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Andrzej Wajda Edit Profile

film director

Andrzej Witold Wajda was a Polish film and theatre director. Recipient of an Honorary Oscar, the Palme d'Or, as well as Honorary Golden Lion and Golden Bear Awards, he was a prominent member of the "Polish Film School". He was known especially for his trilogy of war films consisting of A Generation (1954), Kanał (1956) and Ashes and Diamonds (1958).

Background

Wajda was born in Suwałki, Poland, the son of Aniela (née Białowąs), a school teacher, and Jakub Wajda, an army officer. Wajda's father was murdered by the Soviets in 1940 in what came to be known as the Katyn massacre.

Education

In 1942 he joined the Polish resistance and served in the Home Army. After the war, he studied to be a painter at Kraków's Academy of Fine Arts before entering the Łódź Film School.

Career

Wajda became interested in the visual arts when working as assistant to a restorer of old church paintings in Radom, Poland. He studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków (1946–49; now Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts) and then film directing at the Łódź Film School (1949–53). His debut feature, Pokolenie (1955; A Generation), together with Kanał (1957; “Canal”) and Popiół i diament (1958; Ashes and Diamonds), constituted a popular trilogy that is considered to have launched the Polish film school. The movies deal in symbolic imagery with sweeping social and political changes in Poland during the World War II-era German occupation, the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, and the immediate postwar years. They won Wajda significant attention, including prizes at international film festivals, and Popiół i diament, which was based on a Jerzy Andrzejewski novel, became especially renowned. Its lead actor, Zbigniew Cybulski, became famous for his portrayal of a young man whose idealism survives the humiliation and defeat of the occupation and the deaths of friends and the woman he loves.

With such films as Popioły (1965; The Ashes), Brzezina (1970; The Birch Wood), Wesele (1973; The Wedding), Ziemia obiecana (1975; The Promised Land), Panny z Wilka (1979; The Young Girls of Wilko), and Danton (1983), Wajda established himself as a skilled director of film adaptations of literature that present conflicts inherent in the human situation and that also examine Polish national myths. He engaged with contemporary issues in films such as Wszystko na sprzedaż (1969; Everything for Sale), Człowiek z marmuru (1977; Man of Marble), Bez znieczulenia (1978; Without Anesthetic, or Rough Treatment), and Człowiek z żelaza (1981; Man of Iron). The latter, which was regarded as a manifesto against the ruling communist party in Poland and in support of the Solidarity opposition movement, won the Cannes film festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or.

The highly acclaimed Korczak (1990) is a true story of the final days of Henryk Goldszmit (better known by his pen name Janusz Korczak), a Jewish doctor, writer, and child advocate who, in order to maintain his orphanage, refused to escape Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II. Wajda’s other films include Nastasja (1994); Pan Tadeusz (1999), which is based on Adam Mickiewicz’s epic poem of the same name; Zemsta (2002; The Revenge), which starred Roman Polanski; Katyń (2007), about the Katyn Massacre in 1940 that claimed Wajda’s father’s life; Tatarak (2009; Sweet Rush), a meditation on death that combined elements of fact and fiction; and Wałęsa. Człowiek z nadziei (2013; Wałęsa: Man of Hope), about the Solidarity leader. In 1996 Wajda received the Japan Art Association’s Praemium Imperiale prize for theatre/film, and he received an honorary Academy Award in 2000.

Works

Membership

Member of Polish Film Association (president since 1978), Union Polish Arts and Designers (honorary).

Connections

Wajda was married four times. His third wife was actress Beata Tyszkiewicz with whom he had a daughter, Karolina (born 1967). His fourth wife was the theatre costume designer and actress Krystyna Zachwatowicz.

father:
Jakub Wajda

mother:
Aniela Wajda

spouses:
Beata Tyszkiewicz

Krystyna Zachwatowicz

Zofia Żuchowska

Gabriela Obremba