New film, Strike, tells the story of the strike that led to the victory of Solidarity





This fictionalized biopic of a respected Polish labor activist is nicely balanced between the political and the personal. "Strike" tells how the dismissal of aging crane operator Anna Walentynowicz (who's renamed Agnieszka in the film) provided the spark for the Solidarity trade union.

Solidarnosc would later effectively bring down the Communist government in Poland. This film, directed by Germany's Volker Schloendorff, explains the politics clearly, but still leaves room for the personal dimensions of Anna/Agnieszka's struggle.

"Strike" is an extremely well-made piece that should draw politically minded viewers -- providing that marketing plays down the dreary dockside setting in favor of the characters' against-all-odds heroism. Schloendorff's name may pique the curiosity of cineastes here, as he was a prime mover of German New Cinema.

The story covers events in the Gdansk shipyard from 1970 through 1980. Agnieszka (in a beautifully understated performance by Germany's Katharina Thalbach) heads the women's wing of the shipyard union. The Communist party bosses not only exploit the shipyard workers, but they ignore safety regulations to increase productivity.

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