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:: Walesa: Man Of Hope

Six decades have passed since Andrzej Wajda made his directorial debut with A Generation (1954), the first part of a trilogy completed by Kanal (1955) and Ashes and Diamonds (1958) that reflected the traumas, treacheries and tragedies of the Second World Was with an immediacy that departed audaciously from the tenets of Socialist Realism that had been imposed by the Kremlin upon all satellite states in the Eastern Bloc. Much has happened in his native Poland in the interim and Wajda has always been there to chronicle events that have often impacted well beyond the national border. Now, the 87 year-old brings us Walesa. Man of Hope, which blends archive footage and dramatic reconstruction to compelling effect in producing a fitting tribute to a man who helped change the destiny of Europe.

Readily depicting Walesa as a flawed individual, Wajda recalls how the young electrician was duped into becoming an informer in 1970, as he struggled to raise numerous children with his wife, Danuta (Agnieszka Grochowska). But, as the decade progressed, Walesa started to play a greater part in the protest movement and, following the homecoming of Pope John Paul II in 1979, he emerged as a charismatic figure within the Solidarity union, whose activities led to the imposition of martial law in 1981.

Wieckiewicz presents Walesa as an arrogant, under-educated, grandstanding everyman whose championing of the common people was rooted in a mistrust of intellectuals and apparatchiks. But he also captures his courage and commitment, as he wins back the trust of the comrades he had been forced to betray in seeking to act as a conciliator. The most gripping segment centres on the Solidarity struggle. But Wajda also excels in the sequences in which Danuta is strip-searched at the airport in 1983 after being allowed to collect her husband's Nobel Prize in Oslo and in which Walesa addresses the US Congress in 1989.

He is superbly abetted by production designer Magdalena Dipont, cinematographer Pawel Edelman and editors Grazyna Gradon and Milenia Fiedler, who switch between monochrome and colour and archival and dramatic material with seamless dynamism. Wajda and screenwriter Janusz Glowacki can be forgiven for being in awe of such a raw and sometimes reckless working-class hero.