May 8th, 1945. Poland. A man leaps melodramatically to his death after being shot by an assassin. The assassin checks the victims papers. Crud. He doesn’t have any. It’s the wrong guy! He’s only a poor cement worker! A dummy car! The communist bastards are somewhere else! Before we dive in with my much-anticipated write-up of what I thought of Ashes and Diamonds, I must acknowledge the elephant in the room. You know, it’s not actually September anymore. It hasn’t been for a while.
I’ve been taking an impromptu break from writing new blogs but definitely not from blogging. In fact, if you look back through all of my old posts from 2015 and 2014, you will see they are looking pretty bitchin’. I have pinnable images, edited photographs, more easy-to-read. Basically, I’ve taken them off the shelf, dusted them off, and popped them back looking all shiny and new! I’m going to get up to date with my 2016 Blind Spots, my In-Flight Movies and Woody Allen Tourist series before October ends so we can start November afresh!
Ashes and Diamonds
Anyway, back to Ashes and Diamonds. World War II has literally just ended. Poland has been ‘liberated’ by the Russians and is therefore now a communist country, but not everyone is happy about this. An assassin is given orders by a Minister to kill a Russian soldier, someone who has been pushing the communist agenda all over Poland. The film follows his plight to kill the old dude and woo a young barmaid at the hotel in which him and the old dude are guests.
The assassin is Maciek. A young former Home Army soldier who is also referred to as a cursed soldier. This term refers to the Polish soldiers towards the end of WWII that became involved in the anti-communist resistance movement. He’s also got a skinny accomplice in Andrzej, but Maciek is the one tasked with the actual shooting.
It’s very difficult for Maciek, though. Much more difficult than for your regular hired, cold-hearted assassins. The war has literally only just ended. And instead of fighting the Germans, Maciek is now fighting other Poles. The war, ultimately hasn’t ended at all. Sides change as often as the sun sets and alliances do too.
Young guy in the bar: From today onwards, there’s only one correct side!
Old guy in the bar: Rubbish! You can go from one side to the other. Both sides are good!
Maciek is a fascinating character. He initially seems like the ‘cool dude.’ He wears these hipster glasses, his hair is unkempt and he hits on the barmaid like it’s the last days of Rome. However later, viewer learns that he wears dark glasses because he worked in the sewers all throughout the war and his eyes are no longer accustomed to daylight. He literally is no longer made for the real world. But, is this the real world?! Has the war finished? Will the war ever finish?!
After one or two tries and lots of internal turmoil, Maciek kills the communist dude by shooting him several times. The communist dude falls on Maciek like fallen comrades as fireworks are set off around them. The low position of the camera as the fireworks consume the frame is screaming at us. Because of what he’s done, Maciek is also gunned down by other communists in the street. There was no way he was getting out of the war alive. He’s young, he probably does not know any adult life outside of the war. The war is not over. Everyone is celebrating but THE WAR IS NOT OVER, YOU FOOLS.
Oh, Ashes and Diamonds is amazing. Superbly shot, really compelling characters and a pitch perfect narrative. Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola count Ashes and Diamonds as one of their favourite films, so who am I to argue?
It’s only just dawned on me just how many films I’ve watched in my 2016 Blind Spot Series, and actually my 2015 Blind Spot series, about WW2. Earlier this year, I watched Closely Watched Trains (1966) and Bicycle Thieves (1948). Last year, it was Downfall (2004) and La Regle Du Jeu (1939). All films are from different Nations and therefore different perspectives of the war. The films are both with the anticipation of war and after the fact. Watching these 5, utterly fantastic films and perspectives of the war, has only left me more in the dark about the whole horrible event. Everyone thinks the war took place from 1939-1945. But did it?
Have you ever watched Ashes and Diamonds or another war film (that didn’t necessarily feature ‘the war’) that you really connected with? Let me know, it looks like I have a taste for them!
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