BYDGOSZCZ, Poland — Tears and cheers characterized the emotional audience reaction to “Afterimage,” the last film from famed Polish director Andrzej Wajda, which opened the Camerimage film festival in Bydgoszcz, Poland, on Saturday night.
Wajda, who won an honorary Oscar in 2000 and died last month at 90, sealed his legacy with this penetrating biopic of avant-garde painter Wladyslaw Strzeminski. The artist, played by Boguslaw Linda, battled the Socialist Realism movement while dealing with his own physical handicaps as he sought to advance his art and spread his interpretations of the nature of the creative process.
Set in the years from 1948 to 1952, the film follows the painter and art professor, beloved by his students, as he fights a losing battle against Poland’s Soviet-controlled Communist government, while at the same time never compromising his ideals.
“Afterimage” was lensed by cinematographer Pawel Edelman (“Ray,” “The Ghost Writer”), who told the audience that when Wajda called him about the project he said he wanted to make an “artistic” film.
“This was code,” Edelman said. “I knew this would be personal and not played by the usual rules. There would be no compromises.” Wajda, of course, lived through the era depicted in “Afterimage” and remembered it vividly.
Edelman also spoke about the film’s color palette: “In this film we looked for certain colors to saturate the visual look in the foreground, while the background, where Strzeminski wanted to run away, was more toned down. We wanted to capture the texture of those times.”
There was applause at the end of the Q&A when an older member of the standing-room-only audience rose to declare that the film perfectly captures the bleak look and repressive atmosphere of Poland’s Communist era.
“Afterimage” is Poland’s official entry in this season’s Oscar race. It screened at the Masters section in Toronto in October.