031 - Ashes And Diamonds (1958)

It's Poland and the final day of the Second World War, which seems like as good a reason as any for celebrating. The drinks are flowing and the banquette is set, so it's a jolly occasion all round. Not for all it seems.

While most of the country is joyous at the end of the Nazi occupation, a few have realised that during the rebuilding procedure, they could hike themselves a rise to power. From the ashes, diamonds will rise.

Maciek and Andrzej have been assigned a mission to assassinate the communist commander Szczuka. Upon failing their first attempt - where they mistakenly shot two cement plant workers - they are reassigned the mission where Szczuka is staying in Monopol - a reknowned hotel and bar.

Theatrical Poster
At the bar, a banquette is taking place for the newly appointed mayor, laid on by his assistant, Drewnowski - who himself is keen on a rise to power by any means possible and is pleased to take any side to achieve his ambitions. Whilst spending time at the bar Maciek shows his affections for the barmaid Krystyna and while they end up together Maciek misses an opportunity to kill Szczuka.

Maciek begins to rethink his life, wondering if he should forget about Szczuka and just continue with his own life, not wanting to continue killing and running. He is eventually talked around by Andrzej, who convinces him that what he does is for the people.

After killing Szczuka, Maciek goes to Andrzej, where he sees Drewnowski being pushed to the floor having been disowned by the mayor earlier in the evening for being drunk and causing a scene. Andrzej drives off in frustration leaving Drewnowski alone. Drewnowski calls out to Maciek who runs straight into a group of Polish guards. He is shot and dies.

I figured with this film I'd explain the whole storyline because it is very difficult to follow. There are so many things going on - perhaps 4 or 5 simultaneous scenes - that understanding a single character is difficult.

If you can follow it, however, then the moral of the story is quite rewarding, leading you to believe that your actions should be for the good of your country rather than for your own selfish reasons.

I know this film is considered to be the masterpiece of Wajda - the director - but to me it was a little confusing.