In this documentary report from the construction site of the only water electricity plant in the 1970s Poland, Ewa Kruk uncovers the darker side of what otherwise was advertised as a significant investment of the Communist government, if not national pride. When the director visits the site in Porąbka-Żar, she gives a human face to that industrial monument as it’s being developed in what used to be a small village in the mountains. Rather than contributing to the official discourse, she sharply resists its hyper-optimism. The film ventures to investigate the disparity between media propaganda and the situation on the ground.
The film starts with a panorama of the construction site then quickly cuts to the inside of a court building where local villagers apply for compensation for the property the government took from them. Many seek justice because they can’t accept the financial conditions offered by the state.
In a conversation with a clerk, we see a local woman who refuses to be relocated to the nearby town and argues against receiving a flat in a tower block in place of her old farm. Just like her, other petitioners also protest being moved. Such stories of displacement overtly countered the joyous official rhetoric of the Communist-controlled media in the 1970s.
To further display the contrast between the official discourse and individual human experiences, Kruk later enters the actual building site. Her camera offers observational shots from a workers meeting where their expressions and words don’t seem to match the optimistic tones of the Party speakers. This is followed by snapshots of the builder’s everyday routines before concluding with them complaining about low wages that aren’t adequate compensation for their energy and the effort of living away from their families.
Towards the end of the film, Kruk—whom on occasion we can see in the frame when she conducts her interviews—asks workers and engineers about their impressions. We again hear words of resentment and grievance. Many of these men complain that there isn’t much to do after work and they struggle to cope with the workloads as well as the boredom. However, some still believe that the final result of their collective effort will be ‘beautiful’.
One of the workers is asked, ‘Haven’t you ever felt fed up?’ His answer provides a closing to Kruk’s documentary: ‘Yes, I feel like that every moment, every day after work, but in the morning it all starts again’. No matter what people think, the government investment cannot come to a halt.