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In 1976, a young woman in Krakow is making her diploma film, looking behind the scenes at the life of a 1950s bricklayer, Birkut, who was briefly a proletariat hero, at how that heroism was created, and what became of him. She gets hold of outtakes and censored footage and interviews the man's friends, ex-wife, and the filmmaker who made him a hero. A portrait of Birkut emerges: he believed in the workers' revolution, in building housing for all, and his very virtues were his undoing. Her hard-driving style and the content of the film unnerve her supervisor, who kills the project with the excuse she's over budget. Is there any way she can push the film to completion? Written by
So many film students have wasted their time trying to study "Kane" as a character study and as a satire. But it wasn't really either of those things, but an experiment in depth for the camera and narrative structures. The frequent comparison between that film and this one makes a lot of sense superficially; the newsreel footage, the interviewees made up to look 20 years older.
But Agniezcka is making a film, rather than a piece for a newspaper: journalism vs. art, capitalism vs. socialism. Although the journalists in "Kane" said otherwise, they were never seeing "who he was" rather "what he was like" ie. his behaviour, how others perceived him etc. Here we have something broader, examining a man confronting society, confronting his friends, and confronting himself all at the same time. Newspaper journalism tells us what something is like. Good documentary strives to really define what or who something was.
This is a highly intelligent structure, moreso than his previous works and moreso even than "Kane." As a meditation on film-making, it moves gracefully from the shots captured by Agniezcka's cinematographer, and the shots of Wajda himself, forcing us to draw parallels.
It's a shame Wajda remains largely unknown. Perhaps the up-coming Criterion set of his "War Trilogy" will change that.
4 out of 5 - An excellent film
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