Andrzej Wajda

Andrzej Wajda (Polish: [ˈandʐɛj ˈvajda]; born 6 March 1926) is a Polish film and theatre director. Recipient of an honorary Oscar, he is possibly the most prominent member of the unofficial "Polish Film School" (active c. 1955 to 1963). He is known especially for a trilogy of war films: A Generation (1954), Kanał (1956) and Ashes and Diamonds (1958).

Four of his films have been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film: The Promised Land (1975),The Maids of Wilko (1979),Man of Iron (1981), and Katyń (2007).

    Early life

    Wajda was born in Suwałki, Poland, the son of Aniela (née Białowąs), a school teacher, and Jakub Wajda, an army officer. Wajda's father was murdered by the Soviets in 1940 in what came to be known as the Katyn massacre. In 1942 he joined the Polish resistance and served in the Armia Krajowa. After the war, he studied to be a painter at Kraków's Academy of Fine Arts before entering the Łódź Film School.


    After Wajda's apprenticeship to director Aleksander Ford, Wajda was given the opportunity to direct his own film. A Generation (1955) was one of Wajda's first major films. At the same time Andrzej Wajda began his work as a director in theatre, including such as Michael V. Gazzo's A Hatful of Rain (1959), Hamlet (1960), and Two for the Seesaw (1963) by William Gibson. Wajda made two more increasingly accomplished films, which developed further the anti-war theme of A Generation: Kanał (1956) (Special Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival in 1957, shared with Bergman's The Seventh Seal) and Ashes and Diamonds (1958) with Zbigniew Cybulski.

    While capable of turning out mainstream commercial fare (often dismissed as "trivial" by his critics[who?]), Wajda was more interested in works of allegory and symbolism, and certain symbols (such as setting fire to a glass of liquor, representing the flame of youthful idealism that was extinguished by the war) recur often in his films. Lotna (1959) is full of surrealistic and symbolic scenes and shots, but he managed to explore other styles, making new wave style Innocent Sorcerers (1960) with music by Krzysztof Komeda, starring Roman Polanski and Jerzy Skolimowski (who was also a co-script writer) in the episodes. Then Wajda directed Samson (1961), the story of Jacob, a Jewish boy, who wants to survive during the Nazi occupation of Poland. In the mid-1960s Wajda made The Ashes (1965) based on the novel by Polish writer Stefan Żeromski and directed several films abroad: Love at Twenty (1962), Siberian Lady Macbeth (1962) and Gates To Paradise (1968).

    In 1967, Cybulski was killed in a train accident, whereupon the director articulated his grief with Everything for Sale (1968), considered one of his most personal films, using the technique of a film-within-a-film to tell the story of a film maker's life and work.

    Andrzej Wajda (center) in 1970
    Wajda during filming in 1974

    The following year he directed an ironic satire Hunting Flies with the script written by Janusz Głowacki and a television film based upon Stanisław Lem's short story "Roly Poly".

    The 1970s were the most lucrative artistic period for Wajda, who made over ten films: Landscape After the Battle (1970), Pilate and Others (1971), The Wedding (1972) – the film version of the famous Polish poetic drama by Stanisław Wyspiański, The Promised Land (1974), Man of Marble (1976) – the film takes place in two time periods, the first film showing the episodes of Stalinism in Poland, The Shadow Line (1976), Rough Treatment (the other title: Without Anesthesia) (1978), The Orchestra Conductor (1980), starring John Gielgud; or two psychological and existential films based upon novels by Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz – The Birch Wood (1970) and The Maids of Wilko (1979). The Birch Wood was entered into the 7th Moscow International Film Festival where Wajda won the Golden Prize for Direction.

    Wajda continued to work in theatre, including Play Strindberg, Dostoyevsky's The Possessed and – Wajda's version of The Idiot, by Wyspiański, The Immigrants by Sławomir Mrożek, or .[]

    Wajda's later commitment to Poland's burgeoning Solidarity movement was manifested in Man of Iron (1981), a thematic sequel to The Man of Marble, with Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa appearing as himself in the latter film. The film sequence is loosely based on the life of Anna Walentynowicz, a hero of socialist labor [Stahanovite] turned dissident and alludes to events from real life, such as the recreation in Man of Iron of the firing of Anna Walentynowicz from the shipyard and the underground wedding of Bogdan Borusewicz to Alina Pienkowska.

    The director's involvement in this movement would prompt the Polish government to force Wajda's production company out of business. For the film, Wajda won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. In 1983 he directed Danton, starring Gérard Depardieu in the title role, a film set in 1794 (Year Two) dealing with the Post-Revolutionary Terror. Wajda showed how easy revolution can change into terror and starts to "eat its own children". But the film should also be seen in its historical context against the backdrop of the martial law in Poland, which can be referred to as its "Polish ambience." For this film Wajda was honoured by receiving the very prestigious Louis Delluc Award, he also gained a couple of Cesar Awards. In the 1980s he also made some important films like A Love in Germany (1983) featuring Hanna Schygulla, (1986) an adaptation of Tadeusz Konwicki's novel and The Possessed (1988) based on Dostoyevsky's novel, in which it is shown how terrorism begins. In theatre he prepared a very famous interpretation of Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment (1984) and other unique spectacles such as Antygone, his sequential Hamlet versions or an old Jewish play The Dybbuk.

    In 1989 he was the President of the Jury at the 16th Moscow International Film Festival.

    Since 1989

    In 1990 Andrzej Wajda was honoured by the European Film Awards for his lifetime achievement, only the third director to be so honoured, after Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman. In the early 1990s, he was elected a senator and also appointed artistic director of Warsaw's Teatr Powszechny. He continued to make films set during World War II, including Korczak (1990), a story about a Jewish-Polish doctor who takes care of orphan children, in (1993) and Holy Week (1995) specifically on Jewish-Polish relations. In 1994 Wajda presented his own film version of Dostoyevsky's novel The Idiot in the movie Nastasja, starring Japanese actor Tamasoburo Bando in the double role of Prince Mishkin and Nastasja. The film was beautifully photographed by Pawel Edelman, who subsequently became one of Wajda's great co-workers. In 1996 the director went in a different direction with Miss Nobody, a coming-of-age drama that explored the darker and more spiritual aspects of a relationship between three high-school girls. In 1999 Wajda released the epic film Pan Tadeusz, based on the epic poem of the Polish 19th-century romantic poet Adam Mickiewicz.

    A year later, at the 2000 Academy Awards, Wajda was presented with an honorary Oscar for his contribution to world cinema; he subsequently donated the award to Kraków's Jagiellonian University.[]

    In 2002 Wajda directed the comedy The Revenge, a film version of his 1980s theatre production, with Roman Polanski in one of the main roles. In February 2006, Wajda received an honorary Golden Bear for lifetime achievement at the Berlin International Film Festival. In 2007 Katyń was released, a well received film about the Katyn massacre, in which Wajda's father was murdered; the director also shows the dramatic situation of those who await their relatives (mothers, wives and children). The film was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2008.[] Wajda followed it with Tatarak (Sweet Rush – 2009) with Krystyna Janda as a main character. It is partly based upon a short Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz novel. A very important fragment is taken from Janda's private life. Sweet Rush turns to be a sort of deep, calm, and melancholic meditation about death and love. The film is dedicated to Edward Kłosiński, Janda's husband, a cinematographer and a long-time Wajda friend and co-worker who died of cancer the same year. For this film Andrzej Wajda was awarded by Alfred Bauer Prize at The Berlin International Film Festival in 2009. Recently he also got the Prix FIPRESCI during the European Film Awards Ceremony. Walesa. Man of Hope (Wałęsa. Człowiek z nadziei), Wajda's biography of Lech Wałęsa, based on a script by Janusz Głowacki and starring Robert Więckiewicz in the title role, had its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival on 5 September 2013.

    Andrzej Wajda has founded in Krakow/Cracow (1994) and has also founded (2002) (along with great Polish film maker Wojciech Marczewski) and leads his own film school [1] in which students take part in different film courses led by famous European film makers.

    Personal life

    Wajda has been married four times. His third wife was popular actress Beata Tyszkiewicz with whom he has a daughter Karolina (born 1967). His fourth and current wife is the theatre costume designer and actress Krystyna Zachwatowicz.[]


    • The Bad Boy (Zły chłopiec, 1951 short film)
    • The Pottery at Ilza (Ceramika ilzecka, 1951 short film)
    • While you are sleeping (Kiedy ty śpisz, 1953 short film)
    • A Generation (Pokolenie, 1954)
    • Towards the Sun (Idę do słońca, documentary on Xawery Dunikowski, 1955)
    • Kanał (1956)
    • Ashes and Diamonds (Popiół i diament 1958)
    • Lotna (1959)
    • Innocent Sorcerers (Niewinni czarodzieje, 1960)
    • Siberian Lady Macbeth (Powiatowa lady Makbet, 1961)
    • Samson (1961)
    • Love at Twenty (L'amour à vingt ans, 1962)
    • The Ashes (Popioly, 1965)
    • Everything for Sale (Wszystko na sprzedaż, 1968)
    • Roly Poly (Przekładaniec, 1968)
    • Gates to Paradise (Bramy Raju, 1968)
    • Hunting Flies (Polowanie na muchy, 1969)
    • The Birch Wood (Brzezina, 1970)
    • Landscape After the Battle (Krajobraz po bitwie, 1970)
    • Pilate and Others (Pilatus und andere, 1972)
    • The Wedding (Wesele, 1973)
    • The Promised Land (Ziemia obiecana, 1974)
    • The Shadow Line (Smuga cienia, 1976)
    • Man of Marble (Człowiek z marmuru, 1977)
    • Without Anesthesia aka Rough Treatment (Bez znieczulenia, 1978)
    • The Maids of Wilko (Panny z Wilka, 1979)
    • As years go by, as days go by (Z biegiem lat, z biegiem dni, 1980 TV series)
    • The Orchestra Conductor (Dyrygent, 1980)
    • Man of Iron (Człowiek z żelaza, 1981)
    • Danton (1983)
    • A Love in Germany (Eine Liebe in Deutschland, 1983)
    • A Chronicle of Amorous Accidents (Kronika wypadków miłosnych, 1985)
    • The French as seen by... (Proust contre la déchéance, 1988)
    • The Possessed (Les possédes, 1988)
    • Korczak (1990)
    • The Crowned-Eagle Ring (Pierścionek z orłem w koronie, 1992)
    • Nastasja (1994)
    • Holy Week (Wielki Tydzień, 1995)
    • Miss Nobody (Panna Nikt, 1996)
    • Pan Tadeusz (1999)
    • Bigda idzie (Bigda idzie!, 1999 TV theatre)
    • The Condemnation of Franciszek Klos (Wyrok na Franciszka Kłosa, 2000)
    • June night (Noc czerwcowa, 2001 TV theatre)
    • Broken Silence (Przerwane milczenie, 2002)
    • The Revenge (Zemsta, 2002)
    • Man of Hope (Czlowiek z nadziei, 2005 short film)
    • Katyń (2007)
    • Sweet Rush (Tatarak, 2009)
    • Walesa. Man of Hope (Wałęsa. Człowiek z nadziei, 2012)


    Man of Iron won the Palme d'Or at the 1981 Cannes Film Festival. The Promised Land won the Golden Prize at the 9th Moscow International Film Festival in 1975.

    Four of Wajda's works (The Promised Land, The Maids of Wilko, Man of Iron, and Katyń ) have been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. In 2000, Wajda received an honorary Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, as another Pole who received the Award after Warner Bros., Leopold Stokowski, Bronisław Kaper, Zbigniew Rybczyński, Janusz Kamiński, Allan Starski, Ewa Braun, Roman Polanski or Jan A. P. Kaczmarek.

    The Orchestra Conductor was entered into the 30th Berlin International Film Festival, where Andrzej Seweryn won the Silver Bear for Best Actor. In 1988, his film Les Possédés was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 38th Berlin International Film Festival. In 1996, his film Wielki tydzień won the Silver Bear for an outstanding artistic contribution at the 46th Berlin International Film Festival. The following year, his film Miss Nobody won an Honourable Mention at the 47th Berlin International Film Festival.

    See also


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