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Ashes & Diamonds [Blu-ray]
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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 8 May 1945, when the war in Europe ended with Germany s formal surrender but while other countries celebrated, Poland s postwar 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. Maciek Chelmicki (Zbigniew Cybulski) embodies this conflict: outwardly a calculating assassin, his ultra-cool façade begins to crack when he badly botches a mission, falls in love with the barmaid Krystyna (Ewa Krzyzewska) 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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An excellent film, one of Wajda's best (his Varsovie trilogy is one of the great trilogies the cinema has made), finely restored (2K) plus a welcomed interview with the great... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Ninos Mikelides
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... Read morePublished on 10 Aug. 2012 by KaleHawkwood
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. Read morePublished on 12 July 2012 by Amazon Customer
This film is one of the world's undisputed masterpeices! No question. This reivew is simply to make you aware that there is now this stunning Blu-Ray version of it and it is really... Read morePublished on 6 Mar. 2012 by GVC
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... Read morePublished on 17 Oct. 2011 by Mr. D. T. Marchesi
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... Read morePublished on 1 Sept. 2011 by technoguy