Regarded as one of the greatest of all Polish films from its premiere in October 1958, Andrzej Wajda's third feature Ashes and Diamonds retains that stature over half a century later.
The entire film takes place on 8th May 1945, when the war in Europe ended with Germany's formal surrender – but while other countries celebrated, Poland's postwar power struggle was only just beginning. In depicting the various factions jockeying for position, including ambitious Communists, aristocratic patriots, cynical journalists and anti-Nazi rebels recently emerged from the Warsaw sewers, Wajda brilliantly anatomises a riven country desperately trying to find its identity at a time when a fifth of its population had recently been killed and many more driven into exile. Maciek Chelmicki (Zbigniew Cybulski) embodies this conflict: outwardly a calculating assassin, his ultra-cool façade begins to crack when he badly botches a mission, falls in love with the barmaid Krystyna (Ewa Krzyzewska) and dares to dream of a life outside the armed resistance that's characterised his entire adult life. His all too human indecision makes him Polish culture's Hamlet, and Cybulski's performance remains iconic to this day.
Ashes and Diamonds will be released on UK dual format (DVD and Blu-ray, the latter for the first time in the UK) by Arrow as part of the Arrow Academy label on 3rd October 2011 at the RRP of £24.99.
Featuring a new 2K resolution restoration of the film image and sound transferred from 35mm, the disc will have the following extras:
- Interview with director Andrzej Wajda on Ashes & Diamonds;
- Comprehensive booklet by writer and film historian Michael Brooke, including new writing on the film, a re-print of Marek Hendrykowsk's monograph on ‘Ashes & Diamonds', Andrzej Wajda's lecture on 'Cinema Past and Present' and more;
- Artwork presentation packaging including three original posters and a newly commissioned artwork cover.