Poland during the final years of Stalin’s dictatorship which until 1953 controls all of Eastern Europe with an iron fist. One of the most influential representatives of Polish modernism is the artist and art professor Wladyslaw Strzeminski, who fights with his abstract art concepts a desperate fight against the narrow-minded ideological doctrines enforced upon artists by the communist regime.
It demands a “socialist realism”, i.e. works of art which “serve the revolution” and glorify the world of the working class. The international modernism is disparaged as “bourgeois decadence”, as the art of Western capitalism and thus as “betrayal of socialism”. What is left is an art reduced to an instrument of communist propaganda.
By his students, Professor Strzeminski, who lost an arm and a leg during the war, is being worshipped like a hero; whereas the regime withdraws his teaching license, removes him from the artists’ association and lets shady characters destroy his works in museums and galleries. Left without any source of income, Strzeminski continues painting in a shabby atelier. To survive, there is nothing left than accepting humiliating small jobs.
Podiwoki is the last film created by Andrzej Wajda, completed shortly before his death in October 2016 at the age of 90. Wajda is considered as the internationally most renowned Polish director. He earned several awards for his grand, politically committed oeuvre in film and theatre, including the Oscar of Honour (2000) and the Golden Bear of the Berlin International Film Festival.