Photo: Jakub Kamiński/EPA Source: theguardian.com
Andrzej Wajda has died at the age of 90. Born in 1926 in the Polish town of Suwałki, he is regarded by many as the father of Polish cinema. Director of films including Kanał, Katyń and the Palme d’Or-winning Man of Iron, he was also awarded an Oscar for lifetime achievement.
Speaking about his birthplace and travels, Wajda tries to explain what drove him from one place to another, avoiding “staying in one place because life was somewhere else […]”
“I have never wanted to live in places where I was thrown by chance, instead I strove for places which – it seemed to me – I should reach.”
“So after the war ended I travelled to Krakow, because I thought that my destiny lies at the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts. Then I went to Lodz, because of the foundation of the Film School – the only one in existence at the time – where I thought my place was. Then I left Lodz for Warsaw, because it was where all the filmmaking decisions were made and, besides, a person simply ought to live in Warsaw. And then I returned to Krakow once more, because the Stary Theatre was here. It always seemed to me that life wasn’t here and now, not in this place where I was living, not in this film I was making – although every single one of my films and theatre productions was made with the conviction that it is meaningful and important. But I always thought that there is something more before me, that I should be running, striving, chasing this something… it is very difficult to define. I think that escape is the most important theme of my life, continually linking my past to the things that will happen tomorrow.”
Excerpt of a speech from the TV documentary ‘Kredyt i debet’ (Credit and Debit), 1999.
Wajda’s last film ‘Powidoki’ (Afterimage), a biopic on avant-garde artist Władysław Strzemiński, presents the political tensions of the Stalinist period in Poland through a man’s battle for artistic freedom in a period where the Socialist Realist doctrine permeated the arts.
“In five decades and over forty films, Andrzej Wajda very intelligently and sensitively explores the plight of human beings caught in the chaos of history. Often at odds with government censors, his films not only chronicle the politics of Eastern Europe, they paved the way for change.”
Jane Fonda, Academy Awards 2000