Andrzej Wajda’s 1958 Ashes and Diamonds, named after a passage from a Cyprian Norwid poem, begins with a vicious murder outside a chapel. The assassins, Home Army officers Maciek (Zbigniew Cybulski, in an iconic performance) and Andrzej (Adam Pawlikowski), were assigned to assassinate a Communist activist (Waclaw Zastrzezynski); instead, they kill two innocent cement-plant workers. This desperate uncertainty is in keeping with the film’s restless formal energy (mesmerizing, Citizen Kane–influenced low angles, a fireworks-outlined murder that anticipates Brian De Palma’s Blow Out) and principal thematic interests: Set over a 24-hour period after Poland’s liberation on May 8, 1945, the film demonstrates that the aftermath of a war can be as messy as the battles that precede it. Part of the series “Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema.”
Sun., Feb. 9, 6:45 p.m., 2014

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