Andrzej Wajda (born 6 March 1926 in Suwałki) is an award-winning Polish film director. Recipient of an honorary Oscar, he is one of the most prominent members of the Polish Film School. He is currently listed as the 99th greatest director of all-time by film website They Shoot Pictures Don't They.
In the 1940s, he was a member of the Polish United Workers' Party in Kraków. On the heels of his apprenticeship to director Aleksander Ford, Wajda was given the opportunity to direct his own film. With A Generation (1954), the first-time director poured out his disillusionment over jingoism, using as his alter ego a young, James Dean-style antihero played by Zbigniew Cybulski. There were also other future legends starring in this movie - Tadeusz Łomnicki, Tadeusz Janczar and Roman Polański. The Polish Film School was ready to act.
Wajda went on to make two more films which further developed the antiwar theme of A Generation: Kanal (1956) (The Silver Palm Award at Cannes Film Festival in 1957, ex aequo with Ingmar Bergman's "Seventh seal" and Ashes and Diamonds (1958), also starring Cybulski. Wajda started working in theatre, where he showed many famous spectacles (e.g., "Hatful of rain","Two on a seesaw", and "Hamlet").
While capable of turning out mainstream commercial fare (often dismissed as "trivial" by his critics), Wajda was more interested in works of allegory and symbolism, and certain symbols (such as setting fire to a glass of liquor, representing the flame of youthful idealism that was extinguished by the war) recur often in his films.But he explored other fields of human activity making for example a French new wave style film "The Innocent sorcerers", with jazz music by Krzysztof Komeda, starring Roman Polański in one of the episodes. But then Wajda returned to a war theme in a story about a Jewish boy "Samson"
In 1967, Cybulski was killed in a train accident, whereupon the director articulated his grief with what is considered his most personal film, Everything for Sale (1969). The '70s was the most lucrative and great time for Wajda's artistic activity. He made over ten films, some of which were acclaimed as masterpieces: "Pilate and others", "Landscape After the Battle", "The Wedding", "The Promised Land", "Man of Marble", "The Orchestra Conductor" - starring John Gielgud, "Rough Treatment", "The Birchwood" and "Maids of Wilko". Wajda continued his work in theatre and many of his most famous shows were shown at that time (his versions of Dostoyevsky's "The Possessed" and "The Idiot" - "Nastasja Filippovna","Play Strindberg", "November night","The Immigrants", "The Danton affair". Wajda's later devotion to Poland's burgeoning Solidarity movement was manifested in Man of Marble (1976) and Man of Iron (1981), with Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa appearing as himself in the latter film. The director's involvement in this movement would prompt the Polish government to force Wajda's production company out of business. For the film, Wajda won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. In 1983 he directed Danton starring Gerard Depardieu in the title role, a film set in 1794 (Year Two) dealing with the Post-Revolutionary Terror. For some critics in Poland, the film carries sharp parallels with the Post-Revolutionary period in Russia as well as with fascist Germany. But in fact Wajda shows how easily revolution can become terror and how quickly it can start to "eat its own children". Then Wajda made "Love in Germany", "The Chronicle of amorous incidents" and his film version of Dostoyevky's "The Possessed". In theatre Wajda met Dostoyevsky for the third time (with "Crime and Punishment") and directed some other fabulous shows like "Dybuk" or "Antygone". In 1990 he showed another film masterpiece "Korczak".
In the early 1990s, he was elected a senator and also appointed artistic director of Warsaw's Teatr Powszechny. He continued to make films, addressing the topic of World War II in 1993's The Crowned-Eagle Ring and 1996's Holy Week.
In 1997, the director went in a different direction with Miss Nobody, a coming-of-age drama that explored the darker and more spiritual aspects of a relationship between three high-school girls. In 1999 there was a big artistic and box office success with Wajda's masterpiece Pan Tadeusz. After that Wajda made a fanstastic political television spectacle "Bigda idzie!", starring marvellous Janusz Gajos and another masterpiece, the film version of "The Revenge", starring Roman Polański and Janusz Gajos. At the 2000 Academy Awards, Wajda was presented with an honorary Oscar for his numerous contributions to cinema; he subsequently donated the award to Kraków's Jagiellonian University. In 2001 he opened the Andrzej Wajda Master School of Film Directing. In February 2006, Wajda received an honorary Golden Bear for lifetime achievement at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Andrzej Wajda has been married four times. His third wife was the popular actress Beata Tyszkiewicz, with whom he has a daughter Karolina (born 1967). His fourth and current wife is actress and costume designer Krystyna Zachwatowicz.
Wajda has just finished working on a very personal project, the film "Katyń" about the Katyn massacre, in which his father lost his life. The director shows this tragedy from the perspective of those (mothers, wives and daughters) who wait for their relatives. "Katyń" is nominated to Oscars as the best foreign language film. In August 2008 he started shooting his next film based upon another novel by Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz called "Tatarak" ("Sweet Flag") with Krystyna Janda in the main role. Andrzej Wajda founded The Centre of Japanese Art and Technology "Manggha" in Kraków. He also leads his own film school www.wajdaschool.pl, where students have different one year courses (led by famous European film makers) and work on their own projects. Many polish actors became famous due to their acting in Wajda's films (Daniel Olbrychski, Wojciech Pszoniak, Andrzej Seweryn, Jerzy Radziwiłowicz or Krystyna Janda).
Man of Iron won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1981. Four of Wajda's works (The Promised Land, The Maids of Wilko, Man of Iron, and Katyń ) have been nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign language film. In 2000, Wajda received an honorary Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, as another Pole who received the Award after Warner Brothers,Leopold Stokowski, Bronisław Kaper, Zbigniew Rybczyński, Allan Starski, Ewa Braun, Roman Polański or Jan A.P. Kaczmarek..