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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
I came to this film after having watched Wajda's "Ashes and Diamonds," which I consider to be one of the finest films I have seen. However, "Man of Marble" was just too quirky for me, leaving me a bit perplexed.
The story concerns a young film student, known here only as Agnieszka, who decides to produce a documentary on one Mateusz Birkut as her graduation project. Birkut was an idealistic bricklayer who rose to the status of post-WWII hero by way of displaying superior efficiency and strength. His innovation of how to use a small team to accomplish improved production came to be so well recognized that he would tour the country setting up such teams. The film time-slices from the 1970s, when Agnieszka is making her film, to previous times, all the way back to mock documentary footage of Birkut in the 1950s. The presentation is anything but flattering to the Communist Party and it is astounding the Wajda was able to get this made in a time when the Communists were still in power in Poland. The story must be autobiographical to some extent, since we see Agnieszka encountering political opposition to her digging too deeply into the past trying to reconstruct Birkut's life and figure out why he essentially dropped from the scene after having been so highly visible; there is also a famous film director in the movie whom we get to know well.
There are many scenes that had the quality of a dream, but yet seemed like they were supposed to be taken for real. For example, one scene has Burkit's friend Witek going into a small office of a party boss and, when Burkit enters the office some time later there is no sign of Witek. If this were to be taken as some sort of Kafkaesque event, then Burkit would have made no remark on the mysterious disappearance, but he express the surprise that any normal person would have. I did not know what to make of such scenes. Agnieszka's facial expressions and body movements are often quite odd, bordering on the bizarre, and they accentuated the feeling of unreality I had that became increasingly more pronounced as the movie progressed.
The collage of Agnieszka's interviews, mock documentary footage, scenes from Burkit's life, scenes from Agnieszka's own life, and an inappropriate musical score did not coalesce for me.
7 of 10 people found this review helpful.
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