DVD Review: Man of Marble

Andrzej Wajda is a leading light of the Polish Film School and the most prominent Polish filmmaker. He’s received Academy Award Nominations for Best Foreign Language Film for The Promised Land, The Maids of Wilko, Man of Iron, and Katyn, and was awarded an Honorary Oscar 1999. Man of Marble, and its sequel Man of Iron, are two of his most important socio-political films.

Man of Marble was subject to controversy on release. Wajda had already waited for 12 years for the political climate to change in order to shoot the film. His problems didn’t end there, as the authorities would only allow it to be screened in one cinema. However, when a huge crowd turned up on release, they relented and allowed it to be shown in a couple more cinemas. There was a catch; it could only be advertised as “Reserved Screening”. When it screened at the Polish Film Festival journalists were so unhappy that, due to the perceived hand of political interference, it didn’t win an award they protested openly and presented the director with a signed brick.

Man of Marble is a highly political film and you can see why the authorities obstructed its release. It focuses on “model worker” and bricklayer Mateusz Birkut (Jerzy Radziwilowicz) who is part of a construction team on a new town Nowa Huta which is being built to house workers at the local steel mill. A journalist comes up with the idea of a “labour race” and decides to film the team as they attempt to break a bricklaying barrier. They’re successful and Birkut becomes a national hero, but as time passes his skills are no longer needed and he finds himself struggling to find work.

Due to the delay in shooting, Wajda decided to tell the film from the perspective of a film student Agnieszka (Krystyna Janda) who is fascinated by his story and decides to tell his story as her diploma film in 1976. He made the decision to do this as the new generation would not be aware of Birkut’s story, and it also allowed him to highlight the pressures he was under from the government when trying to make Man of Marble.

Man of Marble is an important film for Poland which exposed divisions in the government between the progressive reformers and traditionalists at the time of release. This eventually led to a change in regime. It’s a marvellous piece of filmmaking, both inventive and perceptive in the way it manages to get its point across. Its use of extensive original documentary footage from the construction of Nova Huta only serves to immerse the viewer into the era.

Special Features

• 2-Disc Special Edition

• Presented from a new High-Definition restoration of the film, approved by the director.

• Three new and exclusive filmed interviews – with director Andrzej Wajda, lead actress Krystyna Janda and renowned filmmaker Agnieszka Holland who was ‘uncredited/unofficial’ assistant director on the film.

• New and improved English subtitle translation.

• 16-page booklet featuring a new essay by writer, editor and film historian Michael Brooke

Man of Marble is released by Second Run on DVD today

Previous Film Review: The Wind Rises
Next Incoming: The Two Faces of January

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