Andrzej Wajda

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Andrzej Wajda
Andrzej Wajda OFF Plus Camera 2012 (cropped).jpg
Wajda in 2012
Born Andrzej Witold Wajda
(1926-03-06)6 March 1926
Suwałki, Second Polish Republic
Died 9 October 2016(2016-10-09) (aged 90)
Warsaw, Poland
Alma mater National Film School in Łódź
Occupation Film director, producer, screenwriter
Years active 1951–2016

Andrzej Witold Wajda (Polish: [ˈandʐɛj ˈvajda]; 6 March 1926 – 9 October 2016) was a Polish film and theatre director. Recipient of an Honorary Oscar[1] and the Palme d'Or,[2] he was a prominent member of the "Polish Film School". He was known especially for his trilogy of war films consisting of A Generation (1954), Kanał (1956) and Ashes and Diamonds (1958).[3]

Four of his films have been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film: The Promised Land (1975),[4] The Maids of Wilko (1979),[5] Man of Iron (1981) and Katyń (2007).[6]

Early life[edit]

Wajda was born in Suwałki,[7] Poland, the son of Aniela (née Białowąs), a school teacher, and Jakub Wajda, an army officer.[8] Wajda's father was murdered by the Soviets in 1940 in what came to be known as the Katyn massacre.[9] In 1942 he joined the Polish resistance and served in the Home Army. After the war, he studied to be a painter at Kraków's Academy of Fine Arts before entering the Łódź Film School.[10]

Early career[edit]

After Wajda's apprenticeship to director Aleksander Ford, Wajda was given the opportunity to direct his own film. A Generation (1955) was his first major film. At the same time 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.[11]

While capable of turning out mainstream commercial fare (often dismissed as "trivial" by critics), Wajda was more interested in works of allegory[12] and symbolism,[13] 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[14][15] (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[16] (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.The following year he directed an ironic satire Hunting Flies[17] with the script written by Janusz Głowacki and a television film based upon Stanisław Lem's short story "Roly Poly".[18]

Artistic recognition[edit]

Andrzej Wajda (center), c. 1970

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; and two psychological and existential films based upon novels by Jarosław IwaszkiewiczThe Birch Wood (1970) and The Maids of Wilko[19] (1979). The Birch Wood was entered into the 7th Moscow International Film Festival where Wajda won the Golden Prize for Direction.[20]

Wajda continued to work in theatre, including Play Strindberg, Dostoyevsky's The Possessed and Nastasja Filippovna – Wajda's version of The Idiot, November Night by Wyspiański, The Immigrants by Sławomir Mrożek, The Danton Affair or The Dreams of Reason.[21]

Wajda during filming in 1974

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 Stakhanovite turned dissident and alludes to events from real life, such as the firing of Walentynowicz from the shipyard and the underground wedding of Bogdan Borusewicz to Alina Pienkowska.[22] 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. Made against the backdrop of the martial law in Poland, Wajda showed how easily revolution can change into terror and starts to "eat its own children."[23] For this film Wajda was honoured with the Louis Delluc Prize and a César Award for Best Director. In the 1980s he also made A Love in Germany (1983) featuring Hanna Schygulla, The Chronicle of Amorous Incidents (1986) an adaptation of Tadeusz Konwicki's novel and The Possessed (1988) based on Dostoyevsky's novel. In theatre he prepared an 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.[24]

Career after 1990[edit]

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[25] (1990), a story about a Jewish-Polish doctor who takes care of orphan children, in The Crowned-Eagle Ring (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,[26] starring Japanese actor Tamasoburo Bando in the double role of Prince Mishkin and Nastasja. The film was 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,[27] 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,[28] 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;[29] he subsequently donated the award to Kraków's Jagiellonian University.[30] In 2002, Wajda directed The Revenge, a film version of his 1980s comedy 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.[31] 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.[32]

Wajda followed it with Sweet Rush (2009) with Krystyna Janda as a main character. It is partly based upon a short Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz novel. 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 Wajda was awarded by Alfred Bauer Prize at the 2009 Berlin International Film Festival. He received the Prix FIPRESCI during the 2009 European Film Awards. 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 2013 Venice International Film Festival.

Andrzej Wajda founded The Japanese Centre of Art and Technology in Kraków in 1994. In 2002 he founded and led his own film school with Polish filmmaker Wojciech Marczewski. Students of Wajda School take part in different film courses led by famous European film makers.[33]

Personal life and death[edit]

Wajda was married four times. His third wife was actress Beata Tyszkiewicz with whom he had a daughter, Karolina (born 1967). His fourth wife was the theatre costume designer and actress Krystyna Zachwatowicz.[34] Wajda died in Warsaw on 9 October 2016 at the age of 90 from pulmonary failure.[35][3]


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.[36] 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.

In 1988, his film Les Possédés was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 38th Berlin International Film Festival.[37] In 1996, his film Wielki tydzień won the Silver Bear for an outstanding artistic contribution at the 46th Berlin International Film Festival.[38] The following year, his film Miss Nobody won an Honourable Mention at the 47th Berlin International Film Festival.[39] Wajda received an honorary Golden Bear for lifetime achievement at the 56th Berlin International Film Festival in 2006.[31]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Andrzej Wajda, Towering Auteur of Polish Cinema, Dies at 90". 10 October 2016. Retrieved 10 October 2016 – via The New York Times. 
  2. ^ France-Presse, Agence (9 October 2016). "Acclaimed Polish film director Andrzej Wajda dies aged 90". Retrieved 10 October 2016 – via The Guardian. 
  3. ^ a b Natale, Richard (9 October 2016). "Andrzej Wajda, Celebrated Polish Director, Dies at 90". Retrieved 10 October 2016. 
  4. ^ "The 48th Academy Awards (1976) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 18 March 2012. 
  5. ^ "The 52nd Academy Awards (1980) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 8 June 2013. 
  6. ^ Etkind, Alexander; Finnin, Rory; Blacker, Uilleam; Fedor, Julie; Lewis, Simon; Mälksoo, Maria; Mroz, Matilda (24 April 2013). "Remembering Katyn". John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved 10 October 2016 – via Google Books. 
  7. ^ Lincoln, Ross A. (10 October 2016). "Andrzej Wajda Dies: Oscar & Palme d'Or-Winning Director Was 90". Retrieved 10 October 2016. 
  8. ^ "Andrzej Wajda Biography (1926?-)". Retrieved 14 August 2012. 
  9. ^ "Katyn, Andrzej Wajda, 118 mins, (15)". 19 June 2009. Retrieved 10 October 2016. 
  10. ^ "Andrzej Wajda – Twórca –". Retrieved 10 October 2016. 
  11. ^ "Andrzej Wajda, Oscar-Winning Polish Director, Dies at 90". Retrieved 10 October 2016. 
  12. ^ "Legendary Polish director Andrzej Wajda dies". Retrieved 10 October 2016. 
  13. ^ Storey, Thomas. "Man Of Hope: Andrzej Wajda's Solidarity Trilogy". Retrieved 10 October 2016. 
  14. ^ design, Tomasz Wygoda – code, Katarzyna Lezenska – content, Belin Czechowicz -. "Andrzej Wajda. Official Website of Polish movie director – Films – "Siberian Lady Macbeth"". Retrieved 10 October 2016. 
  15. ^ "Siberian Lady Macbeth". Retrieved 10 October 2016. 
  16. ^ design, Tomasz Wygoda – code, Katarzyna Lezenska – content, Belin Czechowicz -. "Andrzej Wajda. Official Website of Polish movie director – Films – "Everything For Sale"". Retrieved 10 October 2016. 
  17. ^ design, Tomasz Wygoda – code, Katarzyna Lezenska – content, Belin Czechowicz -. "Andrzej Wajda. Official Website of Polish movie director – Films – "Hunting Flies"". Retrieved 10 October 2016. 
  18. ^ "". Retrieved 10 October 2016. 
  19. ^ Martin, Teena (6 March 2016). "Poland marks 90 birthday of leading filmmaker Andrzej Wajd". Retrieved 10 October 2016. 
  20. ^ "7th Moscow International Film Festival (1971)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 3 April 2014. Retrieved 22 December 2012. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ Michael Szporer, Solidarity: The Great Workers Strike of 1980. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2012
  23. ^ Szporer, Mieczyslaw [Michael] (Winter 1983–1984). "Andrzej Wajda's Reign of Terror: Danton's Polish Ambiance". Film Quarterly. 37:2: 27–34. 
  24. ^ "16th Moscow International Film Festival (1989)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 16 March 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2013. 
  25. ^ Willard, Dan (23 November 2015). "Korczak (1990)". Retrieved 10 October 2016. 
  26. ^ "miss nobody wajda – Google Search". Retrieved 10 October 2016. 
  27. ^ Elley, Derek (16 March 1997). "Review: 'Miss Nobody'". Retrieved 10 October 2016. 
  28. ^ "Central Europe Review – Film: Wajda's Pan Tadeusz". Retrieved 10 October 2016. 
  29. ^ Storozynski, Alex (March 26, 2000). "Poland's Movie Conscience: Academy Honors Andrzej Wajda for his films of freedom". The New York Daily News. p. 6. Retrieved 13 September 2016. 
  30. ^ "Polish film-maker donates oscar to university". The Vancouver Sun (Final Edition). Vancouver, B.C. April 7, 2000. p. D9. 
  31. ^ a b "Prizes & Honours 2006". Berlin International Film Festival. Retrieved 10 October 2016. 
  32. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (18 June 2009). "Katyn". Retrieved 10 October 2016 – via The Guardian. 
  33. ^ "Strona Wajda School & Studio tymczasowo niedost pna". Retrieved 10 October 2016. 
  34. ^ "Krystyna Zachwatowicz-Wajda – Twórca –". Retrieved 10 October 2016. 
  35. ^ "Polish film director Andrzej Wajda dies". 10 October 2016. Retrieved 10 October 2016 – via 
  36. ^ "9th Moscow International Film Festival (1975)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  37. ^ "Berlinale: 1988 Programme". Retrieved 6 March 2011. 
  38. ^ "Berlinale: 1996 Prize Winners". Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  39. ^ "Berlinale: 1997 Prize Winners". Retrieved 8 January 2012. 

External links[edit]