Magazine article Screen International

'Afterimage': Warsaw Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Afterimage': Warsaw Review

Article excerpt

The last work of Poland's most revered postwar filmmaker, Andrzej Wajda (Promised Lands, Pan Tadeusz), is a fiercely committed obituary of Wladyslaw Strzeminski, one of his country's most strikingly visionary contemporary artists, victimised by the communist regime all the way to his death in 1952. As played by Boguslaw Linda, whose features bear more than a passing resemblance to both Wajda and Strzeminski, this is a fitting end note to Wajda's career; the filmmaker recently passed away at the age of 90, leaving a filmography largely dedicated to crucial moments and leading characters in the history of his country.

A festival item per excellence - after all, no film event would want to miss the last work of a grand master - this is an essential addition to the tragic cultural history of the communist era in Eastern Europe and the disasters wrecked by this totalitarian rule. Since Wajda's career was launched at about the same time this story takes place, his intimate knowledge of the background is not necessarily the result of thorough research but also an expression of personal frustrations and pain he experienced himself through long patches of his own artistic life.

Strzeminski, born in 1893 in Minsk, now the capital of Belarus, and educated in St. Petersburg, lost an arm and a leg in WW1, despite which he attended the First Free State Workshops in Moscow and was close to such ground- breaking avant-garde artists of that period as Malevich and Chagall. In 1923 he moved to Warsaw to become one of founders of the constructivist group Blok.

A scholar, theoretician and art historian, Strzeminski formulated the Unism theory, an artistic conception based on the integrity of the universe which considers the levels of artistic, scientific and cultural achievements as an indication of social development. Most of his ideas about art in general and visual arts in particular are to be found in his posthumous Theory of Vision, published by his students after his death.

Wajda's film, written by Andrzej Mularczyk, picks Strzeminski up in 1949, when he is about to be fired from his teaching job at the Higher School of Visual Arts in Lodz over preaching a modernity strictly opposed to the populist demands of the Communist Party.

The film's plot follows the regime's systematic efforts to break down this headstrong, unbending artist who refused to compromise on any artistic grounds whatsoever. …

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