AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
We're going to remember one of the world's most celebrated film directors. Andrzej Wajda died Sunday evening at the age of 90. His films reflected Poland's troubled 20th century and were sometimes difficult for foreign audiences. But critic Bob Mondello says they're worth the effort.
BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: If you're looking for evidence of filmmaking smarts, it's right there in Andrzej Wajda's first black-and-white movie made in 1955.
A young man races through Warsaw at the height of World War II past corpses dangling from street lights, pursued by Nazi soldiers who chase him into a building and up a central staircase. He's only just committed himself to the resistance. But he's breathtakingly effective, shooting soldiers as he goes higher until his way is blocked by bars.
His cause lost, his defiance knows no bounds. He turns, hurls his gun at one soldier, then climbs the railing and hurls himself at the next, down six stories to his death. The film is called "A Generation." And it kicked off both a trilogy and the director's lifelong defense of resistance.
Wajda's most celebrated films took on the Polish government directly. "Man Of Marble" - about a student filmmaker who debunks communist mythologizing - and "Man Of Iron," which turns a jaundiced eye on attempts to crush the Solidarity movement. Understandably, the authorities weren't pleased. And Wajda spent much of his career fighting censorship.
He left Poland for a time but, with the collapse of communism, returned, serving briefly in the Polish Senate, then going back to directing for screen and stage and, to the very last, celebrating resistance. Andrzej Wajda's final film, "Afterimage," completed just this year, is the story of an avant-garde artist stifled by the state. It will be Poland's official entry for this year's best-foreign-language-film Oscar. I'm Bob Mondello. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.