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Understanding the Films of Andrzej Wajda Essay

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    Portraying intense love relationships throughout his war trilogy, Wajda creates significant romantic subplots that question if true love can exist during periods of war. Across these three films, Wajda highlights the idea that rules no longer apply to romantic relationships when love and politics mix. In “A Generation,” Wajda speaks on behalf of the tormented nation of Poland, and tells the stories of the masses of people bound by a common fate.

    Stach, who is the main character and the narrator of the film, is nothing but a young boy who is toying with danger. The young but more enlightened Dorota is the beautiful Communist that provokes Stach to join the anti-Nazi organization. The relationship that develops between Stach and Dorota is equal in meaning to that of Stach’s commitment to the cause: it is all a childish game. Drawn in by Dorota’s energetic spirit, Stach only becomes infatuated with her, initially that is where his motivation comes from and not the actual movement which she represents.

    Throughout the film Wajda creates this idea of collectivity when in actuality the characters were never a genuine group to begin with; not even Dorota and Stach in their proclamations of love. This is further conveyed in the scene where Stach, who has just left Dorota, is inside of a large empty heart that reads, “I shall wait for you. ” This works as a premonition of what is to come; Stach stands alone in his childish games and will do no waiting for Dorota. In the end, little tears were shed for their collapsed relationship, Dorota’s capture is just the reality of the struggle and the Stach must persist in the fight. Kanal,” the second in Wajda’s war trilogy, features meticulously combined narratives while following a band of surviving Polish Home Army soldiers in their last hours of life trying to avoid capture from the German Nazis. Before the soldiers begin their journey into misery and suffering in the sewers there is a great deal of sensuality.

    A brief period of relief offers us a chance to see them in their last hour of relaxation, playing music, contacting loved ones, sharing intimacies and striving as best they could to achieve some kind of normality, if there was any to strive for at all.

    During this period, Wise and Halinka are interrupted in bed together by Korab, “Now is not the time,” in which Wise respondes, “Now is precisely the time for it. ” This statement suggests that Wise is more than aware that the fight has reached a point where winning is actually impossible, but he refrains from adding, “because we are going to die anyway,” at the end of it. This narrative is justified further when looking at the quote, “This lack of any sort of vision led him to see the world as a place in which nothing existed outside of naked force. It was a world of decline and fall. (Alpha, 113) In Kanal, Wajda presents to us a shattered society where romantic relationships have become almost savagely surreal; they only happen in moments of weakness and self delusion and continued till it collapses. This is why the character of Halinka, who declares, “It is easier to die when you are in love,” is so superbly identifiable. Like her, the audience is given hope for the future through these romantic subplots (even while knowing beforehand that everyone was going to die) and our wishful hope is cruelly deceived as Wajda reminds us that, due to the circumstances, love cannot and will not save them.

    Ashes and Diamonds” is the final installment in Wajda’s war trilogy. This film reveals just how convoluted and difficult the reality of Wajda’s generation was. Set on the last day of the war, this film follows Maciek, a young Home Army soldier to remind us that while the end of the war may have meant the end of some hardships, it most definitely did not mean an immediate return to peace. Maciek is battle scarred and lacks self-control, a lack which causes his morals to be suspended between a past and a future Poland. When he is assigned to assassinate a Communist official his morals are tested.

    In the midst of carrying out this mission, Maciek meets Krystyna, a blond bartender. In order to attract her attention he carries out a rather flirtatious trick with his mug and then things become complicated. They immediately fall in love (or claim to) and quickly go to bed together, and this is when Maciek begins to question his devotion to the cause. Can he lead a “normal” life with Krystyna or should he continue a life of resistance? Without Krystyna, Maciek does not have the former option. Like Szczuka, Maciek is only a boy with a gun and he is too weak to leave the cause on his own, Krystyna offers that escape.

    Maciek says to Andrzej with Krystyna in the background, “Nothing in this country is serious anymore. ” Offering the notion that he is only using love as an excuse to escape to benefit him; he is doing his own thing. Through his flirtatious charm he proves to be doing just that: flirting with the idea of restoring his moral responsibility through a new conventional life of love. In the end, his words and actions toward Krystyna prove to mean nothing. Maciek is no longer trapped in constant fluctuation of not knowing what “doing his own thing” and a “normal” life.

    He now understands what doing his own thing is; he must kill and his enjoyment of doing so causes him to overact which confirms to be deeply destructive. Wajda’s three war films contain intense and complicated romantic subplots that connect on similar levels. Time and again, Wajda ultimately asks the question: does love save? To put it simply, it does not. It did not save Maciek and Krystyna. It did not save the many characters in Kanal. And it did not save Dorota and Stach. In a time of war where social relationships fall away, love exists only as an escape; but it will not rescue you.

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