Ashes and Diamonds (1958): Wajda’s Last Panel in Trilogy (A Generation, Kanal)

Directed by Andrzej Wajda, Ashes and Diamonds, a tale about the personal and political confusions in post-war Poland, is one of his very best works (and he has directed many good films).

The picture is the concluding panel of Wajda’s trilogy about WWII that began with “A Generation” and continued with “Kanal.”

The entire tale takes place on the final day (actually less than 24 hours) of the War in a small town, where a young freedom fighter, played by the appealing actor Zbigniew Cybulski, is forced to assassinate another Pole (a Party officer) for being a communist, even though both are committed to the idea of a new Poland.

It’s a provocative film about politics, taking sides, and the effect of the positions we occupy on our everyday life. While the commitment to a better social order is steady, particular allegiances shift under the changing conditions. Broader political context is crucial since the Russians are about to move in and replace the German occupiers.

Labeled as the Polish James Dean, Cybulski had a promising career, until his life was cut short by a tragedy, when he was killed in a railway accident. For some critics, Cybulski was a cross between Dean and John Lennon (due to sporting similar wire-rimmed glasses), and the irony of that comparison is that Dean was dead in 1955, age 25, and Lennon was killed in 1980, at age 40, the same age that Cybulski was.


Zbigniew Cybulski
Ewa Krzyzanoewska
Adam Pawlikowski.

Running time: 105 Minutes

Oscar Alert

Wajda received an Honorary Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.