Man of Iron (1981)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Political Drama  |   Run Time - 140 min.  |   Countries - Poland  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Tom Wiener

Although he might have been seen as cashing in on the success of Man of Marble by making a sequel that covers some of the same turf, director Andrzej Wajda correctly sensed that the timing was right for further explorations of that territory. With the rise of the Solidarity movement threatening to expose the basic corruption of the communist leadership, Wajda incorporated footage of the Gdansk shipyard strike, familiar to anyone watching the news as the 1970s turned into the 1980s and the stranglehold of the communist party on the Polish people finally began to loosen. Birkut, the hero of Wajda's Man of Marble, had a son, Tomczyk, and just like Vito and Michael Corleone in The Godfather films, theirs was a tangled relationship. Using the framework of Winkiel, the journalist trying to do a story on Tomczyk (a la Citizen Kane), Wajda allows flashbacks, spurred by interviews, to relate the young man's gradual rise to political consciousness. The key revelation is that Birkut discouraged his son from becoming a laborer, urging him to attend university. But the old man was killed during a 1970 strike demonstration in Gdynia while Tomczyk and many of his fellow student sympathizers held back, and Tomczyk decided to go to work in the shipyards at Gdansk. Man of Iron resembles Haskell Wexler's brilliant film about the Chicago summer of 1968 Medium Cool; both combine documentary and fictional footage to tell the story of a media man's growing awareness of a political movement. Man of Iron records history through the eyes of an artist shaping real events to get at larger truths.