DCP with English subtitles from Akson Studio
Screener dvd viewed at home.
First Helsinki International Film Festival (HIFF) screening at Kino Engel 2, Helsinki, 21 Sep 2014
HIFF Catalogue: Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian: "At the age of 87, that remarkable Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda has directed a movie with terrific gusto and a first-rate lead performance from Robert Więckiewicz. It’s a full-tilt biopic tribute to the trade-union leader Lech Wałęsa, founder of the Solidarity movement: bullish, cantankerous, with an exasperating charm and the gift of the gab. Wałęsa’s defiance of Poland’s Soviet masters removed the very first brick from the Berlin Wall."
"Wałęsa. Man of Hope is a belated companion piece to his Man of Marble (1977) and Man of Iron (1981), respectively about a Stakhanovite bricklayer and his son in Poland; it discloses now an unexpected trilogy, and somehow suggests, in retrospect, that the heroic »Man» of those first two films really was Wałęsa all along. The almost Napoleonic career of Wałęsa looked at the time like a kind of miracle; Wajda sets out to examine how that miracle came about."
"(…) It’s an invigorating and very enjoyable film from a director who shows no sign of slowing down." Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian (HIFF Catalogue)
Wikipedia synopsis: "Wałęsa, an electrician at the Gdańsk Shipyards, participated in local demonstrations during the 1970s. Following the bloody aftermath, which remains with Wałęsa, he concentrates on his day-to-day duties. Ten years later, a new uprising occurs and he becomes an unexpected and charismatic leader of Polish dockworkers."
"Wałęsa's leadership role signified the beginning of a new movement that successfully overcame the communist regime of the period, and Wałęsa is pushed into representing the majority of Poland's population. The Soviet Union, previously regarded as too powerful to confront, eventually grants the movement a degree of acceptance. The Polish example of solidarity then caused a domino effect throughout Eastern Europe: people in Eastern Germany followed the Polish example, starting demonstrations for freedom that achieved the German reunification peacefully. The Soviet Union then dissolved alongside Yugoslavia."
"While Europe is reshaped, Poland remains stable and peaceful. Yet a huge variety of political parties unfolds and Poland is on the brink of becoming as ungovernable as the late Weimar Republic. Wałęsa is subsequently elected as the first president of the new Polish democracy; but, this is followed by feelings of resentment among the Polish people who start to think that Wałęsa is becoming privileged. Consequently, the Polish people start to seek out ways to diminish Wałęsa's significance, until they finally accomplish their goal through uncovering actions from a past period." (Wikipedia)
Wikipedia remarks: "Wajda announced his intention to blend real contemporary news material with the fictional content of the film to "give testimony to the truth". The contemporary footage was adapted by superimposing the face of Robert Więckiewicz on Wałęsa's real face. The re-enacted scenes were shot "on location in Gdańsk, including in the historic shipyard and its surroundings, as well as in Warsaw". As Wajda told the Chicago Tribune, the raison d'être of his work was not to entertain the Western world, but to disclose the historic truth for a Polish audience."
"Głowacki assured journalists that his script was not meant to be an apotheosis, but instead showed Wałęsa "as a man of flesh and blood, a leader of great strength but also someone who has his weaknesses". The screenwriter was significantly affected upon discovering that Wajda sought to pursue the same approach and consequently "thought it would be an interesting project"." (Wikipedia remarks)
"Nie chcę, ale muszę" ("I don’t want to, but I have to") - Lech Wałęsa's motto
Andrzej Wajda has been for 60 years a versatile director. He has been a Romantic, Expressionist, and Baroque visionary. He has been a director of epic works covering centuries of Polish history - also of contemporary history.
The Man of Marble belongs to the films that have changed the world. It was the harbinger of the final thaw in the Eastern bloc, before glasnost and perestroika, leading to the fall of the wall, and the entire so-called real existing socialism, because the system was then too corrupt to be reformed. Wajda was together with Krzysztof Kieslowski the main founder of the Polish school of moral concern in the cinema of the 1970s.
The Man of Iron was a sequel to The Man of Marble, and Wajda's Danton was a companion piece, reflecting contemporary Polish reality so much that Frenchmen had a hard time recognizing their history in it. Everybody understood that Gérard Depardieu really played Lech Wałęsa. And Wojciech Pszoniak was Wojciech Jaruzelski as Robespierre.
Wałęsa. Man of Hope is a logical continuation to those three films. Its strengths include a lot of fascinating documentary material. Its problems include an inclusion of fake documentary material, undermining the power of the real thing. Its weaknesses include the casting. One need only think about Gérard Depardieu to understand what charisma is - a charisma with all too human contradictions and weaknesses. I don't feel that Robert Więckiewicz believes in himself as Wałęsa. Daringly, there is also authentic documentary footage of Wałęsa, showing the true compelling person.
The structure resembles The Man of Marble which in turn reflected Citizen Kane and Rashomon. Here the journalistic quest, again by a female investigating journalist, is conducted by Oriana Fallaci. We see the Wałęsa story - the story of Solidarność - as flashbacks. It is a good structure for an epic story that proceeds in leaps and bounds. The difference to The Man of Marble is that here there is only one interviewee, Wałęsa himself.
The funny running joke: the Typhus sign at the Wałęsa family door when there are too many visitors.
The pop soundtrack feels out of place.