Andrzej Wajda Philip Strick - Essay

Philip Strick

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

While audiences outside Poland are unlikely to be aware of the historical echoes that resound through Andrzej Wajda's film of The Wedding…, and will certainly miss a fair number of its jokes and references, Wajda's achievement is to make the original event, extraordinary and uneasy as it must have seemed at the time, not only accessible but also hauntingly significant to the present. His film shudders with menace and regret, a lament for the Polish predicament both as it was in 1900 after yet another century of being used as Europe's doormat, and as it is now, its independence as elusive as ever. And setting aside nationalism entirely, The Wedding turns out to have its global metaphors as well, defined by the contrasts between the obsessive, raucous celebrations and the forces slowly gathering in the surrounding gloom.

The film begins with a torrent of jubilation and tumbling images before which the spirits shrink; the undisciplined racket and ill-aimed camera seem ugly and inept, an implausible attempt to simulate enthusiasm. But this proves to be exactly Wajda's intention…. [The] bedlam is overwhelming in a manner that feels characteristic of East European cinema, typified perhaps by the shots in which bride and groom spin round with the camera in the centre of the floor….

The Wedding is a fascinating array of sudden nightmares…. Wajda's most disturbing image … is that of the house itself, a tiny outpost of warmth in a landscape of freezing terror. It is much the same contrast as between rubbish-dump and ballroom in Ashes and Diamonds, and one could argue that Wajda hasn't added to it appreciably…. But then the situation doesn't seem to have changed much either, since 1900.

Philip Strick, "Film Reviews: 'The Wedding'," in Sight and Sound (copyright © 1973 by The British Film Institute), Vol. 42, No. 3, 1973, p. 174.