A Generation (1955) “Fragile yet Exhilarating”

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Starring:- Tadeusz Lomnicki, Roman Polanski, Urszula Modrzynska, Tadeusz Janczar, Janeusz Paluszkiewicz, Ryszard Kotys.

Directed by:- Andrzej Wajda

Andrzej Wajda seems to be the Polish amalgamation of Satyajit Ray and Jean-Luc Godard. His ability to balance humanism and political content in his movies is seriously worthy of applause. His Three War Films trilogy is now considered as one of the greatest of all time, with A Generation being his debut and the first installment of this trilogy. Featuring Tadeusz Lomnicki, a Wajda regular in his debut performance, A Generation is a great debut from an extraordinary filmmaker.

Set in Poland during WW-2, Stach Mazur (Lomnicki) is one of the miscreants residing in the slums just outside Warsaw; his pastime being playing with knives and stealing coal from German supply trains. During one such raid, one of his friends gets killed, forcing Stach to get employed in a furniture workshop, most possibly a facade for storing weapons for partisan groups. Stach and a bunch of young fellows get inducted into one such partisan group. Ideological adherences are debated over, love is found and violence is greeted with innocence and patriotism to such an extent that the table turns itself over for a new future in a stunning climax.

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Wajda’s induction into the world of cinema as one of the young bold voices is embodied in the opening shot of the movie, which sets the tone and motive of the movie in its naked form right in front of our eyes, like a flickering bulb on the verge of death. The poverty shown feels beautified, yet when the camera glides through the slum, one can not resist feeling sad for those people who really lived like this in those harrowing days. The youngsters, even though lazy, have a sense of patriotism, visible in the form of a sport until reality smacks them in the face with a sledgehammer.

The transition is politically glorious to witness. Through the dark veil of Stalinist communism, the movie propagates the notion of working for the collective good, which soon transforms into the bedrock for the partisan groups to act on. Its a pity to see that what Wajda presents as an alternative to the Nazi rule was soon to be rebuked by him 20 years later in the form of 1977’s Man of Marble, which stars Lomnicki in a supporting role as a famed movie director who used to be a major figure in socialist propaganda. Wajda’s adherence’s conversion from communism to the Solidarity movement proves to be an embodiment of the changes Poland went through in those dreadful years, making him one of those rare directors who singularly represent their countries with their products, in Wajda’s case it is reflected in the form of changes in politics and style of thinking.

Even though A Generation is subtly political, it can’t be denied that it is technically superlative. Cinematography and symbolism come together to create magic out of thin air, producing anguish and messages so stringent that the experience becomes mystical. The shot which has been used for the poster above presents the wretched condition of erstwhile Poland, personified by a disabled person.

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When one of the members of the partisan group gets arrested, the disabled man looks at her and resumes walking, signifying Poland’s resoluteness towards moving forward and paying respects to the young generation who are ready to lay down their lives to restore their country’s glory. The engrossing visuals and the underlying forces of tension rises beyond measure during a sequence when a member of the group is cornered atop a circular staircase, leading to the most famous shot of the movie.

The only bane in this movie is its pacing and structure. The movie moves in an unspecific speed, making the progression seem distorted. A Generation at some spots, doesn’t seem to know at what point should the story turn or take a jump, reducing itself to a blind entity. However, the blind entity is guided by excellent performances from Lomnicki, Janczar and Modrzynska. Roman Polanski stars as the youngest member of the band – his short yet impressive performance proves to be the last member on the illustrious boat.

In conclusion, A Generation serves as one of those debuts which serves as a Roman welcome for a great filmmaker to the world of cinema. Even though it slips a lot and gets lost in the maze of its own making, A Generation is a movie which knows its worth, a feat which the present bout of movies strive to misunderstand to such an extent that filmmakers have started writing eulogies for the artform, which according to them is flamboyantly nearing its death.

Pro:- Performances, Editing, Cinematography, Direction.

Con:- Pacing.

Ratings:- 3.8/5

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