Close Up

25 March 2017: Man of Iron


Man of Iron
Andrzej Wajda
1976 | 154 min | Colour & B/W | DCP

Following on from Man of Marble and the story of Mateusz Birkut’s heroism, is the story of his son, Maciej Birkut. A journalist is tasked with finding out what’s really going on with Maciej, the leader of the striking shipyard workers. Being young and radical himself, the journalist fits in easily with the organisation he is trying to infiltrate. In fact he fits in so well, believing himself in the idea of workers’ rights, that he’s forced to pick between his career and following his heart.

"Man of Iron is a film as important politically as it is artistically. It garnered an Academy Award nomination and took home the Palme d’Or at the 1981 Cannes Film Festival, but its cultural impact was just as powerful. Released just month's before Poland declared martial law and enacted strict union crackdowns, Wajda was able to show the world the conditions and experiences of his country's blue collar workers. Though a dramatization, brilliantly acted by Jerzy Radziwilowicz, the film exuded truth and sincerety. While the specifics of the issues may have changed over time, the themes of inequality and workers' struggles are just as important three decades later. As powerful as the message is, the film is character-driven at heart. Radziwilowicz tackles two roles – the inspiring union leader and, through flashback, his hard-working father. Facing their own struggles with distinct motivations, Wajda makes the two workers into unique, but equally compelling, individuals. Roger Ebert said, “the best things in Man of Iron are the purely personal moments, the scenes where Wajda is concerned with the human dimensions of his characters rather than their ideological struggles.”” – Film Society of Lincoln Centre

Screening as part of our season on Andrzej Wajda and the 15th KINOTEKA Polish Film Festival: