The first Wajda I saw was Danton, when it came out in the 1983. Before I even knew who Wajda was. It made me think that the French Revolution explained all subsequent revolutions, and proceeded to buy books about the events of 1789 onwards to see how the film did the book, as it were. When you’ve read the books you probably feel the same things as watching the film. One of these is that revolutions are plays for power by the middle-classes, who when they find their revolutionary principles of how society ought work don’t work, force them on everyone. In the film, Robespierre was miffed because Danton seemed to be both a man of the people and getting rich off the proceeds.
But Wajda and many others seemed to be saying it was made with more recent event in Poland in mind. Who was Danton meant to represent in that case? Lech Walesa? Don’t know – but he became pretty prosperous, so who knows. It’s complicated.
Poland has always been a devotedly catholic country, though the communist years pressed down on the church, quite naturally, because it was another focus of power and influence. With the rise of Solidarność [‘Solidarity’] eventually led by Walesa, there was this strange combination of worker organisation – with the involvement of the dissident intelligentsia, which one would assume to be Left politically – and the way the church had helped and been at the intellectual core of the movement. Walesa a devote Catholic. The Pope a Pole and the rest.
Then, I’ve just learned, there was Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, Sollicitudo rei socialis, 30 December 1987, in which he “identifies the concept of solidarity with the poor and marginalized as a constitutive element of the Gospel and human participation in the common good.”
Just bought the Artificial Eye DVD of Katin, to watch a late Wajda. The long interview with Wajda on disk is a must. He talks film but also much of the surrounding social and political issues which gives it a context.
Kieslowski has been a specialism of mine. Seen pretty much all his films except the very early documentaries, which I know from reading are really a must if you are looking how a director under communism found he was obliged to turn to drama to film honestly.
The lesser but still worth it, Amator [Camera Buff], is a good way to look at this business of how to get around censorship. There is at least one longform post in COTA on Amator. Probably two. Don’t take them as professional analysis! A mere groping about of an enthusiast. I’m primarily concerned in film with how it presents the story, hence my focus on cinematography in many of these posts.
So I’ve done a bit of Polish Film School cinema: Wajda talks of Katin being perhaps the last of the Polish Film School.
RIP Andrzej Wajda, Humanist Auteur Who Inspired Polanski, Scorsese, and Coppola
Scout Tafoya, No Film School, 10 Oct 2016 ~ longform
Andrzej Wajda’s Ten Best Films
by Michał Oleszczyk, Roger Ebert, 10 Oct 2016