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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

 

(aka 'Ashes and Diamonds' or 'Popiˇł i diament')

directed by Andrzej Wajda
Poland 1958

 

Regarded as one of the greatest of all Polish films from its premiere in October 1958, Andrzej Wajda s third feature Ashes and Diamonds retains that stature over half a century later.

The entire film takes place on 8 May 1945, when the war in Europe ended with Germany s formal surrender but while other countries celebrated, Poland s postwar power struggle was only just beginning. In depicting the various factions jockeying for position, including ambitious Communists, aristocratic patriots, cynical journalists and anti-Nazi rebels recently emerged from the Warsaw sewers, Wajda brilliantly anatomizes a driven country desperately trying to find its identity at a time when a fifth of its population had recently been killed and many more driven into exile. Maciek Chelmicki (Zbigniew Cybulski) embodies this conflict: outwardly a calculating assassin, his ultra-cool fašade begins to crack when he badly botches a mission, falls in love with the barmaid Krystyna (Ewa Krzyzewska) and dares to dream of a life outside the armed resistance that s characterised his entire adult life. His all too human indecision makes him Polish culture s Hamlet, and Cybulski s performance remains iconic to this day.

***

On the last day of World War II in a small town somewhere in Poland, the Polish exiles of war and the occupying Soviet forces confront the beginning of a new day and a new Poland. From this incendiary environment emerges Home Army soldier Maciek Chelmicki. Chelmicki has now been ordered to assassinate an incoming commissar, but a mistake stalls his progress and introduces him to Krystyna, a beautiful barmaid who gives him a glimpse of what his life could be. Gorgeously photographed and brilliantly performed, Ashes and Diamonds masterfully interweaves the fate of a nation with that of one man, resulting in one of the most important Polish films of all time.

 

  Posters

Theatrical Release: October 3rd, 1958 - Poland

Reviews                                                                                      More Reviews                                                                                 DVD Reviews

 

Comparison:

Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Arrow Academy - Region 'B' - Blu-ray vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Box Cover

Available in Criterion's Andrzej Wajda "Three War Films" boxset

Coming out in single Blu-ray in January 2016

BONUS CAPTURES:

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 285  - Region 0 - NTSC Arrow Academy  - Region 'B' - Blu-ray Criterion  - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:42:44  1:43:35.250 1:43:00.591
Video 1.66:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 8.3 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 23,896,805,069 bytes

Feature: 21,423,052,800 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 23.96 Mbps

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 45,039,842,414 bytes

Feature: 31,051,696,128 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 35.82 Mbps

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate: DVD

Bitrate Arrow: Blu-ray

Bitrate Criterion: Blu-ray

Audio Polish (Dolby Digital 1.0)  LPCM Audio Polish 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit

LPCM Audio Polish 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary:

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -31dB

Subtitles English, None English, None English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Criterion / Home Vision

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.66:1

Edition Details:

• Andrzej Wajda: On Ashes and Diamonds, an exclusive interview with the director, second director Janusz Morgenstern, and film critic Jerzy Plazewski
• Audio commentary by film scholar Annette Insdorf
• Vintage newsreel on the making of Ashes and Diamonds
• Rare behind-the-scenes production photos, publicity stills, and posters
• 16-page liner notes booklet with essay by film scholar Paul Coates

DVD Release Date: April 26th, 2005

Keep Case
Chapters: 20

Release Information:
Studio: Arrow Academy

1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 23,896,805,069 bytes

Feature: 21,423,052,800 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 23.96 Mbps

Edition Details:

• Interview with director Andrzej Wajda on Ashes & Diamonds (25:17 in 1080P)
• Comprehensive booklet by writer and film historian Michael Brooke, including new writing on the film, a re-print of Marek Hendrykowsk s monograph on Ashes & Diamonds , Andrzej Wajda s lecture on Cinema Past and Present and more!
• Artwork presentation packaging including three original posters and a newly commissioned artwork cover

Blu-ray Release Date: October 3rd, 2011
Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 16
 

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

 

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 45,039,842,414 bytes

Feature: 31,051,696,128 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 35.82 Mbps

Edition Details:

• Audio commentary from 2004 featuring film scholar Annette Insdorf
• New video essay by Insdorf on the film’s legacy (12:48)
• Andrzej Wajda: On “Ashes and Diamonds,” a 2005 program featuring director Andrzej Wajda, second director Janusz Morgenstern, and film critic Jerzy Plazewski (36:28)
• Archival newsreel footage on the making of the film (1:22)
• PLUS: An essay by film scholar Paul Coates

Blu-ray Release Date:
August 24th, 2021
Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 19 

 

 

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Criterion Blu-ray (August 2021): Criterion have transferred Andrzej Wajda's Ashes and Diamonds to Blu-ray. It is said to come from a "New 4K digital restoration". This is quite a bump over the 10-year older 2K restoration of the Arrow Academy Blu-ray, which looks waxier and softer by comparison. The Criterion 1080P is darker and shows more consistent textures. This is a notable video improvement.     

NOTE: We have added 44 more large resolution Blu-ray captures (in lossless PNG format) for DVDBeaver Patrons HERE

Criterion also go liner PCM (24-bit) with the Polish-language audio but theirs is in 1.0 channel mono, although I couldn't distinguish significant differences. Both offer optional English subtitles and the Criterion Blu-ray is region 'A'-locked.

For extras, Criterion include the audio commentary from 2004 featuring film scholar Annette Insdorf as well as the Andrzej Wajda: On “Ashes and Diamonds,” a 2005 program also on their 2005 DVD, featuring interviews recorded for Criterion in December 2003 at Andrzej Wajda Master School of Film Directing in Warsaw. Wajda is accompanied by his colleague Janusz Morgenstern and film critic Jerzy Plazewski. Morgenstern served as second director on Ashes and Diamonds and as assistant director on Kanal. He went on to have a prolific career as a feature director and head of the film company Perspektywa. Plazewski is the author of twenty-one books on cinema, including The History of World Cinema and The Language of Film. Repeated as well from the 2005 DVD are a short newsreel that appeared in Polish cinemas in 1958, to announce the coming of director Andrzej Wajda's much-anticipated third feature, Ashes and Diamonds. Is there anything new? Yes - film historian Annette Insdorf created a wonderful video essay in 2020 to further contextualize Ashes and Diamonds within director Andrzej Wajda's career and trace its influence on filmmakers of subsequent generations. It is included here - over 13-minutes long. The Blu-ray package has the same liner notes essay by film scholar Paul Coates, as on the DVD.

Well, this is quite an upgrade in the HD video presentation superiority over the 2011 Arrow, it still has the valued commentary and other previous extras and includes a new Insdorf video essay. This is a masterpiece and IMDb tells us that Citizen Kane and Gregg Toland's cinematography in particular - was a huge influence on Andrzej Wajda at the time Ashes and Diamonds was conceived. Like Toland, the first thing the film's cinematographer Jerzy Wˇjcik did was convince production designer Roman Mann to include ceilings in all the sets. I can't really say enough about the film or this Criterion Blu-ray package. It has our highest recommendation!

***

ADDITION: Arrow Academy - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - September 11': The new Arrow Academy 1080P transfer is a decent one. At first I thought it was a bit waxy. It is described as 'a new 2K resolution restoration of the film image and sound transferred from 35mm '. There is grain and depth as well as a jump in detail that will be noticed most by those with larger, more discerning, systems. The Arrow shows marginally more information the top, bottom and left edge of the frame - with Criterion showing a small additional amount on the right edge. Contrast is a shade less prominent than the Criterion - who may have procured their digital magic to some degree. Textures aren't overwhelming but the higher resolution does improve the visuals - especially in a few sequences about 2/3rds in. The Blu-ray disc is single-layered with a reasonable bitrate. It adheres to the original 166:1 aspect ratio. There was only one instance of noise that I noted - where the, often, darker Criterion SD exhibited that phenomenon more frequently - although not fatally.

Audio comes in the form of a linear PCM 2.0 channel at 2304 kbps. The uncompressed track has no flaws but is unremarkable except as a stronger representation of the original. Like the Criterion there are optional English subtitles. The Arrow Blu-ray is region 'B'-locked.

The Arrow doesn't have the wonderful Annette Insdorf commentary track but does includes a 25-minute interview with director Andrzej Wajda where he discusses Ashes & Diamonds. It is presented in 1080P. Included in the package is a comprehensive booklet by writer and film historian Michael Brooke, including new writing on the film, a re-print of Marek Hendrykowsk's monograph on Ashes & Diamonds , Andrzej Wajda 's lecture on Cinema Past and Present. The artwork presentation packaging includes three original posters and a newly commissioned cover.

The Criterion is only available as a SD boxset entitled Andrzej Wajda: Three War Films (reviewed HERE) with A Generation (1955), Kanal (1957) and Ashes and Diamonds from1958. It is pricey but can serve as an excellent introduction to the director. The Arrow is definitely an improved presentation for the latter film - plus the included supplements should be enjoyed by fans of the director. Those who are capable of appreciating this masterpiece and can play region 'B' should definitely consider adding this to their digital library. It is the best home theater presentation currently in existence.

***

Back in my youth, Ashes and Diamonds was one of those movies which defined a generation -- it was a symbol of our generation; part of the revolt (along with beat-poetry and Bob Dylan) against the stodgy middle-class, religion-ridden world of our parents. The introduction of directors such as Wajda to a new and wider audience is of course one of the great benefits of DVD. (Thanks Anthony!)

***

ON THE DVD (2005): Wonderfully film that requires some work and patience. I, again, thoroughly enjoyed. I'm so glad I was able to see all of these films (thank you Criterion!) especially so close together. I got a real feel of the 'Polish school' with one of its icon directors.

The 1.66 widescreen is accurate. Excellent contrast. The film has some dark moments that don't appear to have any manipulations. I've always enjoyed Annette Insdorf's remarks and although I have not had a chance to indulge in this commentary yet, I expect this will be as insightful and enlightening as her previous. I look forward to it. Overall a fantastic boxset by the great Criterion. Hallelujah! 

Gary W. Tooze


Menus

 

Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC LEFT vs. Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

 

Criterion  - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Subtitle Sample

 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Criterion  - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Criterion  - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Criterion  - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC TOP

2) Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Criterion  - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


More full resolution (1920 X 1080) Criterion Blu-ray Captures for DVDBeaver Patreon Supporters HERE

 

 

 
Box Cover

Available in Criterion's Andrzej Wajda "Three War Films" boxset

Coming out in single Blu-ray in January 2016

BONUS CAPTURES:

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 285  - Region 0 - NTSC Arrow Academy  - Region 'B' - Blu-ray Criterion  - Region 'A' - Blu-ray




 

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