Ashes and Diamonds (film)  

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Ashes and Diamonds (Polish: Popiół i diament) is a 1958 Polish drama film directed by Andrzej Wajda, based on the 1948 novel by Polish writer Jerzy Andrzejewski. Starring Zbigniew Cybulski and Ewa Krzyżewska, it completed Wajda's war films trilogy, following A Generation (1954) and Kanal (1956). The action of Ashes and Diamonds takes place in 1945, shortly after World War II. The main protagonist of the film, former Home Army soldier Maciek Chełmicki, is acting in the anti-Communist underground. Maciek receives an order to kill Szczuka, the local secretary of the Polish Workers' Party. Over time, Chełmicki increasingly doubts if his task is worth doing.

Ashes and Diamonds, although based on the novel that directly supported the postwar Communist system in Poland, was subtly modified in comparison with the source material. Wajda sympathized with the soldiers of the Polish independence underground; thus, he devoted most of the attention to Chełmicki. During the three-month development of Ashes and Diamonds, the director made drastic changes to the baseline scenario, thanks to his assistant director Janusz Morgenstern, as well as Cybulski, who played the leading role. The film received permission from the authorities to be distributed only through Andrzejewski's intercession. The film did not receive permission to be screened at the main competition at the Cannes Film Festival. However, Ashes and Diamonds appeared at the Venice Film Festival, where it won the FIPRESCI award.

At first, Ashes and Diamonds met positive critical reception, both in Poland and worldwide. However, after the Revolutions of 1989, it was criticized for falsifying the collective memory of Polish partisans. Nevertheless, the film has maintained its reputation as one of the most famous Polish motion pictures in history.


On 8 May 1945, at the end of World War II, near a small country church, former Home Army soldiers, Maciek, Andrzej and Drewnowski, prepare to assassinate Konrad Szczuka, a political opponent and a secretary of Polish Workers' Party. The ambush fails, as the attackers later learn that they have mistakenly killed two innocents.Template:Sfn

Andrzej and Maciek's superior, Major Waga, learns of the failed assassination attempt. Waga orders Andrzej and Maciek to attempt the mission for a second time. They come to the Hotel Monopol Restaurant, where a banquet in honour of the victorious war begins, but the combatants do not participate. While sitting in the bar, Maciek and Andrzej listen to the song "The Red Poppies of Monte Cassino" and reminisce over their fallen comrades. In honour of them, Maciek lights several glasses of rectified spirit on fire. Their hapless comrade Drewnowski gets drunk at the bar, where he discusses career prospects in postwar Poland with Pieniążek, a representative of the democratic press.Template:Sfn

During the party, he has a flirtatious conversation with a barwoman named Krystyna and invites her to his room. Afterwards, Maciek goes to his hotel room to check his gun. Krystyna comes to his room after her shift ends. As they lay naked in bed, they realize they are in love, but Krystyna doesn't want to become attached as Maciek doesn't plan to stay in town for long. They decide to go for a walk. It begins to rain, so Krystyna and Maciek decide to find shelter in a ruined church. Krystyna notices a poem inscribed on the wall, and Maciek recites it from memory in a somber tone. The lovers say their goodbyes, with Maciek promising he's going to try to "change things" so he can stay with her.

Maciek returns to the bar where he discusses his sense of duty and obligation to the cause with Andrzej. However, Andrzej is unsympathetic to his plight and says Maciek will be a deserter if he does not fulfill his obligation to assassinate Szczuka. Meanwhile, a completely drunk Drewnowski spoils the banquet, covering the other guests with foam from a fire extinguisher, and leaves the ball in shame with his intended career as a Communist functionary in ruins. After the reception, Szczuka learns that his son Marek has been arrested for joining an underground militia.Template:Sfn

Maciek waits for Szczuka to leave the hotel to meet his captured son, follows him, and shoots him to death. The next morning, Maciek plans to leave Ostrowiec by train. He tells Krystyna that he was unable to "change things," leaving her heartbroken. She tells him to leave without saying another word, which he does. The hotel guests dance to a pianist and band playing Chopin's "Military" Polonaise in A Major. On the way to the train station, Miacek observes Andrzej beating Drewnowski for his newfound, opportunistic support for the underground. Maciek flees when Drewnowski calls his name. He accidentally runs into some soldiers of the Polish People's Army and draws his pistol in panic. They shoot and fatally wound him. Maciek escapes to a garbage dump, but he collapses and dies in agony.Template:Sfn


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