Czlowiek na torze (1957) - full transcript

In 1950, at night, a passenger train kills a man on the tracks. He is Orzechowski, an engineer since 1914. An inquiry immediately follows. Testimony takes the form of flashbacks. Tuszka, ...


This film was made possible with help
from Polish railroad workers.



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Who got on?

Are we running late, Conductor?

No, but a new track
is under construction. Thank you.

That's enough! Don't overdo it.

It's two kilometres downhill
from here on.

What a ride! If only the old man
could see it now.

Fifteen atmospheres
on such lousy coal!

It's 10:15. Lemiesze is ahead.

I hope they've finished
the platforms.


One light. We're clear to go.


That crazy engineer!
Everything's gone haywire!

- What happened?
- Man on the tracks!


Look at the semaphore.

Where's the second light?

Yes, it would have been
a real disaster at that speed.

Many people would have died.

The engineer saw only one light.

I don't understand.

That's true. You aren't
a railway worker.

Let me explain, Comrade Karas.

The switchboard gave the signal
to proceed at low speed.

That is, the semaphore's two arms
were up, with two green lights.

Which means, break hard
or risk derailment.

But there was only one light,
meaning the track is clear.

He turned off the second light
to cause a crash.

Who turned it off?


Did anyone catch him doing it?

- You're accusing an old engineer...
- ...of sabotage!

You see, Orzechowski had some
grievances with the railway.

No, I don't see it...

He turned off the light
to cause a crash?

And then jumped
under the train?

Before we accuse someone,
we have to learn all the facts.

Of course.
That is why we are here.

I propose that Comrade Karas, of the
Regional Committee, chair this meeting.

Since we don't know much about this,
I think Comrade Tuszka should start.

Let me start
a few years back, comrades.

I knew Orzechowski
before the war.

I was an engineer's assistant
at that time.

That's when I met Orzechowski
for the first time.

I had heard of him before.
My friends were scared of him.

- Tuszka?
- Yes?

This is Engineer Orzechowski.

He'll be replacing your mechanic
while he's on sick leave.

He treated his assistants
as if they were servants.

No matter how hard you tried,
he always found some mistake.

Naturally, he got on my case
from the beginning.

What's this?
The bolts are loose!

The bearings will go.

He was crazy when it came to bearings.
I didn't want to argue with him.

I was afraid he'd tell
the dispatcher all about it.

That could have hurt me.

He acted like a squire when he was
on the locomotive.

He kept looking
for mistakes everywhere.

Whenever he spoke, he shouted.

It's dirty! Your mechanic
has spoiled you.

He gave orders by gesture.
"Turn on the water!"

His assistants had to
shut up and work.

For the whole way,
he wouldn't let you relax.

Luckily, we weren't
together for long.

He was a tough man,
wasn't he?

Yes. I remembered him well.

That's what it was like back then.
He could have changed.

Men like him don't change.

- Everyone changes...
- But listen to this...

Last autumn, I came to this station.
Things were very bad, comrades.

Work was purely routine.

I had clear instructions
to introduce new work habits.

I had to teach coal efficiency,
longer runs, and limits to repairs.

The longer you're here, Mr Supervisor,
the more you'll be convinced.

New ideas are not accepted
easily over here.

Whose locomotive is that?

That one? It's Orzechowski's.

You might have trouble
persuading that man.


Wait a minute...

Jankowski! Come here.

Touch the rod.

It's hot.

Hot? You melted the bushing,
you fool!

I'll teach you to tend
the locomotive!

Orzechowski is a true expert.

He knows the locomotive
like the back of his hand.

He notices everything!

He's from the old
Warsaw-Vienna run.

He doesn't skimp on coal
and won't touch the locomotive.

A job for you, sir.

These morons still haven't learned
how to service a locomotive.

Engineer, could I have a moment?

My name is Tuszka,
but we've met before.

I don't remember.

That doesn't matter,
it's not about the past.

I was told you know the locomotive
like the back of your hand,

but you're lagging behind when
it comes to saving on coal. Why?

I ride the way I always have.

Precisely. Don't you see
what's happening around you?

Times have changed.
It is in your interest to...

I use as much coal as I need to.
And they do the repairs.

I'm always on time.
Has someone been complaining?

No, but they're scared of you,
and that's not so good.

I teach the way I was taught.

You had to train for eight years
back in the old days!

Back in the old days...

Wait a minute, now I remember!
We used to ride together.

It's not about that.

You have to finally realise
what we expect from you.

I do understand.
Goodbye, Stationmaster.

I decided to start watching him.
I suspected foul play,

and that he intentionally
kept the locomotive under repair.


where's your engineer?

He just left.

You've come for repairs
with these tiny issues!

The engineer ordered us to.

The engineer...
You're wasting your own pay!

The engineer has to be obeyed.

I noticed that Orzechowski
was avoiding me.

I couldn't get hold of him.

And I began to suspect that he was
setting all the men against me.

I decided to change his assistant,
thereby breaking up his little team.

I stayed late just to
await their return.

It should have been done
like that from the beginning.

I was afraid that
he wouldn't accept Zapora,

a tough activist
whom I could trust.

My bag!

Good evening.

Good evening.

Are you happy with
your new worker?

Thank you.
I will train him.

- Good night.
- Good night.

Zapora, how was the first run?

Not so good.
We were late and didn't save much.

That's not good.

I'm doing my best.
Next time should be better.

I'm counting on you, Zapora.

Don't worry about your engineer.

A month later, we began a competition
among all the locomotive teams.

Orzechowski, as usual,
began to revolt.

Remember, comrades...

Tomorrow's meeting is
in the new hall.

We'll be there.

I see things improving, comrades,

slowly, and with some difficulty,
but they are.

Our meeting today
should help that process.

There are still those among us,

who aren't doing
what's in their best interests.

By wasting coal, they are
robbing themselves of good pay,

not only by earning less,

but also by wasting valuable property
which belongs to the People's Republic.

Now comrades, let's decide
on some tasks for your teams.

Come on, comrades, don't be shy!

There should be no hesitation here.

My team will sign a contract
to burn inferior types of coal.

Now it should pick up.

Nowak and I are ready
to sign a contract like that.

We call on our engineer, Orzechowski.
He's tough, he could save a lot.

I won't sign anything!

Wladek, come back! Wladek!

What a bastard!
Wasn't I right, Secretary?

Quiet, please, comrades!

What we have witnessed is an insult
to all Polish railway men!

I would like to thank
Comrade Krokus for his contract.

- Are you here to see me?
- Yes.

Come in.

I'll handle this myself.

So you've come to see me, at last.

Sit down, please.

A moment ago, you revealed your
intentions in front of everyone.

We won't tolerate open hostility.

I'm responsible for this station.

It's 1950, Engineer Orzechowski.

I know what year it is!
I won't take this anymore!

Take Zapora off my team,
or I'll resign!

Why's that, Mr Orzechowski?

I don't need your spies
around me, Mr Tuszka!


Yes, I agree with you.

I think it's better if you retire.

- Retire from the railway?
- From the locomotive.

Your nerves aren't good.

I understand.

He never came back to the station.

One moment.
We'll call you in.

People said he was sick.
Sciatica or something like that.

Supposedly, he hid it from people.

He complained at the office,
and they even asked me about it.

But I gave them the facts
and they agreed with me.

He was a saboteur, comrades.
A declared enemy.

I wouldn't be surprised if he was
the one who turned off the light.

He even organised resistance
against the stationmasters.

I knew nothing of this.

There were rumours
around the station.

People talk about anything...
even the weather...

Have you had any cases of sabotage,
Comrade Tuszka?

Yes, we've had some.
Sand in the bearings.

- The leading teams?
- Yes.

No-one was caught, though.

But now you know
who was behind it, don't you?

Excuse me for a second.

No, I can't right now.
Take the OKL.

I'm sure it's ready.
I checked it myself.

Excuse me, so many things to do,
and so little time.

But Orzechowski never came?


And Zapora didn't complain, either?

No, he had too much ambition.

Maybe Orzechowski
was ambitious himself.

I followed my conscience.

It may not have been enough.

Maybe you should have gone to them,
if they weren't coming to you,

to check out what was happening.

You were quick to fire him
after 40 years of work.

There were facts, Comrade.
Orzechowski was a problem.

Everything is clear to me now.
Orzechowski wanted revenge.

He turned off the light to kill Zapora
and derail the train.

He's worked on the railway
20 years longer than you have.

He couldn't have done it.

He would have broken a law
that no-one would ever dare to.

He died under the train.

He probably understood
what he'd done at the end.

Someone else might have done it.
And Orzechowski saw him.

So this person pushed him in front
of the train? Like in a mystery novel?

We don't know enough yet.

Let's hear what Zapora has to say.


What is it?

That's what we'd like to know.

Tell us about Orzechowski.

I've had enough of this!

Please transfer me away
from here, Stationmaster!

I don't want to be here any longer.

Why not?

Because of Orzechowski.
Will you transfer me?

We'll talk about that later.

Tonight, Orzechowski was killed
by your train.

Tell us everything you know.

I didn't do it on purpose!

Let me start at the beginning.

I started working here
four years ago.

It was 1946.

My father didn't come back from the camp,
and I was left all alone.

I had to live on something.

At first, I went to the west to see
what I could loot there.

But I didn't have much luck.

The problem here was that
I didn't have a ticket.

Stationmaster Tuszka saved me.

It was because of him
that I got this job.

I started working at the repair shop.
I liked it, so I stayed.

By the time he became stationmaster,
I was already working on the trains.

Who did you ride with?

Engineer Krokus.

And Engineer Glodek before that.
He taught me how to drive a train.

He let me drive his 'teapot' train
as much as I wanted,

but even then, I wanted
to drive the real thing.

- The Teapot's gone mad!
- It'll blow up!


Come out here!

You're now on PT-47.

- Really?
- With whom?

With Orzechowski.

There's an opening because
Jankowski has been promoted.

Remember, this is a commitment.
His team is in last place.

No problem, I can handle it.

But I'll miss Engineer Krokus.
We made a good team.

That's too bad.
You have to get ahead, Zapora.

We have problems with Orzechowski.
Your job is to give the team a boost!

Good luck.

You won't be disappointed, Yardmaster!
I'm sure of it!

He's checking out the bushings.
Be careful, it's his thing.

So what? I've dealt with worse cases
than your engineer.

Our engineer!

Good morning, Engineer.
I'm Zapora.

Good morning. How much experience
do you have on a locomotive?

Three years.

You probably want to be
an engineer, don't you?

Why not?

That's the way these days.

Do you know how long I had to wait?

Twelve years.

Did the stationmaster
promise you something?

Hey, he wants you
to turn on the water.

Why did you turn the throttle
so high? The train could break down!

Did I ask you anything?

An assistant here works
and shuts up!

Remember, even your stationmaster
can't help you here!

I can defend myself.

Zapora! The rod is hot.

Did you fill it?

- Sure I did. Before we left.
- Add some grease.

He wants to get rid of you.

Where are you going?
We need steam.

Zapora, the air horn is stuck.
You didn't check it, did you?

You can check it a hundred times, but
if it wants to get stuck, it will.

So much for your punctuality.
We'll be late by five minutes.

Slow down, sir. I'll go and fix it.

Sure, you'll fall,
and I'll go to court.

Stay put!

Staszek, come on!

I was worried about you.

Check the pump first, next time.

Good evening.


Wladek, you haven't changed a bit.

- Wladek Orzechowski, in person.
- Sit down.

If Engineer Jarzabek were here,
we could man the locomotive.

He's already six feet under.

He was a tough man, but time
still managed to rub him out.

He trained us well.
A true master.

There aren't any more like him.

Retirement then was different.
It'll be our turn soon.

- Our time's up.
- What are you talking about?

Only if there's some young kid
with a grudge against you.

That's the time we're in.

How's the family?

I remember Zosia in her teens.

Then you haven't heard...

I had her educated before the war.
Now she's a doctor in Lodz.

She's smart.
She gets praised a lot.

She makes good money, too,
and tries to help me out.

I don't think you need any help.

I won't work like a dog.

I won't be an errand boy
for a few extra zloty,

and use crap instead of coal.

Hang on.

You became an engineer
in 1914, didn't you?

Yes, a week before Sarajevo.

I envied you so much.

I even got drunk because of it!

I remember coming back in a cab.

I gave the cabbie a ruble.
A whole ruble!

Then I climbed the stairs on all fours!

And my wife was seven
months pregnant.

Those were the days.

Come on, Franek. Let's go chat.

Let me help you, Halina.

- No, you don't have to.
- But it's much better with two...

Was that your old partner?

We rode for five years
on the Warsaw-Vienna line.

With Engineer Jarzabek?

Yes, with Engineer Jarzabek!

Thank you for turning off the light.

Can somebody pick up my cap!

There are no servants
on a locomotive.

Get out of here!


Get out!
I'll manage by myself!

The old man's lost it.

Go home. I'll stay here
for a while longer.

Engineer, do you have
any work for me?

No, I can handle it.

All right.

Engineer, what's wrong?

Get out of here.

You hear?


Good morning.

Good morning, Engineer.

Good morning.

This is Zapora.

It's a pleasure.

Have a seat.

No, thank you.
We're going to the movies.

Oh, the movies...


The sausage line was too long.
I didn't have enough time.

I guess I should go
and wait in line.

What? Is it my fault?

All you know how to do is talk.

Workers of the world unite.

Farmer, your enemy has
contaminated your water.

Ever since we've exceeded
the 6-year plan's tasks,

our standard of living
has increased.

Mother, protect your children
from diarrhoea.



I'm shovelling!

Not like that! Shovel it sideways.
It will work better.

You could probably have it
running on shit, right?



Damn, a fifteen minute delay.

Only Saint Cecilia
could stand you, sir.

Did I ask you anything,
you little shit?

You can call your kids
little shits, Engineer!

You're not good enough
to polish my kid's boots.

I'm about through with you!

Engineer Jarzabek's days
are long gone!

Long gone? I'll teach you!

We can go, Engineer.

Maybe we would make
more money like that,

but we're not going to agree
to those contracts, right?

Orzechowski won't ever agree
to those terms.

Don't you have to think sometimes?

- What do you mean, think?
- Just like I said.

Talking about the same thing
over and over is easy, but...

Don't forget, comrades.

Tomorrow's meeting is in
the new hall.

All right.

We'll be there.

I see things improving, comrades,

slowly, and with some difficulty,
but they are.

Our meeting today...

should help that process.

There are still those among us...

You could finish him off right now.
Just tell them what happened.

Shut up!
This is between him and me.

Hey, look at Gladek.

...robbing themselves of good pay,

not only by earning less,

but also by wasting valuable property
which belongs to the People's Republic.

Now, comrades, let's decide
on some tasks for your teams.

It will be a long time
before we agree.

Come on, comrades, don't be shy!

There should be no hesitation here.

My team will sign a contract
to burn inferior types of coal.

Nowak and I are ready
to sign a contract like that.

We call on our engineer, Orzechowski.

He's tough.
He would be able to save a lot.

I guess that your assistant
is the real boss.

I won't sign anything!

Orzechowski! Wladek!

Quiet please, comrades!

What we have witnessed is an insult
to all Polish railway men!

I would like to thank
Comrade Krokus for his contract.

Where's Orzechowski?

At the stationmaster's.

The old man's in a lot
of trouble, isn't he?

There he is.

Wladek, listen...

What's with him?

It's beginning again!
No-one has the patience for this!

Who doesn't have patience?

You carried out your plan, you bastards!

You wanted my job, didn't you?
I'll teach you a lesson!

Wladek! Calm down!

What's happening here?

What's the meaning of this?

- Let's go!
- Hold on.

You can't drive in this condition.
Someone will replace you.

- Will he be back?
- No.

And that's it.

I took his place one month later.

People said I got him fired.

And then yesterday, that tragedy...

I don't want to stay here anymore.
Transfer me, Stationmaster.

But why didn't you report
the argument on the locomotive?

I understand.

In any case, we know what he did
on the locomotive,

don't we, Mr Konarski?

We also know he didn't incite
any sabotage, Mr Warda.

- There's also Salata.
- The lineman?

Yes, he's in charge of
the semaphore.

He was arrested
right after the accident.

Call him in, Stationmaster.

Unfortunately, the stationmaster
has concealed the fact

that he fired Orzechowski
without any notice.

Orzechowski was a vengeful bastard.
He turned the light off himself.

And then threw himself
under the train?

You said yourself that
he might have been pushed.

Lineman Salata.

Sit down.

Do you know why
we called you here?

I don't.

I don't know anything.

I want to ask why you've
locked up an innocent man?

What have I done?
I do my job well.

The stationmaster can confirm that.
He's known me for years.

That's the prosecutor's job.
We're interested in something else.

Did you see Orzechowski

I did.

He visited me.

- How did he behave?
- The same as usual.

What does that mean?

The same as usual.
The way he always does.

Do you know how he died?

I do.


It was what you might expect.
He just threw himself...

A man's death
is what you might expect?

So you could have pushed him?


Push him?


That's not true!

You were the only one
near him when he died.

No. I wasn't.

He was near the semaphore
and I was at my booth.

Mr Zapora is a witness.

I don't remember
where Salata was.

I was running and I didn't see.

What do you mean, Mr Zapora?

I was at the booth shouting,
"What happened?"

I don't remember.
Many people were shouting.

Why would I have pushed him?

He saw that you had
turned off the light.

Light? What light?

Don't pretend you don't know.

You turned off one of the lights
before the train arrived.

That's impossible!

Believe me, it's not true!

I went to the semaphore before dusk.

I turned on both lights.
They were on.

It was Orzechowski.

How do you know it was him?

He had lost his mind.

When the stationmaster
kicked him out of...

...I mean, when he retired,

he got drunk on the very first day.
I remember it well.

I was closing the gate
when he came by.

It was odd, since he should
have been in Poznan.

I immediately noticed
that he was drunk.

How did you know?

He could barely stand.

Wicek! The gate!

I'm so tired.

Why didn't you leave it at the station?
I would have brought it.

Sure, I waited two days once.

Best regards, Engineer.

Why isn't Franka in school?
You'll starve my kids to death, you bum!

Good morning, Engineer, I have
fresh butter and boneless veal.

Even my wife was surprised
that he was drunk at noon.

Then a train came past
and the rush of air knocked him down.

Thank God he didn't fall under
the train. God has mercy on drunks.

I went to help him up, and I could
smell the vodka on his breath.

That's not true!

Orzechowski never drank vodka,
even when it was offered to him.

After the meeting that day,
he got on the train.

People saw him at the station.

You're hiding something,
Mr Salata.

No, I'm not.

I don't know anything
about the light.

He must have turned it off.
Nobody else could have.

I didn't leave the gate.
The stationmaster can...

Fine, fine.
Tell us about Orzechowski.

Have you known him long?

Sure, he was my neighbour.
And a close friend.

I visited him often.

Good morning, Engineer.
I brought the meat.

You don't look well, Engineer.

No, I'm not ill.

Now that I'm here,

can I bring up
my request about the job?

I'm not going in to the station
at the moment.

What do you mean,
at the moment?

They won't squeeze me out!
I won't let them!

- I'll fight!
- Will they even ask your opinion?

Please, Mr Salata, my husband
can't be bothered.

I'm going.
Goodbye, Engineer.

I tried to cheer him up
whenever I could.

But he was in
a bad frame of mind.

It was getting worse every day.

He was drying up
like a fish out of water.

And he was beginning
to lose his mind.

Don't make him out
to have been a lunatic.

The doctor diagnosed him
as being highly agitated.

It's hard to say sometimes.

You'd rather say he was a lunatic,
wouldn't you, Mr Konarski?

Come in.

Thank you.

What happened yesterday,
Lineman Salata?

It was a disaster.

Evil infests us like vermin.

Yes, she has to go
to the hospital straightaway.

Zosia. What's wrong?

It's really bad.

I don't think I'll make it.

- Where are my things?
- In the booth.

Take the basket.

Wicek, the children.

Remember not to oversleep.

We're taking you to the train.
I've called an ambulance.


Hurry up!

Wicek, remember the children!

Give me back the button!

Dad! She's pulling my hair!

Go inside!


Where are you going?

To the station.

At this hour?

Did your wife let you go?

I have to go.

You'll go, Engineer.
You will.

But not right now.
There's no train yet.

Come with me, instead.

You've really had it,
haven't you?

I understand.

People have always
kicked me around, too.

Even you, Engineer. You would pass,
and hardly even glance my way.

Do you see how that
affects people?

All right.

Now we're both
in the same boat.

Will you have a drink with me?
To this lousy life?

No, no. I don't drink on duty.

What duty?
Have you gone mad?

They forced you into retirement.

Go and let the train through.

Your locomotive, with that Zapora,
is on its way.

Maybe you could jump on it.

- What happened?
- Man on the tracks!

That crazy engineer!
Everything's gone haywire!

What do you think, Mr Konarski?

I don't know.

Would you have stopped if
Orzechowski hadn't been in the way?


The train would have
derailed at the switch.

It's better not to think about it.

Do you smoke?

I don't understand.

All I'm asking is
if you smoke cigarettes?

Yes. That is,
when I'm not on duty.

Do you have a light?

You don't have any matches?

No, I've got used to this lighter.
Some people say it costs more, though.

You're sure you stayed away
from the semaphore?

I swear!

I have some information which might
interest you, comrades.

Orzechowski's watch was found
undamaged between the rails.

And beside the semaphore, there was
a matchbox with eight burnt matches.

There was no kerosene
in the lower light.

- That means that Orzechowski...
- Just a minute.

Maybe I should tell you
what I think happened.

After the talk with Salata,
Orzechowski left the booth.

We know he was very excited.
He was hardly aware of anything.

But he undoubtedly noticed what
any railwayman would have,

that one of the semaphore lights
was not working.

It's stuffy in here.