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Czlowiek na torze (1957)

7.7
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In 1950, at night, a passenger train kills a man on the tracks. He is Orzechowski, an engineer since 1914. An inquiry immediately follows. Testimony takes the form of flashbacks. Tuszka, ... See full summary »

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Title: Czlowiek na torze (1957)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Kazimierz Opalinski ...
Wladyslaw Orzechowski
Zygmunt Maciejewski ...
Station-Master Tuszka
Zygmunt Zintel ...
Witold Salata
Zygmunt Listkiewicz ...
Stanislaw Zapora
Roman Klosowski ...
Marek Nowak
Kazimierz Fabisiak ...
Konarski
Ludoslaw Kozlowski ...
Karas
Janusz Bylczynski ...
Warda
Stanislaw Marecki ...
(as Stanislaw Marzec-Marecki)
Józef Para ...
Railwayman
Stanislaw Jaworski ...
Franek
Celina Klimczakówna ...
Zofia Salata (as Alina Klimczak)
Natalia Szymanska ...
Orzechowska
Józef Nowak ...
Jankowski
Janusz Paluszkiewicz ...
Krokus
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Storyline

In 1950, at night, a passenger train kills a man on the tracks. He is Orzechowski, an engineer since 1914. An inquiry immediately follows. Testimony takes the form of flashbacks. Tuszka, the station master, believes Orzechowski was a saboteur; at least one on the inquiry panel agrees. Zapora, the young engineer on the train that hit Orzechowski, gives more complicated testimony about the dead man - stiff-necked, proud, imperious, critical of Zapora and other younger workers. The signalman at the crossing where Orzechowski died also testifies. Can the panel arrive at the truth in a world where workers unite, inferior coal is a badge of honor, and the old order is suspect? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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train | See All (1) »

Genres:

Drama

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Release Date:

17 January 1957 (Poland)  »

Also Known As:

Man on the Tracks  »

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Did You Know?

Goofs

In station-master's flashback that is said to take place 'before World War 2', he is a conductor on a steam locomotive Pt47 introduced in 1947. See more »

Connections

Featured in The Lesson of Polish Cinema (2002) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Story of a decent but controversial man
16 March 2002 | by (Paris, France) – See all my reviews

Action takes place in 1950. Machinists driving a steam train locomotive notice a man standing on the rail track next to an open semaphore but cannot stop the train before crushing him. They discover he is their former, old chief in the locomotive driving team, and also that one light of the semaphore is out, which means "run through normally", while there should be two which means "slow down and drive carefully". Railroad investigators mostly suspicion sabotage, because the man was actually recently forcibly retired, but do not understand why he found himself on the track. They question people having worked with him, or involved in the fatal situation. All seem to hate him, and for some good reasons, as the man was harsh for young coworkers, not very obedient to new management and some witnesses might share responsibility for the accident. The investigation is mostly an examination of the old man's life and personality, because technical details which allow to finally know what happened are revealed near the end only.

During the examination, motives for the old man's behavior are progressively revealed. The harshness is probably related to his dislike of too ambitious colleagues, who want fast promotion to full driver positions. His servant-like treatment of aides might come from his back problems that he tries to hide to keep the job. His lack of obedience is also a refusal for the new and presumably unreasonable corner-cutting policies, motivated by the not-so-well working Stalinist model. The movie has therefore a political dimension. The old "engineer" opposed not only new young ambitions and new policies in the railways, but also by extension in the entire country. The investigators behave somewhat like an inquisition. It is by consequence important for political correctness that the final flashback which reconstructs the most plausible story is told by a party mogul in a positive way.

The long flashbacks which compose the movie and tell the actual story from different and partially contradicting points of view will remind you of Rashomon; the action date even matches its release year. The concept of examining a mystery surrounding the death of a controversial hero was present in Citizen Kane. The beginning scenes in the train strangely reminisce me of The Lady Vanishes. The ending is worth a Capra movie.

The intrigue is rooted in workplace reality, which makes the movie somewhat more viewer-stressing than Rashomon and good candidate for illustrating a conflict solving managerial training. The location shooting makes it realistic and thus a good testimony of the past. There is a bit of action and a few moving train stunts. The scenes in the locomotive's cabin seem shot while the train was really in movement and without special effects. Some shots are from a camera attached to the train laterally. Various funny railroad devices are prominently featured, like machines for rotating locomotives or cranes for water refills.

The movie received the Best Director award in 1957 Karlove Vary film festival, Czechoslovakia, and the "Warsaw Siren" Polish Film Critics' Award in 1957. It is available on VHS.

Rating: 10


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