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Polish cinema showcase opens with ‘Ashes and Diamonds’

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UMKC School of Communication Studies will present eight innovative films from Polish cinema, which will run at the Tivoli Theatre each week until Nov. 23. Martin Scorsese describes the works as “personal vision, societal commitment and poetic responsibility.” This is especially true about the first film in this showcase, “Ashes and Diamonds”.

The film opens with an image of a small chapel in a pastoral landscape and two men resting side by side in the chapel’s grassy yard. This religious metaphor carries throughout the film, seen later in a haunting confessional that features a swinging crucifix, damaged by the devastation of World War II.

The plot spans a 24 hour period on May 8th, 1945 – the day Germany officially surrendered from the war. The film tackles a historically significant event and remains self-aware of its own importance, but its cleverness lies in its sincerity.

Some of the most pleasurable moments occur when the characters behave absurdly while intoxicated. Zbigniew Cybulski plays Maciek, the film’s protagonist, a character who is so complex that viewers feel danger, curiosity and sympathy for him in this performance.

The film works most noticeably as a story in image. Every scene is meticulously lit and composed..

However, the film doesn’t simply rely on the beauty of its single frames. The cinematic and narrative movements both work to make this movie profound. A close-up of the protagonist places the audience in his gaze and then hurls viewers toward his point of view: sitting by an open window, to watch an emotionally charged domestic scene. The film also works around complicated plot lines interweaving a web of characters, political factions and the sudden changes in society during an uncertain moment for a country that seems to be stripped of its cultural and political identity.

If this film is any indication of the work yet to be seen as part of this series, a true fan of cinematic artistry would be remiss not to experience it on the big. The next film, “Camouflage”, directed by Krzysztof Zanussi, will be screened on Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014 at 7p.m.

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