Andrzej Wajda’s Man of Marble (Człowiek z marmuru) is defined by discourse of the most cinematic kind, both extra- and intra-. The true-story based documentary couched in the narrative of this fiction film follows the search for the lost icon – Mateusz Birkut – of the lost cause – the worker in all his glory for the sake of the people. First hailed and then condemned, Birkut’s fall from grace of the powers-that-be marks a contradiction within the socialist cause. Rather than truly “socialist” – for the “society” – the ruling power has bureaucratized and separated itself from the very people for which it claims to exist. A darkened innocence and enlightened apathy coexist throughout, an unbending refusal despite suppression to give way to historical repression. These are two artists who are first workers and two proletarians who are first charitarians. The result is a workable humanist apologetic through socialist failures and a workable socialist apologetic through human failures. Birkut is a man of marble and not of stone, an imagistic likeness chiseled into a form that refuses to change though it be buried. Has the man now become his icon, his likeness, his image? Does he matter, as long as it matters? Is he doubled in the marble or encased within it?
Man of Marble