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Film / A Generation

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Roman Polanski in shorts: The horror.
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A Generation is a 1955 film directed by Andrzej Wajda, making his feature film debut.

Poland, 1942, during the Nazi occupation. Stach Masur is a young man in his late teens living in a slum on the outskirts of Warsaw. Like every other Pole, he hates the Nazis, but his acts of rebellion are limited to stealing hunks of coal from German trains bound for the war with Russia. That all changes, however, when he gets a job as an apprentice at a furniture factory. Stach is surprised to learn that the factory is a hub for resistance activity, although Berg the factory owner is skittish about keeping weapons on the property.

Sekula, another worker at the factory, turns Stach on to a cool guy named Karl Marx. Sekula takes Stach to a clandestine meeting of communists, led by a gorgeous young woman named Dorota. Under Dorota's leadership, the cell begins actively fighting against the Germans, assassinating German officers and helping Jews escape the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

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Part of a loose "war trilogy" by Wajda that includes Kanał and Ashes and Diamonds. And yes, that's a 22-year-old Roman Polanski, in his first film role as Mundek, one of Stach's young friends who joins the resistance.


Tropes:

  • And the Adventure Continues: With a dash of Bittersweet Ending. Dorota is arrested by the Germans, as Stach, who narrowly missed being arrested along with her, sees her being taken away. Stach has been tasked with taking command of a new cell of resistance fighters. He is still crying when the first of them shows up. As Stach and his new band of resistance fighters stare off into the distance, the film ends.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Janek jumps to his death rather than let the Germans get him.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Zyzio after he's shot by the Germans.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: Stach begins the movie as a callow teen and ends it as a dedicated Communist and guerrilla leader.
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  • Disturbed Doves: The very first shot shows pigeons being startled by a train whistle and flying away.
  • Epic Tracking Shot: A four-minute crane shot swoops around and through the little slum that Stach lives in before finally finding him and his buddies goofing off at the railroad tracks.
  • La Résistance: The People's Guard, a communist paramilitary group which is stockpiling arms and murdering the occasional German.
  • Round Table Shot: Dorota is introducing Stach to the rest of the members of the cell. The camera starts with Dorota and Stach greeting the others. Then a member of the audience lights a cigarette and passes it around. As the camera quite slowly pans around, the cigarette is passed from person to person as we see everyone in the cell. The shot doesn't end until it completes a full circle by coming back to Dorota and Stach.
  • Sweater Girl: For a hardened resistance fighter and rabble-rousing Communist, Dorota sure does wear some tight sweaters.
  • These Hands Have Killed: Stach's friend Janek has a little freakout after shooting a German officer to death inside the Local Hangout. Doesn't make him leave La Résistance, though.
  • Throw-Away Guns: Out of ammuition and with no way to escape, Janek flings his pistol at the Germans coming up the stairs, before jumping to his death.
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