A sequel and companion to and a parody of Man of Marble. Whereas Agnieska, a young woman and an idealist about what she can do, is trying to find the truth, here Winkel, middle-aged and alcoholic, is out to create convincing lies to discredit a strike-leader, the son of Agnieska's subject and now her husband. The same process of flashback and revelation takes place, showing past strikes in the ship-works and how Maciej Tomczyk became the "man of iron". The ironies here are harsher than in Man of Marble- there's an unmentioned man of steel- Stalin, creator of communist Poland- lurking behind the scene; the state operatives- minister, shipyard manager, Captain Wirski of the police- have lost any of the idealism or beliefs that may once have inspired them and have only the belief in their right to rule. At the end the manager insists that an agreement imposed by force isn't valid to explain why the one agreed to between Solidarity and the government will fail, without ever realising that that is why every government-imposed agreement has failed and would fail. We see Captain Wirski practising Polish Police martial arts- truncheon work- in a gym for exercise while his subordinates sympathise with and help the strikers. Finally, even if Winkel cannot tell the lies he is meant to, the strikers will not accept him as a friend; he is too tainted by his past. He has to go out and probably lose his job and face prison for the accident that was hushed-up but he may have begun to save his soul.
One fascinating thing about this film and Man of Marble is the revelation of how helpless the Polish government was. A dictatorship, with ideological control of the police, the film studios, the press, could not stop Wajda making films excoriating them. The best they could do was to censor them for Polish distribution.
A worker becomes a "man of iron" forged by experience, a son comes to terms with his father, a couple fall in love, a reporter searches for courage, and a nation undergoes historic change. In Warsaw in 1980, the Party sends Winkel, a weak, alcoholic TV hack, to Gdansk to dig up dirt on the shipyard strikers, particularly on Maciek Tomczyk, an articulate worker whose father was killed in the December 1970 protests. Posing as sympathetic, Winkel interviews people who know Tomczyk, including his detained wife, Agnieszka. Their narrations become flashbacks using actual news footage of 1968 and 1970 protests and of the later birth of free unions and Solidarity.—
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