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Afterimage (Powidoki) is the final film from acclaimed filmmaker Andrzej Wajda (Ashes and Diamonds, Katyn, Man of Marble). It is a biopic about the acclaimed artist/teacher Wladyslaw Strzeminski. The film is executive produced by Malgorzata Fogel-Gabrys (Warsaw '44) and is produced by Michal Kwiecinski (Statysci).
Wladyslaw Strzeminski (Boguslaw Linda) is an acclaimed artist and teacher who gives classes to art students at a local university. Strzeminski is loved by his students for his insights into art and the process of making art. However, Strzeminski makes enemies with government officials when the rule of the land becomes to register artists and use their art for producing propaganda for the state of government.
Although Strzeminski is not opposed to communist views, he doesn't view art as something that should be expressed through a required political landscape. Art, in his view, should be personal and express that of the artist alone. The government propaganda of art is not true to what art is about.
This viewpoint leads him into trouble with government officials in his country. Some of these government officials attempt to ruin his career as professor and a letter is sent to his university. He loses his job as a result of speaking out against the new government policies). He starts to struggle to afford meals for himself and for his young teenage daughter Nika Strzeminski (Bronislawa Zamachowska). Some students still go to see him outside of class to gain his insights into art but Strzeminski struggles to keep himself afloat at each turn.
Almost no one around him wants to hire him or work with him because of his outspoken views on the life of a artist causing issues with the government. This leads him directly into a life of poverty in which he cannot afford rent and barely gets by. Artists, who are required now to become "registered" with the government, are now only to do approved art that fits the government's ideologies. As a result of these changes, Strzeminski can't even buy any paint or supplies at his local art store anymore as he is not given an "ID" registering him as an approved artist.
One of his students, Hania (Zofia Wichlacz), is a secret admirer in love with Strzeminski. When she finally confesses her secret admirations for him Strzeminski rejects her and her affection for him. He has a bad relationship with his ex-wife and is bitter about his life and it's trajectory. The young student soon finds herself in trouble as she started rebelling against the government by keeping a typewriter. Strzeminski is given an offer for a second chance at having a life as an artist if he'll work with the government and give information on her and some of his other ex-students, but he declines.
The film is certainly a critique on a period of time in which free speech and artistic freedom was infringed upon by Stalinist government. Andrzej Wajda, as a director, was certainly no stranger to these types of problems in his career. His films were frequently critiqued by censors in his home country's government for their political views and for his outspoken views. Some of his features were even banned in his country for a period of time because of their political nature. (This issue is explored further in the documentary film Wajda by Wajda which is included as a bonus feature on this release.)
The film is a deeply humanistic and personal film by Andrzej Wajda. It makes it a fitting swan song for Poland's most beloved filmmaker. The film's empathetic view of the characters and exploration of the importance of freedom of speech and the rights of artistic expression make Afterimage a rich, rewarding, and compassionate experience.
The cinematography by Pawel Edelman (The Pianist, Ray) is breathtaking and absorbing. This film has a unique and visually wondrous style to it which is enhanced by Edelman's striking photography. Several moments throughout the film feel like striking works of singular art.
The score by Andrzej Panufnik (Strachy, Drzewa) is melancholic and it often feels like a quiet backdrop to the events of the story. However, it certainly enhances the mood and atmosphere. The production design by Marek Warszewski (The Fastest, Playground) feels effective at establishing the period in which the story takes place. The costumes designed by Katarzyna Lewinska (The Lure, In Darkness) capably fit the characters and setting.
The screenplay was written by Andrzej Mularcyk (Katyn, Our Folks) from an idea by Wajda. The storytelling is excellent and rewarding in its approach to telling the story of these characters. Andrzej Wajda's direction impresses with elegance and strong pacing. The filmmaking style is minimalistic and more realistic in its approach. This helps the dramatics unfold in a way that is quietly affecting. Wajda's strength is in bringing a sincerity and depth to this story. With a great cast, including the remarkable Boguslaw Linda, Afterimage succeeds at being a great drama that tells an important story.
Afterimage arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded high definition presentation in the original 2.35:1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio. This is a strong high definition encode which has great color depth, clarity, and detail. The image is sharp and pleasing throughout.
The release is presented in the original Polish language with 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. English subtitles are provided. This is a crisp, clean, and engaging surround sound presentation. Though the film is dialogue heavy and has a more minimalistic surround sound design the surrounds are effectively used for occasional ambiance and for the score music by Andrzej Panufnik. It's an impressive lossless presentation of the film.
Please Note: This release is a combo pack release including a Blu-ray + DVD.
Audio Commentary on the feature film by professor Emeritus Stuart Liebman
Wajda by Wajda (HD, 95 min.) is a feature length documentary in which the filmmaker explores his filmography with personal insights into his process, experiences, and the symbolism in his films from throughout his entire career. This excellent documentary is a must-see for anyone interested in the filmmaker.
Afterimage Theatrical Trailer (HD)
Lastly, trailers for other Film Movement releases are also provided.
Afterimage is a rewarding and humanistic drama which is well worth exploration by those with an appreciation for great cinema. As Andrzej Wajda's final film before his passing, it's a great final work of art from a beloved filmmaker. The film tells an important story and it's themes certainly remain important for discussion by all those fascinated by the world of art.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.