's cool look is perfect for the hero.
Set in Poland after the war Wajda tentatively shows the anti-Soviet resistance trying to fight back. As this is filmed as the post Stalin thaw was just beginning, Wajda had to be very careful and so his communists are sympathetic characters and it is the freedom fighters that seem to be slightly out it and just seem to want to rock the boat. The situation in Poland post 1945 was an extremley volatile and the country going through the process of being moved westwards. Murders and assasinations on all sides were common and thousands of poles would lose their lives or be arrested or persecuted. The bleakness of post war Poland, punctuated by efforts to by people get back to normal or carry on as before is expressed well in the film.
A classic to take one back.
Kanal (Canal) [Region 2] [import]
5.0 out of 5 stars a masterpiece,
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This review is from: Ashes And Diamonds  [DVD] (DVD)One of my all-time favourites, this film appeared deep in the Communist era in Poland. Its humanity and cinematic qualities mark it out, and I wonder at the director's blending of a personal story a hit-man who wavers for love) and a tricky public background, since the hero is an anti-communist activist in the period just after the War 1945) Nothing preachy, nothing false, nothing manipulative , just a thoroughly good story, magnificently acted and directed (Wajda, Cybulski) Oh, and in black-and-white, which adds to the drama of the depiction yet perhaps also helps the understatement which lets spectators reflect even as they watch and feel .Get the dvd, see it at least twice, and invite friends to share this gem.
5.0 out of 5 stars The diamond of film in the ashes of history,
This review is from: Ashes And Diamonds  [DVD] (DVD)Wajda grew up in Poland during the Nazi occupation and his famous trilogy-A Generation(1955),Kanal(1956) and Ashes and Diamonds(1958)-records the wartime suffering and courage and the scramble for political power that followed the liberation.At the end of the war Poland faced an uncertain future,having chased out the Nazi invaders,they were to confront the new threat from the Soviet Union.Two Polish national soldiers,Maciek(Cybulsksi) and Andrzej(Pawlikowski) are ordered to kill an incoming communist party cadre(Szczuka),on the outskirts of an unnamed provincial town. Passing his time until the right moment for the assassination, Maciek has an affair with a barmaid, a fling which forces him to re-examine the purpose of his mission.Adapted from Andrzejewski's novel,but changing the focus and audience sympathy from the communist(Szczuka)to a minor character,Maciek,but without making Szczuka unsympathetic,having fought against the fascists in Spain, with an estranged son in the home army.
Cybulski's charismatic performance(a la James Dean)exemplifies Wajda's fascination with heroes who refuse to follow the tide of history and attempt to shape their own destinies through extreme action.Expressing the confused soul of a people trapped by the forces of history,history takes 2nd place to existentialist psychology and symbolism in this work(witness the clever use of the sunglasses appealing to notions of 50s cool).Surreal contrasts illuminate the film,the title from a Polish poet,the sudden appearance of a white horse,or the upturned statue of a saint, symbolising lost innocence,a fallen world.Wajda borrowed widely from many sources-method acting, Antonioni, Welles, Huston. Wajda borrows Welles' low angles, high contrast lighting, and deep compositions to intensify and stylise the visual world of the film.Poland is being pulled apart by the Soviet takeover,the intrusion pitting Pole against Pole.In this tragedy a killing becomes an embrace.Wajda's films are set in transitional periods where one era has died and another is struggling to be born.Perhaps Poland's greatest filmmaker.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Blu-Ray is stunning!,
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Ashes And Diamonds  [DVD] by Andrzej Wajda (DVD - 2007)
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