Criterion's boxed set of Andrzej Wajda's first three films, branded as the director's War Trilogy, finally makes available "A Generation" on DVD. (The second and third in the series - "Kanal" and "Ashes and Diamonds" - were previously released by Polart.)
Wajda made 3 short films during his film school years before getting a chance to direct his first motion picture in 1955, and this handsomely designed release of "A Generation" also includes Wajda's second short - "Ceramics from Ilza," made in 1951. A straightforward documentary on the regional pottery industry, "Ceramics" lacks the grim atmosphere so prevalent in the War Trilogy, and is a surprisingly polished production for a student film, with the young Wajda using intelligent, literate narration to chronicle the creation of ornate clay figurines and dishes.
In choosing Bohdan Czeszo's novel "Pokolenie" for a feature debut, co-writers Wajda and author Czeszo kept the focus on the story's three main characters: troubled youths who seem to join the resistance because their everyday lives are redolent with dreary work, low wages, and murderous fear tactics by the Nazi soldiers. (A particularly shocking scene involves the dangling cadavers of rebels, caught by the Nazis, and hung from the lampposts, so all the workers are reminded to obey the invading Aryans.)
As with the other titles in the War Trilogy, Criterion's added a half-hour interview with director Wajda. Taped in December of 2003, the meaty session - with additional insight by critic Jerzy Plazewski.- presents a personal portrait of Poland 's pre- and post-war film industry, and follows Wajda's gradual move from painter to filmmaker. Both men discuss the trials of working under the fist of the Soviet empire, and the film's popular reception within Poland , and Soviet Block countries. The chubby DVD booklet also adds further historical details, and a substantive still gallery gathers lots of vintage images.
"A Generation" is also notable for Roman Polanski's film debut, where he plays a groupie from a local resistance gang. (Fresh from college, Polanski had already acted in several plays, and as he describes in his 1984 autobiography, "Roman by Polanski," several scenes were reshot to placate government censors, and enhance the governing pro-Soviet ideology.)
Criterion's Andrzej Wajda War Trilogy boxed set includes new transfers of A Generation, Kanal, and Ashes and Diamonds.
© 2006 Mark R. Hasan