The Political Films of Andrzej Wajda: Dialogism in Man of Marble, Man of Iron, and Danton

The Political Films of Andrzej Wajda: Dialogism in Man of Marble, Man of Iron, and Danton

The Political Films of Andrzej Wajda: Dialogism in Man of Marble, Man of Iron, and Danton

The Political Films of Andrzej Wajda: Dialogism in Man of Marble, Man of Iron, and Danton


Andrzej Wajda is considered one of Poland's - many would say the world's - greatest film directors. During the thirty-five years of his activity in film, theatre or television, his work, whether strong or weak, always arouses strong emotions and provokes intense debates in the media. His films deal with historical and political issues concerning Polish character and the nature of political power. Controversial, painful, stimulating and cinematically beautiful, they never fail to fully engage the spectator. This is particularly true for his major political films, which form the basis of the study. Applying Bakhtin's concept of dialogism, the author shows how a creative interaction between the image on the screen and the viewer is established through Wajda's films. At the same time, she offers a detailed analysis of the historical events leading up to the collapse of the Socialist system in Poland.

Janina Falkowska is Professor in the Film Studies Department at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada, specializing in East-Central European and Western European cinemas. Her publications include History, Politics And Nostalgia In Andrzej Wajda's Films (Berghahn Books 2007), National Cinemas in Postwar East-Central Europe (ed.), and, co-authored with Marek Haltof, The New Polish Cinema (Flicks Books 2003).


Andrzej Wajda is one of the greatest Polish film directors; indeed, he is considered by many film critics to be one of the most important masters of world cinema. Next to Krzysztof Penderecki and Witold Lutoslawski, he is also regarded as a distinguished ambassador of Polish culture and art. Moreover, he is said to have exerted a great influence on a whole generation of filmmakers not only in Poland but in other Eastern European countries and the former Soviet Union.

An artistic presence in Polish culture for thirty-five years, Andrzej Wajda has been extremely successful despite some setbacks -- he has created many superb films but has also produced some of lesser quality. He has also been active in the theatre and in television. His artistic life has never failed to elicit violent responses from audiences. Wajda's films have always aroused emotions of both love and hatred, and stimulated long political discussions in the media. Most of his films deal with historical and political issues of importance to the Polish society, and, consequently, provoke never- ending discussions on the fate of Poland, its glorification and its restoration; the essence of the Polish character; the nature of political power; and the convolutions of Polish history.

Wajda has often said of himself, "I am a Polish film director," which is in his case not an empty declaration. His films, with few exceptions, can be read as an incessant contention: how to be a Pole. However, "Polishness" is not the only theme of his films. He deals with historical and political questions of his time and his country -- the period after the Second World War; the moral concerns of the 1950s and 1960s; the rise of Solidarity; the overthrow of the Socialist system; and the Jewish question. His films never treat these historical processes in an impersonal or abstract way; people are always presented in context, both as political subjects and as ordinary human beings.

In Wajda's films an individual is shown as either trying to oppose the historical reality or as annihilated by it. Wajda defends . . .

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