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Maciek, a young Resistance fighter, is ordered to kill Szczuka, a Communist district leader, on the last day of World War II. Though killing has been easy for him in the past, Szczuka was a fellow soldier, and Maciek must decide whether to follow his orders. Written by
Kevin Dorner <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Glasses of vodka are set alight which burn for an unnaturally long length of time and with a bigger flame than expected, suggesting a purer fuel was used in the film, such as petrol. Moreover, when the final flame dies (c.41 minutes) no liquid remains in the glass. Only the alcohol content is flammable in any glass of spirit and a residue of water would be left behind with even the very strongest of Polish vodkas. See more »
So often, are you as a blazing torch with flames/ of burning rags falling about you flaming, /you know not if flames bring freedom or death. /Consuming all that you must cherish /if ashes only will be left, and want Chaos and tempest...
...Or will the ashes hold the glory of a starlike diamond... /The Morning Star of everlasting triumph.
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An essential historical film and visual masterpiece
"Ashes and Diamonds" is both an essential historical film and a visual masterpiece. Set in the first days of Soviet occupation following World War II, the film examines the moral dilemmas of the protagonist, Maciek--a young rebel hit-man-- in following through with the assassination of a leading communist party member--Sczcuka--who will soon be empowered as a means of forming a puppet communist government in Poland. The film is not limited to the perspective of the protagonist, and alternates between the moral dilemmas of each of the characters in fulfilling predetermined Soviet agendas in the formation of a communist Poland.
The visual composition of the film is as masterful as the complexity of the characters and plot. Despite the notoriously bad film technology in the Soviet states and the constraints of Socialist Realism, the film manages not only to capture the potential richness of black and white, but also manages to avoid the standard pitfalls of over-zealous editing that often destroy other contemporary Soviet films. The frames are longer shots in general, and forced schematization through editing is all but absent. The precise composition of each scene throughout the film provides the visual coherency that would otherwise be imposed by careful editing; as an example, see the scene in which Maciek is underneath the staircase in the lobby of the hotel towards the end of the film, or the final "Polish" dance scene.
I would highly recommend some research into the political transitions of Poland in the years directly following WWI before viewing this film for the first time; this film was made for a particular audience who clearly understood certain cultural and historical references that a modern Western audience will inevitably miss (ie. "Were you in Warsaw?"). The thematic and emotional complexity of the film is also enhanced by an understanding of Polish history. I would highly recommend this film for any class examining Eastern Europe or Soviet Russia (which is the context in which I was introduced to this film in particular), or to anyone who would like to better understand the complexity of Cold War politics from a perspective behind the Iron Curtain.
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