1958, Movies

Ashes and Diamonds (1958, Andrzej Wajda)

This is the first Polish Realism film I have seen and I must say I’m very impressed. It shares many characteristics with the great French and Italian realist/neo-realist films of the decade prior but, unlike (most of) those movies, it was made in a Communist country, and therefore feels like even more of a miracle than those films do.

Like numerous other realist films of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, it suffers a bit with age: the violence is not realistic at all and some of the acting has dated pretty poorly given how much naturalistic acting we’ve been exposed to since.

But the film is still absolutely remarkable for 1958:

  • with the exception of a few early scenes, it appears to take place almost entirely in nearly real time – well, it takes place over the course of 24 hours or so, but the illusion is that you are watching things unfold as they happen
  • it is entirely shot on location,
  • it features little music,
  • and few attempts at dumbing down the situation for non-Polish audiences, who might not be fully aware as to what is going on.
  • There are some gorgeous, iconic shots and Wajda uses the the frame and perspective in numerous inventive ways.

I also just wanted to say that I cannot even imagine an American film like this from 1958. It would take nearly 10 more years for anything remotely like this to exist in American cinema, which is both a testament to this film and a critique of the Hollywood studio system of the day.

A classic.


  • Directed by Andrzej Wajda
  • Produced by Roman Mann
  • Written by Jerzy Andrzejewski
  • Starring:
    • Zbigniew Cybulski – Maciek ChelmickiEwa Krzyżewska – KrystynaWacław Zastrzeżyński – SzczukaAdam Pawlikowski – AndrzejBogumił Kobiela – DrewnowskiJan Ciecierski – PortierStanisław Milski – PieniazekArtur Młodnicki – KotowiczHalina Kwiatkowska (pl) – StaniewiczowaIgnacy Machowski – Waga
  • Music by Filip Nowak
  • Distributed by KADR
  • Release date: 3 October 1958
  • Running time: 103 minutes
  • Country: Poland
  • Language: Polish

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