A digitally-remastered print of Andrzej Wajda's 1981 film Człowiek z żelaza (Man of Iron) was presented at the 70th Cannes International Film Festival in the prestigious Cannes Classics section.
The digitally remastered Man of Iron by Andrzej Wajda (1981) was presented in the prestigious Cannes Classics section. The screening was held in the evening of Sunday, 21 May, at the Festival Palace. It was attended, among others, by Krzysztof Zanussi, Roman Polański, Jerzy Skolimowski, Ryszard Bugajski, Jacek Bromski, Agnieszka Holland, Małgorzata Szumowska, and close associates of Andrzej Wajda who worked with him on the Man of Iron – Krystyna Janda and Allan Starski.
The festival director, Frédéric Frémaux, invited Lech Wałęsa, former president of Poland and the historical leader of the trade union movement Solidarity, to participate at the event. The partner of the show is Kulczyk Investments S.A.
Launched 13 years ago, the Cannes Classics focuses on screening digitally-remastered prints of the masterpieces of world cinema. As stated by its creators, this festival section is an homage to the remastering work done around the world and to the efforts of film organisations, copyright holders, film archives, and production companies around the world. The Cannes Classics screenings are often accompanied by Q&A sessions with the filmmakers and the crew involved in the digital remastering process.
The film continues the story of the family of Mateusz Birkut, the protagonist of Wajda's earlier film Człowiek z marmuru (Man of Marble). During the events that took place in Poland in August 1980, Aleksander Ścibor-Rylski, wrote the script in six days, based on documents from the strike in the Gdańsk Shipyard, eye-witness accounts, and tape recordings. The film also featured previously unreleased footage from the events of December 1970.
Człowiek z żelaza (Man of Iron) was made at an impressive speed; the film was still in principal photography as it was edited and translated into French to be able to screen in Cannes. The print arrived barely in time for its screening on May 27, 1981, which did not prevent the film from winning the Palme d'Or. Człowiek z żelaza (Man of Iron) then went on to receive an Oscar nod in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
The film's Polish premiere was delayed, mainly due to the director's adamant stance resisting censorship — it was finally released on July 26, 1981. As Andrzej Wajda recalled, he had been asked to remove scenes or dialogue that cast the authorities in an unfavourable light; the censors were particularly sensitive about the parts of the film that focused on the events of December 1970.
Later that year, the film received the Solidarity award at the Polish Film Festival in Gdańsk, followed by an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film a few months later.
"Man of Iron complemented my civic education and shaped my way of thinking about our country and history. I sometimes come to the terrifying realisation that if I hadn't met the right people, read the right books, I would have remained a clueless imbecile. The film touches on a similar theme: thanks to Birkut, Agnieszka enters the world of thinking people, which changes her completely," recalled Krystyna Janda years later.
The film stars Jerzy Radziwiłowicz, with supporting performances by Krystyna Janda, Marian Opania, Bogusław Linda, Janusz Gajos, Andrzej Seweryn, Marek Kondrat, Bożena Dykiel, Artur Barciś, Janusz Zaorski, and Krzysztof Zaleski. Człowiek z żelaza (Man of Iron) was lensed by Edward Kłosiński and produced by Zespół Filmowy X.
Over time, the film received more critical opinions that emphasised its lack of nuance, however Człowiek z żelaza (Man of Iron) remains indisputably one of the most important films in Polish cinema. Martin Scorsese included Man of Iron in his selection of the Masterpieces of Polish Cinema.
The film's digital remastering was co-financed by PKO Bank Polski.
Translated by Karolina Kołtun