A Generation (1955)
by Andrzej Wajda
Criterion Collection #283
A Generation is an entertaining World War II resistance picture from the perspective of Communist partisans fighting the Nazi's in Poland. It's an idealized picture to be sure, as representative of the official ideology of the Polish government in the mid 1950s as a corresponding Hollywood film about World War II would be of the American government. Despite the non-art film atmosphere and generally laudatory portrayal of the Polish Communist, A Generation still packs a gritty punch, with the female love interest getting hauled off by the Gestapo in the last five minutes of the film. There is also a highly memorable visual of partisan bodies hanging from electricity transmission polls.
A Generation is part of Wajda's World War II trilogy- the other films are Ashes and Diamonds (1958)- about post War shenanigans and Kanal (1957.) Wajda is one of two European film makers to do a post World War II trilogy- the other is Robert Rosselini (Rome Open City(1945), Paisan(1946) and Germany Year Zero(1950) 5/6ths of the way through both of them, I feel confident asserting that World War II was perhaps the first true example of narrative film documenting a world wide current event. Certainly, World War I was not that event. Narrative film of the 1920s wasn't sophisticated enough, nor was there a truly global event, aside from the Great Depression. Likewise, the development of narrative film in the 30s and 40s was still incremental and suffered from technical limitations.
After World War II, there was a great deal of surplus equipment floating around- Europe, the U.S. There was also a good deal of industrial capacity that was diverted from war material, and raw materials that were no longer needed for war. In the area of film, this meant that actual film and the equipment to shoot film (and the people to operate the equipment) suddenly came on the market at the same time that the narrative technique of cinema had evolved to the point where a "War Movie" was plausible and affordable.