Powidoki (Afterimage, 2016), master filmmaker Andrzej Wajda’s final film, his testament, is about another master, Polish Avant-garde painter Wladyslaw Strzeminski. It could be seen as part of a cycle of late Wajda, or post Oscar recognition films (he was honored for his career spanning five decades – at that point – in 2000), historical Films, like Katyn (2007) and Walesa (2013), to rectify some facts and thoughts about Poland history.
Wajda and co-screenwriter Andrzej Mularczyk concentrate on Strzeminski postwar World War 2 period when he was a teacher at Łódź School of Plastic Arts and design. It’s the beginning of the taking over by the communists and his liberal views and style get him in trouble. He will never recover.
The tone is set for simple but strong imagery, right from the opening. Strzeminski destroys a little section of a gigantic red banner, a portrait of Stalin hanging on his apartment building, because it is blocking his view while he is painting. It is one of numerous subtle visual sequences to follow in Powidoki.
At age 90, Wajda was still very effective in patiently establishing the breaking of an individual. Without graphic or gratuitous violence he takes us, emotionally, deep into the slow depiction of the humiliations created by a cruel scheme.
Wajda also conducts great performances by the ensemble cast and his leading man Boguslaw Linda (Danton, Blind Chance) and it is rewarding. But it is fourteen year old Bronislawa Zamachowska, as Strzeminski’s daughter who boosts the most memorable one, conveying great levels of emotion by her assured acting presence. This provides surprisingly restrain but touching scenes of father-daughter relationship bringing the drama to the higher level.
Powidoki is a strong drama on art and freedom.