Andrzej Wajda @ St Andrews, March 2017

on 28 March 2017 we held an evening seminar in commemoration of the great Polish director Andrzej Wajda (1926-2016 ) who had passed away in October the previous year.

Throughout his illustrious career, Wajda  directed fifty six films and authored thirty six clips. Many of his films had been adaptations of key texts of Polish literature (ASHES (1965), based on Stefan Zeromski; BIRCH WOOD (1970), based on Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz; THE WEDDING (1973), based on Stanislaw Wyspianski; PROMISED LAND (1975), based on Wladyslaw Reymony; THE MAIDS OF WILKO (1979), based on Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz; PAN  TADEUSZ (1999), based on Adam Mickiewicz). He had also adapted the work of Dostoyevski, Shakespeare and Joseph Conrad. Others reflected matters of history and memory, often linked to World War II and the Holocaust (including A GENERATION (1955), KANAL (1957), ASHES AND DIAMONDS (1958), LANDSCAPE AFTER BATTLE (1970), based on Tadeusz Borowski, A LOVE IN GERMANY (1983), KORCZAK (1990) and KATYN (2007)). Wajda’s name is also connected with some key films of the cinema of ‘moral anxiety’, reflecting on the communist period (MAN OF MARBLE (1977), MAN OF IRON (1981), WALESA: MAN OF HOPE (2013)) and of the period of post-socialism (MISS NOBODY (1996)). Other films where he focused on existential and moral dilemmas included EVERYTHING FOR SALE (1969), WITHOUT ANAESTHESIA (1978), THE CONDUCTOR (1980) and DANTON (1983)

Wajda, who worked not only in Poland but transnationally, was a recipient of a lifetime achievement award, in 2000, and his influence over world cinema at large — East and West — is undisputed. We discussed Wajda’s work with actors like Daniel Olbrychski, Andrzej Seweryn, Biguslaw Linda, Olgierd Lukaszewicz, Krystina Janda and Maja Komorowska. Focusing on his collaborations with Zbigniew Cybulski, who stars in ASHES AND DIAMONDS and is the subject of EVERYTHING FOR SALE, we read excerpts of John Burnside’s novel ASHLAND AND VINE (2017), which talks of episodes involving Cybulski. The writer than discusse dhis long-standing admiration for the director.

We screened Wajda’s classic ASHES AND DIAMONDS/Popiół i Diament (1958). Speakers included Prof. John Burnside and Prof. Dina Iordanova, Rohan Crickmar and Tomasz Hollanek. Rohan had prepared a video essay that included excerpts from a range of Wajda’s films, such as A GENERATION (1955), KANAL (1957), ASHES AND DIAMONDS (1958), INNOCENT SORCERERS (1960), PROMISED LAND (1975), MAN OF MARBLE (1977) and KATYN (2007).