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Man of Iron

Posted by martinteller on September 15, 2012

Wajda’s sequel to Man of Marble.  An unambitious, meek, alcoholic journalist named Winkel (Marian Opania) is sent to Gdansk to report on the strike at the shipyard by the free trade union, the rising anti-Communist Solidarność labor movement.  His bosses are clearly using him to gather information for the state but he goes along, reluctant to make waves.  Specifically, he is asked to get information on the prominent union leader/organizer Maciej Tomczyk, son of Mateusz Birkut (both played again by Jerzy Radziwilowicz), the subject of the first film.  Speaking of the first film, that movie’s protagonist Agnieszka (Krystyna Janda) the filmmaker is now married to Maciej, but she is languishing in prison.  As Winkel talks to more and more people involved, his wishy-washy reluctance to get politically involved starts to fade.

I had two complaints in my review of Man of Marble.  One was the terrible music, which continues to be a problem here.  Wajda is not done any favors by composer Andrzej Korzynski… the score is quite cheesy, and the corny strings over the romantic moments are dreadful.  My other complaint was about Janda’s jittery performance.  I have to take that one back.  The restless energy of Agnieszka made her a very memorable character.  I haven’t seen the  film for three years but I remember Janda quite well.

Which makes it rather disappointing that she doesn’t make an appearance here until two-thirds through the film.  She’s got the same energy in flashback, but in the contemporary scenes she’s more subdued (“I’m calmer now,” she explains).  And she’s still terrific, a really riveting presence that the film could have used more of.  Still, Opania’s performance is very good — as are all the performances — and it’s interesting to watch his conscience develop.  He is a passive character, but we get the drama of Maciej and Agnieszka through his interviews and flashbacks.

Besides Janda’s diminished role, this film also suffers in comparison to its predecessor by its abundance of political content.  It seems more concerned with establishing modern political history than exploring particular themes or ideologies.  There’s a little too much talk about who’s doing what and what’s going on.  But I don’t want to make it sound like an exceptionally dry or blunt propaganda film.  In the process of documenting and exploring the events (aided by excellent use of stock footage… Lech Walesa and others in the movement also star as themselves) we understand how it interacts with the drama of the central characters.

I would probably appreciate this movie more if I was more knowledgeable about the Polish political landscape of the time, and I definitely would have appreciated more Krystyna Janda, but in general it was an interesting film with a satisfying structure.  Rating: Very Good (80)


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