Afterimage Screen 77 of 13 reviews

Afterimage

2016

Afterimage Poster
  • This is an angry, vivid, passionate film. Cinema is worse off now that Wajda, one of the truly towering greats of the form, is dead; there is some consolation, though, that he went out with his boots still most defiantly on.

  • It may well be the most critical and self-critical film of Wajda’s illustrious career... Wajda, who once aspired to be a painter and studied film in Lodz in the early 1950s, was the same age as Strzemiński’s students. It is more than likely that he was aware of the artist’s suffering even while it was happening. Afterimage is a movie about what Wajda learned then about making art in Poland, as well as over the next six decades.

  • It’s beautifully made, as Wajda clearly had a considerable budget to recreate the historical look of Soviet-era buildings and streets of the early 1950s. To anyone unfamiliar with the impact that Socialist Realism could have on the avant-garde artists in the USSR and elsewhere starting in the 1930s, the film provides a vivid example. The film also contains an excellent performance by Boguslaw Linda, perhaps best known as the lead in Kieslowski’s Blind Chance.

  • The last work of Poland’s most revered postwar filmmaker, Andrzej Wajda, is a fiercely committed obituary of Wladyslaw Strzeminski, one of his country’s most strikingly visionary contemporary artists, victimised by the communist regime all the way to his death in 1952. As played by Boguslaw Linda, whose features bear more than a passing resemblance to both Wajda and Strzeminski, this is a fitting end note to Wajda’s career.

  • Despite the film’s flaws, which include it bordering on meretriciousness—ironic considering its vanguardist subject matter, as well as being a far cry, both aesthetically and contextually, from Wajda’s earlier films—it’s important as both the final entry in a venerated career and a reminder to continue resisting authoritarian regimes.

  • It's mounted in a classical, beautifully understated style that throughout conveys the assurance of a true master. It’s one of those films that doesn’t ask to be liked or admired, but only to be heard. Like Darkness at Noon, Nineteen Eighty-Four and other anti-Communist literary classics, its descent into the hell of totalitarianism isn’t softened by a glimmer of solace at the end. It’s the testimony of an artist who has seen the worst of Polish history and demands that it not be forgotten.

  • As Strzemiński's body starts to waste away, Wajda allows him no moment of grace or glory; there's neither a speech about integrity nor a scene of mass protest. By and large, as Wajda depicts it, Strzemiński becomes an island because his fight to preserve a certain artistic mode has no purchase for anyone other than a seemingly shrinking number of intellectually minded individuals in postwar Poland.

  • While it may not belong in the pantheon of Wajda’s greatest cinematic achievements, Afterimage nevertheless elicits deep affection for the creative minds that paid for their rebellion with years of humiliation, persecution and isolation.

  • While its form may be fairly conventional for a biopic about a proponent of uncompromising radicalism, it’s a forceful tribute to someone Wajda clearly viewed as a kindred spirit and reveals an auteur not mellowed in his biting advocacy of truthful dissent.

  • Odd as it is to see a defense of the abstract and the avant-garde told in such a staidly linear, classical manner, the sting of the movie’s political rebuke is clear and unmistakable.

  • While Afterimage certainly does not promote communist ideology, it is still a work of art laden with social purpose or utility, that is, to champion artistic freedom and condemn totalitarianism. Wajda’s film might be _social_ rather than _socialist_ realism, but its purposefulness is nonetheless contradictory to its subject’s insistence on the autonomy of art.

  • With his protean stylistic range and sharp nose for national and political myth, the late Andrzej Wajda was almost single-handedly responsible for bringing Polish film to international attention. But his final work, Afterimage, is only a minor effort: a schematic and monotonous drama about the Belarusian-born Polish painter and art theorist Władysław Strzemiński (Bogusław Linda) that has flashes of visual wit and is somewhat interesting as a perverse reversal of artist biopic tropes.

  • Wajda is so determined to depict his hero as a man of iron that his every pronouncement comes freighted with metaphorical significance. The story... is powerful in its outline, but there’s a contradiction between the film’s stolid period-piece aesthetics and the script’s underlying idea that abstraction explodes totalitarianism by rejecting closure or cohesion. Afterimage doesn’t explore these tensions, much less let them simmer.

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