Man of Marble

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"Marble Man" redirects here. For Marble Man: Marble Madness II, see Marble Madness.
Man of Marble
Polish poster advertising the film
Directed by Andrzej Wajda
Written by Aleksander Scibor-Rylski
Starring Krystyna Janda
Jerzy Radziwiłowicz
Tadeusz Lomnicki
Music by Andrzej Korzynski
Release dates
  • February 25, 1977 (1977-02-25)
Running time
165 minutes
Country Poland
Language Polish

Man of Marble (Polish: Człowiek z marmuru) is a 1976 Polish film directed by Andrzej Wajda. It chronicles the fall from grace of a fictional heroic Polish bricklayer, Mateusz Birkut (played by Jerzy Radziwiłowicz), who became the Stakhanovite symbol of an over-achieving worker, in Nowa Huta, a new (real life) socialist city near Kraków. Agnieszka, played by Krystyna Janda in her first role, is a young filmmaker who is making her diploma film (a student graduation requirement) on Birkut, whose whereabouts seems to have been lost two decades later. The title refers to the propagandist marble statues made in Birkut's image. It is somewhat of a surprise that Wajda would have been able to make such a film, sub silentio attacking the socialist realism of Nowa Huta, revealing the use of propaganda and political corruption during the period of Stalinism. The film director presaged the loosening grip of the Soviets that came with the Solidarity Movement, though it has been acknowledged by Polish film historians that due to censorship the script languished in development hell since 1962. The film extensively uses original documentation footage from the construction of Nowa Huta and other subjects of Poland's early communist era, as well as the propagandist/inspirational music of Stalinist Poland.

Agnieszka has trouble making the film from archival sources and museum collections and from interviews with people whose answers provide partial information on Birkut's life, but who don't seem to know about his current location or situation. The authorities decide that the young student digs too deeply into the recent past and inform her that their permission to create the movie is withdrawn; her equipment and the materials she gathered are confiscated. Agnieszka's father speculates that there must be a single specific reason for the authorities' fear of further disclosure and suggests that she should locate Birkut and talk to him to find out more, even if she is no longer involved in making the film. With this inspiration, Agnieszka tracks down Mateusz's son, Maciej, in the Gdańsk Shipyard. (Both father and son, Mateusz and Maciej, are played by the same actor: Jerzy Radziwiłowicz.) Agnieszka learns from Maciej that his father died years ago.

The ending of Man of Marble leaves the death of Mateusz Birkut ambiguous. In his script, Wajda had wanted to reveal that Mateusz had been killed in clashes at the shipyards in 1970, a major confrontation that prefigured the rise of Solidarity ten years later, but he was prevented by censorship. In 1981, Wajda filmed Man of Iron, a follow-up to Man of Marble, which depicts Maciej's subsequent involvement in the Polish anti-Communist workers' movement. Man of Iron extensively deals with Mateusz's killing in the clashes of 1970.[1]



The film was entered into the Un Certain Regard section at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival and won the FIPRESCI Prize.[2]


  1. ^ "Man of Iron". University of California Cine Files. March 1982. Retrieved October 18, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Man of Marble". Retrieved 2009-05-23. 

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