I’m sort of in love with Agnieszka, the heroine of Strike: As conceived by director Volker Schlöndorff (The Tin Drum) and played by the superb German actress Katharina Thalbach, she’s a tiny, bug-eyed bundle of energy who single-handedly brings down the Polish government, armed with nothing but humble proletarian determination. The character is based on Anna Walentynowicz, an illiterate shipyard welder who worked with Lech Walesa to form Solidarity, the first independent trade union in Poland. History has given most of the credit to Walesa, who went on to become the nation’s first democratically elected president, but Strike neatly turns the tables by making him into a sort of glorified game-show host, with a droopy mustache, weak smile, and knack for demagoguery, sometimes at the expense of his principles. This is Iron Curtain porn at its most shameless—a rousing industrial rock song plays in the background every time Schlöndorff wants to invoke the Spirit of Labor—but Thalbach’s Agnieszka is irresistible: She works so hard that she leads the shipyard in production 10 years in a row, yet still finds time to sing, dance, raise a son, take a lover, and foment a revolution.

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