MAN OF MARBLE -- At the Outer Circle
We all know how tough it is to be a star. Judging from the daily weekly and monthly literature on the disadvantages of being a celebrity, as extracted over lunch from one representative or another of this beleaguered class, it must be one of the major trials of modern society.
But the Polish film "Man of Marble" by Andrezej Wajda is a new version of the problem. This one is about how tough it is to be plucked from obscurity to rise to the dizzying heights of being Bricklayer of the Year. An honest, idealistic worker goes from the simple virture of building his own habitat to faking work for the cameras, while suffering jealous betrayal, the breakup of his home and a return to obscurity, the final degradation being the necessity of hiring his own gypsy band to accompany him bar-hopping.
This is not quite the story that seems to be intended, and Polish audiences have found in this film a portrayal of how the state may use a citizen for its propaganda machine, and then almost destroy him when, believing in his position as a representative of labor, he tries to become a true political force.
But audiences less anxious to help the film say things they want said will find this point obscured by the clumsy celebrity-fan approach employed as a dramatic device. The story of the worker is collected slowly -- very slowly; oh, very slowly -- by a brash young woman who's looking into the deep past of the 1950s as a project for film school.
Operating on an apparently unlimited budget, this student has a full film crew following her around town at all times, just in case something turns up on her preliminary reserach, and a film librarian assembling material on her subject's past. The findings include a portly old filmmaker who confides, between international engagements, how lucky he was to discover such a subject as our hero; and such artistic results of that collaboration as a black-and-white scene of the worker saying brightly, "You were lucky to catch me -- what with the ideological struggle and all, I work around the clock."
If the vehicle that propelled him to brickyard stardom was that ludicrous, it's hard to follow its round trip with solemnity. And when the student's project it cut off, it's even harder to summon the necessary indignation at state censorship. It's not unknown in free countries to have the extravagant budgets of endlessly meandering films suddenly stopped.
And besides, the accusation that she had been "playing at all this American nonsense" is hard to refute.