Wałęsa. Człowiek z nadziei (engl. Walesa. Man of Hope) was directed by probably one of the best polish directors: Andrzej Wajda. Even though in 2000 he was awarded with The Academy Honorary Award, it took me a lot of time to start watching his movies. Until now, when there are no excuses left.
Wajda and the most important men in Poland
One of the best directors told a story about the most important person in the 1980s Poland: Lech Wałęsa. Already in the beginning of the movie we see the information, that it was made with a support of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. Maybe this is why we get kind of a perfect picture of the polish leader (if we can call him like this), without any mentions whether he did worked as an agent for the secret communist police or not (and which was also a huge debate few years ago). As often the case of such movies, the main goal was to show “the best of Poland”, without questioning it.
What the movie does definitely well is showing the well strcutred story of how Solidarność was created, thus it’s a must for everyone who wants to start learning about these events. We get to see Wałęsa’s political life (could you call it like this already in the 80’s?) and his wife’s struggle as her husband starts to focus on leading the workers to fight for their rights and she stays at home taking care of their children. Robert Więckiewicz as Wałęsa was quite good, Agnieszka Grochowska as Danuta Wałęsa was even better. Interesting was also the beginning of the movie and choosing Wałęsa as a kind of narrator as we see him giving an interview to the Italian magazine. Indeed, what stayed with me after watching the movie was the question the Italian journalist asks her driver: he lives in a flat given to him by the state he’s fighting with? Probably the only controversial and thought-provoking remark in the whole movie. The story was missing emotions, the real emotions and personal comment on the events. It’s hard for me to assess, whether it was because of seeing something, which I grew up with by hearing about it during the history lessons or on the television or even hearing from my parents. If you don’t know anything about communism, the shots with empty shelves and strikes will shock you, I felt more like: good, that they inlcuded it, foreigners will better understand, why people were still unhappy. The scenography, illegal trading with goods accepted by the society: all of these proved that the movie aimed more at educating the viewer.
Wałesa. Człowiek z nadziei was a polish choice for the Best Foreign Language Film but it didn’t receive a nomination. It’s not surprising, as the movie is good but also kind of boring if you know the whole story upfront. It’s a good start for beginners but it doesn’t add anything new, being it another perspective on the main character or it’s surroundings. Even though it kind of reminds US style of pathos, probably because of it’s lack of originality wasn’t selected by the Academy. Knowing also the Polish mentality, I would risk the thesis that it was chosen because we’re proud of this period and would like others also to admire it.
Polish rock and other interesting facts
Music, similar to church or also movies, was another form of escape from the “grey life” during the communism time. Music in Wałęsa reminds the best polish rock or indie music of that time and gave the movie even better atmosphere. Some of the names from the Soundtrack worth further checking are Bogdan Łyszkiewicz or Brygada Kryzys.
Another interesting fact? Wajda used a glimpse of his other movie, Człowiek z żelaza, which is set also in the 1980’s Poland. I’m happy that I decided to watch this movie later as now I’m even more curious how the same period of time was shown by the same director, when it was still shot under the communism (it was released in 1981). Together with this movie is connected also another one, Człowiek z marmuru, so I guess that you know, which movies are on my “watching very soon” movie list. Oh, and in case you want to see some “new” aspects about communism, there’s a Polish Netflix original series, 1983, showing Poland which didn’t manage to overcome communism and thus the iron curtain still exists. Both Wajda’s Wałęsa and 1983 series confirm one interesting thing: we’re proud of the events in the 1980’s and believe, that without them no other nation would have courage to go on strike against the communist government.
It was one of the last movies made by Andrzej Wajda and to be honest it’s hard to make a good summary on it. I know, that there are much better Wajda’s movies still waiting for me. However, I can’t write “don’t watch it”. Still, it’s probably the only biography of Wałęsa which was made so far (I will correct myself in case I find other information) and a good source to learn something about Polish history. Thus, probably a must for foreigners interested also in a Polish cinema, if they want it or not. One last word? Why the English title couldn’t include “ę” and “ł” in Wałęsa’s surname?