A short excerpt from the booklet essay by Michał Oleszczyk.
At once breezy and grave, acutely dry yet strangely lyrical, Andrzej Wajda’s Innocent Sorcerers (Niewinni czarodzieje, 1960) seems to grow richer with each passing year. And yet, at the time of its making the project seemed like a startling departure for the director, whose previous features dealt strictly with Polish wartime experience. A Generation (Pokolenie, 1955), Kanał (1957), Ashes and Diamonds (Popiół i diament, 1958) and Lotna (1959) not only proved crucial in launching what came to be recognized as the Polish Film School movement, but also managed to reveal a distinctive directorial voice. Its chief characteristic lied in the formal meticulousness and genuine pathos with which Wajda rendered the tragic lives of young Poles entangled in WW2 struggle.
Considering that Innocent Sorcerers was the director’s first attempt to portray contemporary youth, from which he felt generationally detached (being 33 years of age at the time of shooting), it comes as no surprise that Wajda felt anxious about the project:
"I found Innocent Sorcerers a particularly hard film to make. My earlier films were about war; now I had to deal with the present day. (…) Preoccupied with my films, I had had no time for a life of 'friendship and romance'. I was no observer of the everyday evolution of behavior: not being part of it, I never noticed what went on around me"
The screenplay was written by Jerzy Andrzejewski (the author of both the original Ashes and Diamonds novel and of its screen adaptation) as a commentary on the lives of young Polish people who – even though born during WWII – didn't experience it first-hand and came of age in new, communist Poland. Andrzejewski and Wajda were apprehensive of missing out on their target audience, and they both feared the original script might have been too out of touch with how young, educated Polish people spoke and behaved in the late 1950s. That's why they turned to a twenty-three year-old aspiring poet and sometime boxer named Jerzy Skolimowski, who shaped the screenplay, spiced it up and ultimately not only shared screen credit with Andrzejewski, but also played a bit part of a giddy boxing contender (sporting a genuinely smashed eyebrow in the film's early scene).
The vitality (as well as beauty) of Innocent Sorcerers stems from the perfectly rendered panorama of semi-bohemian Warsaw life circa 1959: the moldy jazz dens, the endless pursuit of yet another love affair, the fashionable spleen veiled in omnipresent cigarette smoke, as well as the underlying dream of turning oneself into one of the characters seen in Western movies. Andrzej and Pelagia, while clearly burdened by the hard-line communist rhetoric of the Stalinist first half of the 1950s (they even refer to themselves jokingly as "model workers"), are in fact devoid of any sense of ideological belonging. As Pelagia says mid-way through the film: "Our generation has no illusions."
The fact that Wajda used many actual Warsaw locations, such as the Gwardia Stadium and Largactil jazz club, as well as populated his movie with a slew of real-life jazz personalities (such as Jan Zylber, Andrzej Trzaskowski and the film's composer Krzysztof Komeda, playing a character named after himself), gave the film a distinctive, timely feel. Juicy bit-parts delivered by young Roman Polański and the forever-purring Kalina Jędrusik (as a sexy reporter making bedroom eyes to Andrzej even as she interviews him), further embellished Innocent Sorcerers and made it into a lively snapshot of the period. Even the self-consciously modern touches, such as including the film's actual poster in its own opening shot, and making the featured radio announcer comment on "the new song from the film Innocent Sorcerers, sung by Sława Przybylska", have an unmistakable flavour of a homespun nouvelle vague. It's also worth noting that the shooting of Innocent Sorcerers was simultaneous with that of Godard's Breathless (À bout de soufflé): yet another double portrait of 'immoral' youth that was about to set cinema itself ablaze.
Michał Oleszczyk's complete essay, from which this excerpt is taken, appears in the booklet which accompanies the DVD release.
A short excerpt from the booklet
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CineOutsider by Michael Ewins
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Cinematic Investigations by Harriet Warman
(i) Innocent Sorcerers at Wajda.pl
(ii) Wajda at FilmReference.com
(iii) Krystof Komeda: Genius of Jazz
(iv) Wajda School
(v) Polish Cultural Institute