Polish Films Guide: Part 3

Man of Marble (1977)

Director Andrzej Wajda

Wajda’s inside look into the effects of Stalinist propaganda received green light from the Ministry of Culture only in 1976. Regardless the director’s revealing attacks on socialist realism, propaganda, and political corruption in Stalinist period, the project overcame all attempts at restricting and was successfully released.

Young filmmaker Agnieszka works on her film thesis about a 1950’s bricklayer and Stakhanovite symbol Mateusz Birkut. His image received a heroic status to increase construction efficiency in a new industrial city of Nowa Huta. Birkut, however, has fallen from grace of Party and disappeared. Two decades later, Agnieszka conducts her own investigation, interviewing his friends, ex-wife, and even the filmmaker Jerzy Burski who made Birkut an object of common admiration. She recreates the real story behind the downfall of the industrial legend and finds the truth behind the propagandistic film: Birkut was selected to demonstrate efficiency and progress laying 30.000 bricks in one shift; he was beloved by working people and wanted housing for all but lost his heart and hope because of selfish bureaucrats and constant arguments with powerful Party members.

The life and tragedy of Mateusz Birkut are a reason to question whether socialism in Poland worked at all. Man of Marble is Andrzej Wajda’s attempt to uncover secrets that many Polish communist leaders and officials would rather bury.

 

Interrogation (1982)

Director Ryszard Bugajski

Before Ryszard Bugajski film won Palme d’Or nomination at 1990 Cannes Film Festival and became a cult masterpiece, it had been banned from public view for 7 years due to its anti-communist motives .

The story is set in Soviet Poland of 1950’s. A cabaret singer Antonina falls for the wrong lover and ends up locked in a military prison for political convicts. There, without being told what she is accused of, abusive officials try to make her confess to the crimes she never committed. Antonina becomes subject to endless physical and psychological tortures, but an ordinary apolitical woman stands on her own and refuses to sign the false confession. One of the interrogation officials becomes attracted to her and their romantic relationship leads to Antonina’s pregnancy. The officer secures Antonina’s release and her right to reclaim their child but commits suicide afterwards.

 

A Short Film about Love (1989)

Director Krzysztof Kieślowski

Tomek is a young post office worker who falls in love with his middle-aged neighbor, Magda. He becomes a stalker, spying on Magda through a telescope, making anonymous calls, sometimes even intercepting her post. Finally, Tomek plucks up his courage and declares his love to Magda. However, he doesn’t know yet, that the high feelings he has for the woman mean nothing except physical pleasure and joy for her.

Krzysztof Kieślowski used the 6th episode of his Dekalog TV series and expanded the script into a full film version. The major change was applied to the ending on request of the lead actress Grażyna Szapołowska (she wanted the film to have a more ‘fairytale ending’ unlike the original TV series episode, where the unrequited love makes Tomek commit suicide).

A Short story about Love received many positive acclaims in the USA, including approving reviews from The NY Times magazine, San Francisco Chronicles, and Cinema Sights. The film won totally 8 awards at film festivals in Poland, Belgium, Sao Paolo, Venice, and Chicago and was remade in Hindi in 2002.