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The true story of a Polish hero who changed the world.
It was in the post-WWII, Stalinist, Communist, Cold War, era, that the Polish Director Andrzej Wajda set his 1977 film 'Man of Marble'. Remarkably it was made in the Communist-era. The era was post-Stalinist and so the earlier Stalinist setting of the film helped get it past the censors. It starred Jerzy Radziwilowicz and Krystyna Janda. The fictional story of the era was told via the making of a film, found-footage material, and interviews. All put together and filmed in such a way as to be totally believable. A great film.
This reviewer, having had the chance to see the film in the years shortly after it was released, being impressed with the film, and following political events in Poland, was excited to hear of a sequel. This was called 'Man of Iron' (1981).
'MoI' picked up where 'MoM' ended. It too starred JZ and KJ. Similar in style to the previous film, it brought the fictional story, that dramatized, fictionalized, and mirrored, real life events, and brought them up to that present day era.
Now Director Andrjez Wajda has made a third film which can perhaps be viewed as the final part in what is now a trilogy. It is titled 'Walesa. Man of Hope' in the anglicized form. Film was shown in Polish with English sub-titles. Using the technique of an interview, it then tells the story to the audience via flashbacks for much of the film. 'W.MoH' covers some of the same ground as 'MoI', however this is not a fictional story but is the true story of Lech Walesa. Incidentally perhaps, the title of the Lech Walesa autobiography is 'A Way of Hope'.
Robert Wieckiewicz is Lech Walesa. I do not say that lightly. He seems to capture the character and the mannerisms perfectly. The younger Walesa is attractive, arrogant and cocky. He is uneducated but technically minded. He is not bookish but is a good talker. As the younger Lech grows older, RW continues to convince in the role.
Agnieszka Grochowska is Danuta Walesa. She too convinces as we see her age during the film. Her husband is a man committed to a cause. She shows what it is like to be married to such a man.
Poland is a communist state. The Polish United Workers' Party, aka the Communist Party, was in theory the organized vanguard of the proletarians. In reality it did not lead, but rather oppressed the workers. Poland was not a workers' state but a police-state. Even the unions were part of the oppressive state apparatus rather than genuine representatives of the workers. They were merely stooge unions. All this is shown well in the film. Film shows how individuals have to navigate their way around the brutal and oppressive police-state. As Andrzej Wajda had to compromise, negotiate, and navigate his way around, to get 'MoM' made, so too did everybody else in Poland. All were touched by the police-state and had to react as they thought best at the time.
Communist theory is that individuals do not matter and that only economic forces and class-struggle are important in changing history. Others can point to individuals that have changed history. The film shows well, most particularly in one scene, the truly squalid life style of the workers. Into this mix came, though just touched on in this film, Karol Wojtyla. On the 16/10/78 he became Pope John Paul II. Be it economic forces, or individuals, that changed history, it was clear that here in Poland a struggle was taking place.
Lech Walesa was at the heart of this struggle. We see him trying to work for his cause. These days we are familiar with revolutions organized by social-networking sites. In those days the underground had a much more primitive underground way of communicating. The samizdat scenes in the film, enable Director Andrzej Wajda to incorporate a brief scene from the film 'MoI' with the actors JR and KJ. Thus does art imitate life and does that life incorporate the art too. As we discovered in 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance' (1962), "When the legend becomes the fact, print the legend!" The film covers most of the important dates, events, and facts. Bar one. On the 13/5/81 there was an assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. It is now generally accepted who instigated this plot. However this does not seem to have had any bearing on events later. Academics, historians, and others, now generally accept that the 'Brezhnev Doctrine', a publicly stated position since 1968, though one that merely reiterated previous policy, eg. in 1956, that 'Brezhnev Doctrine' was not going to be enforced.
'W.MoH' is able to stand alone as a film. If you wish to view it in a wider context, then 'MoM', then 'MoI', should be viewed first in that chronological order. However it is not necessary. This is a great stand-alone film. Greater context is not needed to appreciate and enjoy this film.
After Pope John Paul II, Lech Walesa is perhaps the second most famous Pole in the world. This film is a great tribute to Lech Walesa.
A great director has made a great film about a great man. As such it is a fitting monument to both of them.
The Poles have been accused of being heroic and ungovernable. They are guilty as charged.
Great film. True story. 10/10.
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