(director: Andrzej Wajda; screenwriter: Aleksander Scibor-Rylski; cinematographer: Edward Klosinski; editor: Halina Pugarowa; music: Andrzej Korzynski; cast: Krystyna Janda (Agnieszka),Jerzy Radziwilowicz (Mateusz Birkut), Krystyna Zachwatowicz (Hanka Tomczyk),Wieslaw Wojcik (Film Editor), Boguslaw Sobczuk (TV Producer), Krystyna Janda (Mateusz Birkut), Michal Tarkowski (Witek), Piotr Cieslak (Michalak), Jacek Lomnicki (Soundman), Tadeusz Lomnicki (Jerzy Burski); Runtime: 160; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Barbara Pec-Slesicka; Film Polski; 1977-Poland-in Polish with English subtitles
“Superior political pic.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Andrzej Wajda (“Man of Iron“/”Kanal”/”Ashes and Diamonds“) directs this superior political pic. Through a documentary style it gives the filmmaker a chance to reflect on the past missteps and hypocrisies of Poland’s Stalinization period in 1952, when it was declared a People’s Republic. The story has the aggressive TV reporter, the 24-year-old film student Agnieszka (Krystyna Janda), make a film for her diploma from film school, reluctantly sponsored by her TV producer (Boguslaw Sobczuk), on the bricklayer hero of 1952, Mateusz Birkut (Jerzy Radziwilowicz), a young farmer’s son from Cracow, who set a record with a team of bricklayers in building new homes in the new industrial town of Nowa Huta and for that was made a national hero, called a Stakhanovite shock-worker, with a giant poster of him hung on the town’s central square. But he was later discredited and the poster on the government building was removed, and he has since not been heard from and vanished into obscurity. Agnieszka finds answers for why when she interviews the famed elderly internationally renown Polish film director Jerzy Burski (Tadeusz Lomnicki), who shot the film Architects of our Happiness, a propaganda documentary on Birkut and others involved with Birkut, that include his former wife (Krystyna Zachwatowicz), friends, enemies and museum personnel who kept the film in their archives for the last 25 years with orders from the curator to not show it.

Wajda subsequently offers a 1970’s revised take on Poland’s immediate past, using newsreel-like flashbacks for its detective story as not only a source of suspense but, even more so, to offer commentary on how easy it is to doctor documentaries for ulterior aims, how those in power use their office to cover things up and how repressive was the communist regime.

The film challenged the Communist authorities and their glorious portrayal of the past, and as a result Wajda’s humanistic film was delayed a release for four years.

The polemical storytelling is a plus, but the always fidgeting and angry chain-smoking performance by Janda was a turn-off because her irritating behavior made her a difficult person to like.

The title of the Solidarity film refers to the state created marble statues of Birkut, used for propaganda, that were found in the museum’s storage area.