The great Polish director Andrzej Wajda returns with this passionate biopic about avant-garde artist Wladyslaw Strzeminski (brilliantly played by Polish superstar Boguslaw Linda), who battled Stalinist orthodoxy and his own physical impairments to advance his progressive ideas about art.
Andrzej Wajda's Afterimage is a late masterpiece in a career already marked by many illustrious films. The 90-year-old director's work has lost none of its force of outrage over the years, but this film carries extra resonance in light of the contemporary situation in Poland, even though the film is set in the dark days of Soviet communist rule. Based on the life of the avant-garde artist Wladyslaw Strzeminski, it blazes with energy, passion, and controlled fury as it follows the life of a man who refuses to bend to official ideology, even when it threatens his very existence.
Strzeminski was a compelling and charismatic artist and teacher. Wajda picks up his story in postwar Lodz, where he teaches at the Higher School of Plastic Arts. His ideas, set out in a revolutionary book he has written about art, run headlong into Stalin's dictates on what is good for the masses: social realism and superficial positivism. This is the dynamic that feeds Afterimage's utterly compelling narrative about a highly principled individual who confronts the indifference and, soon enough, anger of the authorities determined to stamp out anyone who questions the party line. A double amputee, Strzeminski is a restless force of nature idolized by the younger generation and the students he teaches.
Boguslaw Linda brilliantly bulls his way through his role as the beleaguered artist who refuses to compromise, and he dominates the film, but Wajda gives him superb foils: his long-suffering young daughter whose life is equally affected by her father's decisions and an attractive young student whose emotions move from admiration to desire.
This is a firecracker of a film — angry, committed, and deeply connected to the painful decisions that its brave subject is forced to make in order to retain his integrity.