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Afterimage [2017]: Clash of ideologies left no room for an artist who redefined space

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Afterimage: Clash of communism and Socialist realism left no room for a Polish artist who redefined space and how objects occupy them.

Sweeping the remainings on the plate with his tongue to concealing his identity for a job that he detests, Wladyslaw Strzeminski, a Polish Painter who redefined space and how objects occupy them,  ironically finds himself struggling to find a space in his own country. His life turns into a nightmare when his belief in the abstract art of socialist realism is not only repressed by Stalin authority but dismembered and uprooted by the Communist group.

Andrzej Wajda‘s swan song film ‘Afterimage‘ paints the horror of repression of ‘freedom of expression’ in the most tragic manner of the Polish avant-garde painter Wladyslaw Strzeminski. Biopics are very tricky to make but in the hands of veteran film-maker Andrzej Wajda, we are sure that the film won’t be reduced to merely give an insight into the life of Strzeminski, but it explores art and its repercussion on politics and artists. The ideological conflict is debated and discussed at length to give a better insight of the political tension during the Stalin period.




In one of the most beautifully shot metaphorical scenes, late Andrzej Wajda foretells the butchering of Strzeminski’s artistic freedom and subsequently annihilating his soul. We see Strzeminski’s engrossed in painting in his study room which is gradually bathed in red light. The red light is from the glorious & huge red banner of Stalin unfurled outside his window in his respect. Upon his realization, he opens the window and intentionally pokes a hole in the banner to let the light in. Like Stalin’s communist philosophy is already strangling him to death and he retaliates by letting the light in. This, of course, brings the authorities to bear on him. “You are at a crossroads,” an official tells him. He is instructed that if he does not conform, “you bring that fate upon yourself.”

It is achingly heart breaking and intensely harrowing. Strzeminski who lost a leg and arms fighting in World War I passionately works on his art and teaching that acts as a healer. He never let his disability subjugate his artistic skills, rather it catalyzes it. But after the clash of ideologies with the banner holders of Stalin authority, he is seized of everything that completes him.




The only way you can make any artist redundant or for that matter make him feel crippled is by not giving them breathing room to even survive. And with Strzeminski, it went worst. He was thrown out of the art community, which he co-founded, and had all his work discredited and scrapped from museum to local restaurant. Communist group stooped so low that he could not get his painting colors and accessories from any shop. It broke his soul in away, damaged his spirits and left a permanent scar on his passion. But he was a stubborn man who didn’t bend to their demands.

★1/2

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