I have been sitting on this film since February. I finally watched it this week. I am fooling myself in thinking I will rewatch it and write a long post. It is stories within stories and flashbacks within flashbacks. Busty, randy women abound. It stars Zbigniew Cybulski in comical mode. Enjoyable, but confusing. My verdict stands and I am moving on!
This film follows a company of resistance fighters who have been backed into a corner during the Warsaw Uprising of WWII. They have no real hope of continuing the fight and decide to retreat to the sewers. Instead of being an escape route, the sewers are more like an inescapable labyrinth designed to drive you crazy until you come up or die.
The beauty of the film is in the way director Andrzej Wajda presents us with a company of proud and hearty resistance fighters then lets us watch them descend into shit–literally and metaphorically. We start in the open streets and watch the walls go up and move in closer and closer. The lighting also gets darker and darker, which does mean you a need decent print in order to enjoy the film. That’s the reason I am not posting any screenshots. The version I have to take screenshots from is no good and you would see almost nothing but black.
The film is the second in a trilogy by Wajda about Polish resistance during WWII. While Ashes And Diamonds has the Polish James Dean and A Generation is reminiscent of De Sica and the Gorky trilogy, I think this is the best of the three. Ultimately, it’s the ending that makes it all work as well as it does. Without stating the ending explicitly, think of The Great Escape and Das Boot.
I highly recommend it.
|Norman (Scott Wilson) and Emilia (Maja Komorowska)|
In 1946, Norman (Scott Wilson) is assigned to be a driver for a commission looking into the mass execution of American Airmen by Nazi’s in Poland. While taking a leak on what he thinks is just a bombed out car, he notices there is a woman in the car painting. Thus begins an unlikely relationship between him and the Polish woman named Emilia (Maja Komorowska). The main barrier between them is also their strongest bond: the language barrier. He tracks down an interpreter and they sit at a table, he on one end, her on the other, and the translator in between. The translator is a much younger man and while trying to translate, Norman and Emilia are able to understand each other even when he can’t and they laugh. He understands the languages, but can’t understand all the other forms of communication nor their feelings or situations.
As time passes, they are able to cross enough of the language barrier to communicate with words as well. However, the power of the film is in how their relationship exists beyond words. I particularly love the urgency, desperation, and desire that comes out when they dance.
Around them is a Poland in ruins, a dying mother, and the up and coming Communist party. The characters are often surrounded by an overly bright light source that drowns out everything else along with a hand-held camera that both create an ethereal quality. Without ruining it, the film ends in fantasy, but the reality of the events that unfold during the course of the film are completely grounded in actuality.
All that said, it just didn’t quite grip me enough to fully invest in the characters so I can only recommend it.