Pokolenie (A Generation) (1955)
Director: Andrzej Wajda
Starring: Tadeusz Lomnicki (Stach Mazur), Urszula Modrzynska (Dorota), Tadeusz Janczar (Jasio Krone), Janusz Paluszkiewicz (Sekula), Ryszard Kotys (Jacek), Roman Polanski (Mundek), Ludwik Benoit (Grzesio), Zofia Czerwinska (Lola), Zbigniew Cybulski (Kostek), Tadeusz Fijewski (German Guard), Zygmunt Hobot (Abram), Cezary Julski (Coachman), Bronislaw Kassowski (Speculator), August Kowalczyk (Priest), Jerzy Krasowski (Wladek).
Country: Polish film
The first of Wajda's triology of Polish resistance in WWII (other are Kanal and Ashes and Diamonds). Young man falls in love with the female leaders of the resistance.
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
Little shacks are very close together on the outskirts of Warsaw. As a kid during World War II our young hero Stanislaw (Stach for short) had it rough. The boys liked to play the game flipping the knives. One of the best knife flippers was his friend Kostek.
1942. The trains run supplies to the German troops. Our hero along with Kostek and Zyzio jump onto the passing train in order to shove coal off the coal cars onto the sides of the railway tracks, to be picked up later and sold to the locals. Zyzio is shot and killed by one of the gunmen guarding the train and Stach is grazed by a bullet.
An older man, Grzesio, who was wounded in 1939 at Modlin, takes Stach to one of the bars. A man named Sekula notices that Stach is wounded. Stach tells him that one of the blackcoats got him. Sekula tells Stach that he will help him get an apprenticeship. The next day Stach starts his apprenticeship. They work him ragged. One day German Lt. Hirschweg arrives. The workers show him the bunks they have made to fit into the barracks.
A woman speaker talks to the workers and tells them that the Union of Fighting Youth is forming. It will be part of the People's Guard. She adds that the Red Army is with us. Stach takes an immediate interest in the woman and learns that her code name is Dorota.
Stach sees men's dead bodies hanging from telephone poles. The Germans push around Jewish workers with ethnic arm bands. Working, Stach is stopped one day by a German guard. He tells Stach to come with him to see the commander of the work place. The guard tells the commander that Stach has been stealing wooden planks from the work site. The commander strikes Stach in the face. Stach is then roughed up a bit.
Stach tells his co-workers about the incident. A group of them head to the local bar that the German commander usually frequents. There, one of the milder Poles, Janek, shoots the commander four or five times.
Stach takes Dorota riding on his bicycle. Dorota is mad when she learns that Stach and his cronies shot a German in their own area. That puts the local resistance fighters in danger.
Stach learns that the Jewish ghetto has risen up against their German captors. Sekula tells the resistance that they should support our "Jewish comrades". Janek decides to lay low and not participate in the revolt. But when his colleagues start their plan of resistance, Janek comes around and joins them. The fellows hijack a truck and rescue some refugees from the Jewish ghetto. Janek is soon in a fire fight with three German soldiers. The Germans along with more reinforcements chase Janek around town until he is cornered. He kills a few of the German soldiers, but dies when he falls from the railing along the top floor to the ground floor.
German agents search the home of Stach and find some incriminating items, but the agents are scared away when the neighbors start to mobilize to save Stach and his mother. Stach has to go underground where they make him a platoon leader. Stach is in closer contact with Dorota now. He is finally able to kiss her and she tells him that her real name is Eve. He stays with her passed curfew time and so he has to stay the entire night. Stach leaves in the morning. The Gestapo finds Eve, arrests her and leads her away. Stach sees her being taken away.
Stach is very upset as he thinks about Dorota's fate. Then all of a sudden, a group of new fresh recruits arrive, including a pretty young girl. The girl reminds Stach of Dorota and he starts to cry a little, but he is buoyed by the face that he will be soon be busy teaching the new recruits the ropes.
This is an o.k. movie. It's a little sad, but what could one expect when dealing with the fate of the Polish resistance in a nation swamped with well-trained and well-armed and fed German soldiers? Stach grows up from bad boy to hero following his joining the Polish resistance and it is a somewhat interesting transformation to watch.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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