- The next project of veteran Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda will revolve around the largely forgotten Katyn massacre, when the Soviet secret police executed thousands of Polish prisoners of war – among them, the filmmaker’s father.
- The Criterion Collection has released the Andrzej Wajda DVD box set “Three War Films,” featuring the 1950s classics A Generation, Kanal, and Ashes and Diamonds.
Soviet-led Katyn massacre to be next Andrzej Wajda movie project
Veteran Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda is currently planning to make a film about the Katyn massacre, reports the Slovakian news agency TASR.
But what is the Katyn Massacre?
Several months after the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939, approximately 15,000 (some sources claim as many as 25,000) Polish prisoners of war were killed by the Soviet secret police – the NKVD (“People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs”) – in various Soviet prisons and in the rural locality of Katyn, situated in what was then the western section of the Soviet Union (currently western Russia).
In 1943, the Nazis uncovered the remains during their invasion of the Soviet Union, blaming the Soviets for the massacre. In turn, the Soviet government accused the Nazis of trying to cover up their own atrocities.
Despite incriminating evidence pointing to the Kremlin, the U.S. and the U.K. – at the time allied with the U.S.S.R. – opted to look the other way.
It was only in 1990 that Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev admitted culpability for the massacre.
Two years later, the by-then Russian government handed over to Polish President Lech Walesa previously secret documents proving that Joseph Stalin had directly ordered the killings.
Many of the dead were Polish intellectuals and professionals who had been drafted following the Nazi invasion. Those men found themselves prisoners of the Red Army because of a secret deal between the Nazis and Stalin, which had granted the eastern half of Poland to the Soviet Union.
“My father was also executed then,” Andrzej Wajda is quoted as saying in the report. As a result, his mother had to search for work, and the once privileged family of intellectuals was reduced to a working-class existence. “The real hero of this story is my mother,” the filmmaker added.
Wajda received an Honorary Oscar in 2000 for his body of work, which includes A Generation (1955), Kanal (1957), Ashes and Diamonds (1958), Man of Marble (1977), A Love in Germany (1984), Les possédés (1988), and the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominees The Maids of Wilko (1979) and Man of Iron (1981).
Wajda’s Katyn massacre project will follow The Revenge / Zemsta (2002), the filmmaker’s most recent effort. The ensemble comedy stars Roman Polanski, Janusz Gajos, Andrzej Seweryn, Katarzyna Figura, and Daniel Olbrychski.
‘Andrzej Wajda: Three War Films’
In late April, the Criterion Collection released in the United States the box set “Andrzej Wajda: Three War Films,” with a trio of the filmmaker’s most acclaimed efforts (all three are mentioned further up):
- A Generation / Pokolenie, which depicts the plight of Polish youths reaching adulthood during the German occupation. In the cast: Tadeusz Lomnicki, Urszula Modrzynska, Tadeusz Janczar, and Roman Polanski and the upcoming “Polish James Dean,” Zbigniew Cybulski, in supporting roles.
- Kanal, supposed to be the first film ever made about the Warsaw uprising of 1944. In the cast: Teresa Izewska, Tadeusz Janczar, and Wienczyslaw Glinski.
- Ashes and Diamonds / Popiól i diament, the tale of a young Polish resistance fighter who is ordered to kill a local communist leader. In the cast: Zbigniew Cybulski, who was shortlisted for a British Academy Award, and Ewa Krzyzewska.
Like James Dean, the anti-establishment Cybulski died young. At age 39, the by then heavy-drinking actor was struck by a railway train in January 1967 in Wroclaw.
The Criterion DVD release includes interviews with Andrzej Wajda and “his colleagues.”
“Andrzej Wajda Tackling Katyn Massacre” endnotes
The Criterion Collection website.
“Andrzej Wajda Tackling Katyn Massacre + ‘3 War Films’ DVD” last updated in September 2021.