Man of Marble (1976-7) | Kinoteka 2017

March 3rd, 2017
Author: Meredith Taylor

220px-Man-of-marble-posterDir.: Andrzej Wajda

Cast: Jerzy Radziwilowicz, Krystyna Janda, Jacek Lomnicki

Poland 1977, 165 min.

Wajda had to wait 15 years between finishing the script with Aleksander Scibor-Rylski and the film’s production in 1976/77. Despite this, the fact that he was allowed to shot the film at all is a small miracle, considering that it is a frontal assault on the evils of Stalinism in a country still under the iron fist of Russia. MAN OF MARBLE is set on the line of Wolfgang Leonhardt’s famous book of the denunciation of Stalinism: “The revolution eats its children”. The victim in this case is a fictitious Stakhanovite worker, Mateusz Birkut, who in the early fifties laid 28,000 bricks in a shift, setting a record, which made him a (short-lived) hero. He becomes the subject of a young film student, Agnieszka, who chooses him as the subject for her diploma film. Soon it becomes apparent, that the authorities are not keen for Agnieszka to continue, and her project is stopped and the material confiscated. But the student does not give up, after finding and interviewing the ex-hero’s son Maciej (both father and son are played by the same actor, J. Radziwilowycz), she learns that Birkut senior has been dead for years, after falling from grace. Wajda wanted to end the film showing his death in the clashes in Gdansk in the early seventies, but the censors  insisted on an open ending. (In MAN OF STEEL (1981) Wajda showed Birkut’s fate as he had planned for MAN OF MARBLE).

The beauty of this film lies in its complexity: Birkut is a submissive hero, believing in Stalinism, a system which would crush him. He is quite close to the young film student, who “re-discovers” him – only to be told, that her work too, is not needed. The label of “socialist hero” disguised the decency and humility of Birkut, his real qualities made him a hero, not his propaganda value for an inhuman system.

Wajda’s lucidity in making this contrast between the system and its idealistic followers, is even more valid today, because now, decades after the fall of Stalinism, it becomes clearer every day, that  Stalinism had very little in common with Socialism but was just a tool of the Russian State for its expansion, in the same way, as its oligarchy today uses its economic power of capitalism, to supress and annexe its neighbouring states. AS

KINOTEKA POLISH FILM FESTIVAL 2017 | 25 March | Close-Up Cinema | 16.00

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