Poland's censors let more cameras roll
World-famous director Andrzej Wajda is finally getting to film "Man of Steel." His 1976 "Man of Marble" is showing at last in theaters. And two other Polish movies that had been blocked by censorship are also being screened. These are the results in the film world of Poland's liberalization.
At a January press conference Wajda, Andrzej Chodakowski (producer and assistant director of "Steel Man" and director of the "Workers '80" documentary of last autumn's Gdansk strike) and other filmmakers told reporters the good news.
"Man of Marble" was the study of a Stalinist era hero bricklayer who was lionized by the authorities, then discarded and imprisoned as he naively tried to rescue a buddy who had been framed and jailed by the authorities. Wajda finished it in 1976 and showed it abroad but was barred for several years from screening it in Poland.
Finally, after he reportedly threatened to stay in America and work in Hollywood if the censors did not release his film, "Marble Man" was distributed in Poland last year -- with cuts. The death of the hero in the 1970 Gdansk workers' price riots -- whose victims were never honored until the December 1980 erection of the Solidarity memorial -- could only be hinted at in the film, not made explicit.
Wajda, who has wanted to make a sequel for some time but has been barred from doing so, will now open "Steel Man" with the censored "Marble Man" sequences. The new movie will cover a dozen years (1968- 80) in the life of the Gdansk shipyard worker who is the son of the hero of "Marble Man." The film will have, Wajda says, one of his first "optimistic" endings. It will finish with the Gdansk shipyard gates opening as Solidarity wins permission for an independent union.
In contrast to the closed corridor at the end of "Marble Man," the opening gates will also symbolize, Wajda adds, the feeling his movie team now has of no longer being isolated, but being part of a mass movement.
The new movie was given its title by a young Gdansk worker who escorted Wajda to the shipyard strike committee during last August's strike. "When are you going to make 'Man of Steel,'?" the man asked, alluding to the shipyard. The title stuck.
The scenario has already passed its censorship reviews, and Wajda has begun shooting interior scenes in Warsaw. He hopes to make a rush finish of the exterior Gdansk scenes by April.
Like "Marble Man," the film will contain documentary footage. (Wajda will have no difficulty finding this material. The Gdansk negotiations are surely the best recorded in history. Besides "Workers '80" there is a TV documentary, "August," that has still not cleared the censors, plus reels and reels of unused celluloid.) "Man of Steel" will, however, focus on the fictional personal story of the main character.
Other films due to come out of Wajda's studio group in the new climate include several explorations of Stalinist repression by younger directors who grew up in the 1950s: "There was Jazz," "Big Run," and "The Mother of Kings."
Though other movies are being released after censorship holdsups, one film, "Devil," is still encountering opposition. The Roman Catholic Church unofficially censors the movie because of its sex and crime content.
At the press conference Wajda, ever the pugilist, also tackled the issue of the diminishing number of imported Western films. Last year Poland bought 100 Western movies. This year, because of the country's economic problems and a shortage of hard currency, it will buy only 33.
Wajda's double-edged remedy for this would be to have earnings from Polish movies sold in the West finance imports from the West -- with all profits from showings of popular Western movies in Poland then going not to the Ministry of Culture but to those producers and directors (like Wajda) who earn hard currency abroad.
After the press conference one movie fan recounted the disappointment of a 300- strong audience that saw a bootlegged showing of "The Deerhunter." The audience had great hopes: They knew that the Deerhunter had created a "scandal" at the Berlin Film Festival and the Russians had walked out. What they saw on the screen, however, was a Ukrainian -- a Ukrainian! -- wedding, just like all t he folkloric propaganda films they detest in Poland.