Sunday 5 April 2015

Man of Marble [1976]

Man of Marble, the 1st of 2 ‘Solidarity Films’ made by Wajda in support of the burgeoning trade union movement in Poland, would rank as one of the most important works in his oeuvre, for both political and aesthetic reasons. On one hand, it provided a compelling indictment on the kind of political exploitation, opportunism, manipulation and corruption that the Soviet Bloc was a witness to, while on the other, it projected “reality” through multiple view points, akin to ‘Rashomon Effect’, as a means for deconstructing history. The premise concerns Agnieszka (Krystyna Janda), a brash, young film student, making a controversial documentary as her graduation project on Mateusz Birkut (Jerzy Radziwiłowicz), a once famous bricklayer who had become a Stakhanovite symbol of an over-achieving worker but, somewhere along the line, has fallen into complete obscurity and anonymity. As she watches archived film clips, and, with the help of her tiny team, records the versions of a successful director (Tadeusz Łomnicki) who had shot Mateusz’s superlative feat of laying 30,000 bricks in one shift, a state agent (Piotr Cieślak) who had witnessed Mateusz’ transition from a celebrity to a provocateur, his close comrade (Michał Tarkowski) who’s now been “reformed” into a businessman, and his wife (Krystyna Zachwatowicz) who’d denounced him after his political incarceration, what emerged was a fascinating but bleak and troubling account filled with wry humour and irony. The film’s documentary realism and stance as an agitprop, through potent narrative mix of pseudo-newsreel footages (in grainy B/W), on-camera interviews in present (shot using hand-held camera) and recreation of the past (in subdued colour palettes) added to its bravura formalism.

Director: Andrzej Wajda
Genre: Drama/Political Satire
Language: Polish
Country: Poland

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