Andrzej Wajda was one of the most outstanding creators of Polish cinematography. Movies that were directed by him have not only significantly influenced native cinematography but were also appreciated abroad (Master was awarded with an Honorary Oscar for his lifetime achievements). How did his road to greatness look like?
Andrzej Wajda was born in Suwalki, in 1926 and was a son of a professional serviceman and a teacher. In 1934 his father, Jakub Wajda was promoted to captain as a result of which the entire family moved to Radom. Unfortunately, after 3 years the soldier has left the family in order to prepare to defend Poland in World War II with 72 Infantry, then he was a victim of Katyn Forest massacre. His son, Andrzej, during the middle school was interested in art, particularly painting, so after the end of the war he has started studies on the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. In July 1949 he has changed his educational path and moved to Directing Department of Film School in Lodz.
The film debut of Andrzej Wajda was at the beginning of 50’s, when he created his school etudes: a short film ‘The Bad Boy’ (1951) based on Anton Czechow’s novel, documentary ‘The Pottery at Ilza’ (1951) and documentary ‘While you are sleeping’ (1953). None of this films was submitted to the graduation work, because the Master was not satisfied with the quality of them.
More commonly known, movie debut of the director was ‘A Generation’, that was created in 1954 based on the Bohdan Czeszko’s novel and was screened in the cinemas a year later. While shooting this move Wajda had an opportunity to use his own experiences of war, because the storyline tells about young activists of the National Guard, who organize conspiracy against the Nazis during World War II. Over the time this masterpiece became a part of so called war trilogy, that also included movies ‘Kanal’ (1956) and ‘Ashes and Diamonds’ (1958). Those were actually the productions, that made Wajda appreciated in the entire Europe and made him hailed as one of the most important creators od the new generation on the entire continent.
1959 was a year when the director made his first color film, which was ‘Lotna’. A year later took place a premiere of Innocent ‘Sorcerers’, which was a story about young people from the generation of jazz, rebellious and lonely in the surrounding world at the same time, which by the creator himself was defined as “one of the most politically neutral movies, that he has made”.
Even though the piece has aroused protest of PRL authorities, it actually touched on political matters in the least direct way. In the next film the Master returned to issues associated with Polish history. His next productions were ‘Samson’ (1961) which tells the story about a Jew trying to survive in occupied Warsaw, ‘Siberian Lady Macbeth’ (1961) about Siberian deportees, and novel coproduction ‘Love at Twenty’ (1962) in which Wajda tells a story of a relationship of a girl with an older boy, who unlike her remembers the times of occupancy.
One of the most surprising movies of the master remains ‘Pilate and Others’ (1972), which was based on Michaił Bułhakow’s novel ‘The Master and Margarita’. A very important piece in his career was shot in 1972 ‘The Wedding’ based on Stanislaw Wyspianski drama. What is interesting, in this movie he kept original, poetic dialogues. Two years later, in 1974, Wajda has made one of his most excellent masterpieces – ‘The Promised Land’ – that got a nomination to the Academy Award. This production dedicates much time to the place where the action happens, which was 19 century Lodz, that was positioned at the introduction to huge civilization changes. In 1976 Andrzej Wajda has accomplished his next great achievement, which was ‘Man of Marble’, based on the script written by Aleksander Scibor-Rylski. What’s interesting, the script itself was ready a few years earlier, yet since then it could not be made into a movie, because of the censorship. This film, which was also an acting debut of Krystyna Janda, tells a story about a directing student who discovers a dark truth about a forgotten work leader. A continuation of that production is ‘Man of Iron’ (1981), which action takes place in August 1980. An interesting fact is that it was the only Master’s film that was in a way created “to order” – Wajda was asked to make it by Shipyard workers. This masterpiece was awarded with Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival as well as third (after ‘The Promised Land’ and ‘The Maids of Wilko’, that are distinguished by strong for its time women’s subplot) nomination to an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Years later Wajda made the third part of the trilogy – ‘Walesa. Man of Hope’ (2013). His last nomination to the Academy Awards was given by the film ‘Katyń’ (2007), which tells about Katyn massacre and lie.
The Master passed away in 2016, at the age of 90. Before death he managed to shot his last masterpiece – ‘Afterimage’, which was supposed to be warn against the country’s intervention in art. The production tells about Władysław Strzemiński (1893-1952), the pioneer of the avant-garde in Poland in 20’s and 30’s 20 century, who has opposed the doctrine of socialist realism, which was a propaganda tool of the communist parties.