Vol 1, No 16
11 October 1999
What a Piece of
Work is a Man!
Jerzy Stuhr's Tydzien z zycia mezczyzny
Prosecutor Adam Borowski, the main hero of Stuhr's film, Tydzien z zycia mezczyzny (A Week in the Life of a Man, 1999), declaims, next to his mother's death-bed, a quotation from Hamlet: "What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! in form, in moving." It is a shame, though, that these words have nothing to do with the situation of the prosecutor.
Jerzy Stuhr's latest film relates to seven days in the life of an ordinary man. Adam Borowski (played, of course, by Stuhr himself) is a prosecutor, a generally respectable citizen, whom one could even term "a success." This is evident from his performance in the courtroom, he put out a moderately well-selling book, volunteers for charities, and realises his artistic ambitions by singing in a choir. To all appearances his life is a string of successes and Borowski manages to successfully avoid various difficulties and misadventures. But these are only appearances - over the course of the week there occur several important incidents that shatter the portrait of the prosecutor and show him in an entirely different light.
The film is divided into seven parts, with each part relating to successive days of the week. Each day brings new events which Adam Borowski must deal with and face up to. Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, he does not manage to behave appropriately, honourably and with dignity. Just as each one of us has our weaknesses that in no way can be overcome. He loses himself in financial calculations, which have a significant impact on his nearest and dearest. He tries to strike a balance between his own personal interests and the good of others but ends up harming a boy - an orphan in a children's home - and his own mother.
He doesn't know how to deal with the problems all around him and tries, at all costs, to save the situation, but he doesn't even succeed in doing this. His career as a lawyer is hanging by a thread, and no one else - apart from him - is responsible for this. With each passing day it gets even worse, and there are no indications that the situation will improve. The only respite, and opportunity to escape from his miserable reality is, for Borowski, his choir. Thanks to the choir he can rediscover his place in life and save his "I" from complete degradation. Only is this enough?
Jerzy Stuhr was aware of the reception of Borowski's character by audiences. How will a hero, who at every step makes smaller and larger transgressions, be received? Will the public be able to accept this kind of person? These fears will probably not be confirmed - Adam Borowski is simply a man of flesh and blood, and not a marionette, a paper hero. He makes mistakes, sometimes even nasty ones, he has moments of weakness, he occasionally makes decisions which have not been properly thought through, but who among us is blameless? Nobody is taking away the audiences' right to be offended by Borowski's actions, but this does not mean that his character is not somehow familiar. This kind of week can happen to any of us, even though we may be very different.
Click here for Stuhr's comments on Tydzien z zycia mezczyzny given at a press conference for the film's premiere.
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