Andrzej Wajda – Czlowiek z marmuru aka Man of Marble (1977)


The first of Polish director Andrzej Wajda’s two “Solidarity” films, Man of Marble (originally Czlowiek Z Marmuru) concerns bricklayer Mateusz Birkut (Jerzy Radziwilowicz). Lauded as a national hero in the 1950s due to his skills at his trade, Birkut has inexplicably fallen into obscurity. In making a film of the bricklayer’s life, documentary director Krystyna Janda discovers that the bricklayer used his sudden fame to become involved in labor politics — whereupon the repressive government did its best to wipe out all traces of his accomplishments. This climactic revelation was, ironically, excised by the Polish censors when Man of Marble was first released. Director Wajda followed this film with Man of Iron, which traced the further political exploits of director Janda and her husband, the son of the unfortunate bricklayer — also played by Jerzy Radziwilowicz. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Wajda’s film brilliantly juxtaposes the repressiveness of Stalinism in the Poland of the 1950s with that of the regime cracking down on the burgeoning Solidarity movement of the 1970s. The director frames his film around a documentary being made by film student Agnieska (Krystyna Janda) about one of Poland’s forgotten working-class heroes, Mateusz Birkut (Jerzy Radziwilowicz), of the 1950s. As she begins to stumble across ugly truths about the period, the powers that be start to become nervous. In his depiction of the exploitation of the naïve worker and aspiring labor leader by Stalin’s propaganda machine, the director offers a savage denunciation of the foundation of lies upon which a totalitarian system is built. Focusing on the 1950s, Wajda is also pointing the finger at himself and his contemporaries for their own innocent utopianism, remaining blind to the terrible cost of Stalinism long after its evil had become clear. With the growing power of labor, and the rise of Solidarity in the 1970s, he hoped Polish audiences would draw the parallel with the earlier period, and rise up to prevent Jaruzelski from taking similar measures. So effective was the film in arousing the government’s ire, that it was years before he would again be allowed to make a film in his own country. Made in the style of a documentary, the genius of Wajda gives it a fresh immediacy and formal control that few documentaries could match. ~ Michael Costello, All Movie Guide

Subtitles:English, Spanish, French, German, Rusian, Italian sub/idx

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