Andrzej Wajda – ‘The Devils’ and the new nationalists (198/222)

Andrzej Wajda – ‘The Devils’ and the new nationalists (198/222)


It didn’t go at all smoothly. Above all, it began in a way that I’d never experienced before. As I’ve mentioned, a group of extreme nationalists appeared among the film-makers, under the protection of General Moczar; they were his loud-hailer: Poręba, Filipski and an actor from Kraków, Andrzej Kozak, who was one of the actors from Teatr Stary. When I turned up for the first rehearsal of ‘The Devils’, suddenly, before I’d begun my exposé, my talk with the actors, a hand went up and someone said he had to say something before what’s due to begin is begun, namely, before the first rehearsal commences. I understood that his aim was to disrupt the first rehearsal. He proceeded to give a fiery speech which he read very nervously from a sheet of paper. He read out that Andrzej Wajda is an anti-Polish film director who had shown in his films that he didn’t value national traditions, etc. It was all taken from the Party reviews that were written against me, and he was protesting against my working in Teatr Stary. I was disconcerted because I had never expected anything like this, so it was only later that I understood that there couldn’t have been a more fortuitous beginning because this character was straight out of Dostoyevsky where the suicidal individual suddenly appears. The other actors – this was after I’d made ‘Ashes and Diamonds’ and other films and successful plays – the rest of the company from Stary Teatr wanted to meet me. But he’d been egged on by his comrades and had decided to disrupt the rehearsal. Luckily, the director of the theatre was present while this was going on, and he asked him one murderous question. He said, ‘So does this mean that you’ll be in the play or that you won’t be?’ He hadn’t expected this sort of question to be asked, so he said he would be in the play and sat down. Suddenly, a situation arose that was pure Dostoyevsky. Everyone wanted me to understand that their opinion was different. I later got a letter from the actors from that theatre apologising for this incident, saying they’d be faithful to me, that they’ll work with me. Nevertheless, this incident was a good beginning and we could see that we were coming close to a writer who was different from the ones I’d worked with so far, and that work with Dostoyevsky would simply enter our lives, that we would become a part of, our lives would become a part of this play, and that’s what carried on happening.

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