It is 1976, Agnieszka, a student of the Polish Film Academy, preparing to make her first TV documentary, chooses for its subject the famous bricklaying shockworker of the Fifties, Birkut. He was a farmer, who went to Nowa Huta, a new industrial town, where his five-man group, under his ingenious direction, laid 30 000 bricks in record time, earning for him the coveted title of High Performance Worker.
She gets help from a number of people: a budding film director who made a documentary about the bricklayer, which, in turn brought him recognition; an erstwhile fellow worker, Witek, with whom the hero, after his downfall, was sent to prison, a Party official, who accompanied Birkut on his rounds throughout Poland, and who is now the organizer of a strip-tease show; Birkut's wife, who left him when he went to prison for fighting for Witek's rights; and finally, Birkut's son, who was the last to see him alive in a factory in Gdansk.
The closer Agnieszka comes to her quarry, the more difficulties are put in her way, and finally, she is forced to abandon the project altogether. The lesson she learns from her own experiences, explains to her a great deal about the problems Birkut must have faced in the difficult years of the Fifties.