Dir: Volker Schloendorff. Ger.2006. 104mins.

Billed in the opening credits as a "ballad", Strike is based on events in the Leninshipyards in Gdansk, Poland during the early 1980s,which sparked the creation of the Solidarity movement and, ultimately, thebeginning of the end of the Cold War.

Coming off as a Polish Norma Rae - via Germany, forlead actress Katharina Thalbachis dubbed throughout - Strike somehowcontrives to distil the worker's struggle to a movie-of-the-week kitchen sinkdrama, mostly shot in grey tones. It's watchableenough, but never manages to reach the interest level of its raw material.

Theatrical and TV may bedecent in Germanyand former Eastern Bloc territories, but Poles may be lukewarm towards a Germantreatment of the most momentous part of their recent history. Internationalcrossover faces a challenge as tough as the shipyards themselves.

Schloendorff's name may carry Strikethrough the festival circuit, but it is all too broad-stroke to be true arthouse fare. The director's first return to Gdansk since his tour deforce, Tin Drum is, overall, adisappointment.

Working from a screenplay byAndreas Pfluger and SylkeRene Meyer, Strike relates itsmomentous events through the life of Agnieszka Kowalska (based on the real-life Anna Walentynowicz),a saintly female welder/crane operator and 30-year-veteran of the shipyardswhose dismissal causes the uprising.

Although only 104 minuteslong, the film takes its time come to the birth of the trade union movement Solidarity,which is sketched almost as an epilogue to the rather dreary story ofsingle-mother Agnieszka. We follow her through abrief, ill-fated marriage which really has no relevance to the events thatfollow, and watch this "Heroine Of Labour"negotiate her way through three decades of union and management corruption ather workplace.

Schloendorff effectively tracks her arc as a Communist worker,from idealistic post-war recruit to a disillusioned woman who still constantlystrives for basic rights at the shipyard. Thalbach givesan honest, effective, performance, but the dubbing does not help and the rapidtransformation of a woman who could not read at the beginning of the piece intoa speechifying union activist by the end comes off as perplexing. It feels asif there's something missing here, and it comes as no surprise to read that thereal-life Walentynowicz has had issues with theproduction.

With Agnieszkabeing such a stalwart, saintly heroine with so much to overcome - including about with cancer - there's little time for more interesting characters, such asLech Walesa, who appearsbut might as well not have.

Pope John Paul II isfeatured in TV clips, at which point Agnieszka dropsto her knees and seems to have made an instant conversion to Catholicism, despitethere being no previous reference to her pious devotion.

Technical credits are fine,although one cannot help referring to Florian Henckel Von Donnersmark's The Lives Of Othersfor a superior filing of Eastern Bloc grey. Music is very effective.

Production companies/backers
PROVOBIS Gesellschaft fur Film und Fernsehen
Paisa Films
Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR)
FFF Bayern
Mediopolis Film- und Fernsehproduktion

International sales

German distribution
Progress Film-Verleih

Executive producers
Wolfgang Plehn

Jurgen Haase

Andreas Pfluger
Sylke Rene Meyer

Andreas Hofer

Peter Przygodda
Wanda Zeman

Production design
Robert Czesak

Jean Michel Jarre

Main cast
Katharina Thalbach
Andrzej Chyra
Dominique Horwitz
Andrzej Grabowski
Ewa Telega