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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
"Czlowiek z marmuru" ("Man of Marble") goes to tells us the story of a filmmaker (Krystyna Janda) who wants to make as a film thesis a documentary about one of the heroes of Poland's communist regime, a simple man named Mateusz Birkut (Jerzy Radziwilowicz), a bricklayer that was famous for building housing for all the people, and that made him a cult figure in his country. She is trying to find Birkut, a popular figure that vanished without any explanation and she'll try to discover what happened with this mythic figure. Interviewing those who knew him and watching old footage of him, the filmmaker will make a great work about this man but her bosses who owns the funds (the Socialist government funds) for the film's realization are not very happy with her film, thinking that this might be a damaging project for them.
If the story sounds a little like "Citizen Kane" well, be ready for countless flashbacks, back and forth in the past of Birkut, and a almost inconclusive ending just like Welles masterpiece. But wait! The ending of this journey appears in "Man of Iron" (1981), also directed by the great Andrzej Wajda.
"Man of Marble" (term that refers to the propagandistic marble statues made in Birkut's image) is a powerful and brilliant story about the importance of past in the lives of everyone, it's the thing that makes us look for the future with better eyes, and in the film, we are constantly dragged down to it in order to get some answers about Birkut's future: Is he alive? Is he dead? Why he disappeared? Not just that, it is a great accomplish in showing how documentaries are made, both the protagonist work but the ones made up by the government, where Birkut and his friends were "trained" to appear important in front of camera. And, of course, a political and historical background that reveals many things about Poland and how strict the society were back in the 1950's and even in the 1970's with an absolute control on everything filmed, said and all.
Unique in many senses, "Man of Marble" present us the sad reality of Communism with masked realities where everything presented as good but in the surface it wasn't all good, and Birkut realizes that after an painful incident and after the suspicion that his friend was a spy, something that he never agreed, and that made him fight with the ones who put him on a good position among people, the government.
It is a well made film, with terrific performances by the cast, and a magnificent screenplay that knows how to evoke many times, many periods of Poland without being confusing (something that was problematic in its sequel), everything works fine. Bravo, Mr. Wajda. 10/10
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