Krzysztof Zanussi – Constans AKA The Constant Factor (1980)


Apart from the conscience provoking “A Short Film About Killing” I have always found Western European audiences’ adulation of the Polish director, Krzysztof Kieslowski, rather excessive, all the more so when compared to the comparative neglect of Zanussi, that other, to my mind , infinitely greater Krzysztof. During the late ’70’s and early ’80’s he produced a remarkable body of work that, although dealing with rigorous intellectual concepts, perfectly balanced head with heart. In “Night Paths” he examines a contemporary generation’s indifference to history; in “The Contract” he uses the stag as a metaphor for the nobility and strength that, in his view, Polish society fails to aspire to, while in “The Constant Factor” he makes use of mathematics in an attempt to shed light on the awesome possibilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This latter is a multi-layered work, on the one hand dealing with the consequencies of maintaining integrity within a corrupt employment situation and at a deeper level attempting to understand the randomness of fate that mankind is exposed to regardless of political dogmas or individual standards of morality. Witold, the main protagonist of the film, is a young man whose father, a famous mountaineer, has been killed in a climbing accident. He has one objective, to follow in his footsteps by joining a Himalayan expedition. However his failure to come to terms with the corrupt working practises of his colleagues leads to their thwarting his ambition. “The Constant Factor” is without doubt one of the most deeply pessimistic films I know. When I first saw it I could hardly believe the ghastliness of its ending. Even though I consider it to be one of the most profound masterworks of cinema I have to steel myself beforehand whenever I bring myself to sharing it with anyone, let alone seeing it by myself. Continue reading

Krzysztof Zanussi – Skarby ukryte z cyklu ‘Opowiesci weekendowe’ AKA Weekend Stories: The Hidden Treasure (2001)

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Synopsis (possible spoilers):

‘Rose, an older woman living in Paris was born in Poland as a daughter of an aristocratic family. Her family house is now an impoverished home for the old people. Rose visited her property many times since the Berlin Wall collapsed and this time she arranged a meeting with an old palace employee, who earned big money having run a greenhouse business. Nevertheless, it remains a secret where the money to start this business came from. Not having a chance to speak to the employee, Rose meets his granddaughter – Jola – and enjoying her company, invites her to visit Paris. As Jola arrives in Paris, she gets acquainted with a young Arabian with whom she falls in love. Rose is very much by her side. Soon Rose leaves for Poland once again. This time her purpose is to find a chest full of treasures buried by herself deep in the forest soon before the war was over, when she was afraid of property confiscation soon to come. Apparently it turns out, the chest is empty and Jola’s grandfathers seem to be the most suspected men. But are these accusations justifiable?’
– IMDb Continue reading

Krzysztof Zanussi – Zycie jako smiertelna choroba przenoszona droga plciowa AKA Life As a Fatal Sexually Transmitted Disease (2000)


In early 12th century France, a horse thief is captured in the outskirts of a peasant village and brought to the attention of a passing monk in order to receive absolution before being hanged for his crime. Momentarily released from his binding in order to pray, the thief seizes the opportunity to flee from the village before being quickly apprehended and returned to the waiting priest, who then informs the townspeople that he cannot give absolution to someone who is not ready for death. Instead, the monk offers to take the prisoner into his counsel at the monastery and agrees to bring him back for his punishment when he is able to accept his fate. One day, the prisoner returns to the village and solemnly approaches the clearing that leads to the gallows before a seemingly anachronistic on-set mishap reveals that the opening sequence had been a film-within-a-film excerpt from a work in progress on the early life of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux and his epic theological conflict with theologian Pierre Abélard (a conflict that eventually led to Abélard’s condemnation under Pope Innocent II). Continue reading

Krzysztof Zanussi – Serce na dloni aka And A Warm Heart (2008)


AMG: In this moral fable from Poland, Konstanty (Bohdan Stupka) is a wealthy and amoral man who has made his fortune running a chain of supermarkets and has both the bank account and the lack of conscience to do anything he wants. One of Konstanty’s many employees is Stefan (Marek Kudelko), a kind and generous young man who runs a cash register at one of his markets. Stefan loses his job when a manager discovers he’s been undercharging groceries for senior citizens who can’t afford them; adding insult to injury, a few hours later Stefan loses both his girlfriend (Marta Zmuda-Trzebiatowska) and his flat. Falling into a deep depression, Stefan tries to kill himself, and is taken to the emergency room around the same time Konstanty is admitted to the hospital following a sudden heart attack. When Konstanty’s assistant Angelo (Szymon Bobrowski) learns that one of his boss’s former underlings is also receiving treatment and is expected to survive, he passes the news along to Konstanty, and they hatch a scheme to offer the principled young man a small fortune in exchange for his healthy heart if and when it’s needed. Serce na dloni (aka And A Warm Heart) was an official selection at the 2008 Rome Film Festival. Continue reading

Krzysztof Zanussi – Spirala aka Spiral (1978)


In what appears to be an inexplicable incident, a man drives up to a resort hotel in midwinter, throws away his car keys, enters, and proceeds to agitate everyone he meets with his urgency — a message he is somehow unable to communicate. Then he leaves, disappearing in the snow. Later, the people he appeared to have upset have gathered to search for him and find him frostbitten, but alive. Visiting him at the sanatorium to which he has been taken, they gradually discover what was really happening. Continue reading