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Ashes and Diamonds (1958)

Popiól i diament (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama, Romance, War | 29 May 1961 (USA)
During the German occupation noble, bourgeois and worker's partisan groups lived in peace with another. On the first day of freedom they start to fight each other. In these fights is weaved a most tender love story.

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(novel), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 2 BAFTA Film Awards. Another 1 win. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Ewa Krzyzewska ...
Waclaw Zastrzezynski ...
Szczuka
Adam Pawlikowski ...
Andrzej
...
Drewnowski
Jan Ciecierski ...
Portier
Stanislaw Milski ...
Pieniazek
Artur Mlodnicki ...
Kotowicz
Halina Kwiatkowska ...
Staniewiczowa
Ignacy Machowski ...
Waga
Zbigniew Skowronski ...
Slomka
...
Stefka (as Barbara Kraftówna)
Aleksander Sewruk ...
Swiecki
Zofia Czerwinska ...
Barmaid Lili
Wiktor Grotowicz ...
Franek Pawlicki (as W. Grotowicz)
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Storyline

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 <mrkevvy@pathcom.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Romance | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

29 May 1961 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ashes and Diamonds  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (original: 108')

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Because of the film's nihilistic tone, the Polish authorities were not keen on it being exhibited outside of the country. Until a low-level official had a print shipped out to the Venice Film Festival where it played to great acclaim. See more »

Goofs

Majek is shot in the back while running away from military, but in the following scenes his wounds show only in the chest and not in his back. See more »

Quotes

Krystyna: 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...
Maciek Chelmicki: ...Or will the ashes hold the glory of a starlike diamond... /The Morning Star of everlasting triumph.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Tatarak (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

Czerwone maki
(Red Poppies) (uncredited)
Music by Alfred Schütz and lyrics by Feliks Konarski
Performed by Grazyna Staniszewska
See more »

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User Reviews

 
An essential historical film and visual masterpiece
17 October 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"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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