Man of marble

(Człowiek z marmuru, 1977). One of Andrzej Wajda's best-known works, a pioneer narrative film that denounced Stalinism and retold the story of the Polish 1950s. The film, scripted by Aleksander Ścibor-Rylski, deals with cynical manipulation and repression. Its protagonist, Mateusz Birkut (Jerzy Radziwiłowicz), is an honest bricklayer at the Nowa Huta steelworks near Kraków, an exemplary worker, courted and exploited by the Communist authorities as a national hero. The structure of Man of Marble resembles that of Orson Welles's Citizen Kane (1941). While making her student documentary about Birkut, the film student Agnieszka (Krystyna Janda) learns the true history of the Stalinist period. A marble statue of Birkut that she finds in the basement of the museum initiates her search for the "man behind the mask." Agnieszka starts with the "official truth" (a newsreel featuring her protagonist), but as she gradually learns the story behind the facade, a more complete picture of the period emerges. Extensive flashbacks portray the rise of the simple-minded worker to Communist stardom and expose the hypocrisy and dirty politics of Stalinism. Wajda employs authentic black-and-white newsreels, a number of flashbacks in color, and skillfully made black-and-white pseudo-documentaries and newsreels, which are virtually undistinguishable from the real ones.
   As the first powerful political as well as artistic work dealing with the Stalinist period, Man of Marble influenced future Polish filmmakers dealing with Stalinism. The Communist authorities limited the distribution of the film and prevented Wajda from getting any awards at the Festival of Polish Films. The director received a symbolic award from Polish journalists—the brick. Man of Marble finds its continuation in the 1981 sequel, Man of Iron.
   See also Censorship.
   Historical Dictionary of Polish Cinema by Marek Haltof

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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