By the time Krzysztof Kieslowski completed “Bez Konca” [Eng. Title: No End], he was already highly respected among arthouse circles, but his first overtly political film wasn’t particularly well received back home. Understandable – considering that Poland was under martial law at the time, busy trying to put down a pesky trade union movement called Solidarity [Solidarnosc].
The storyline isn’t quite as important to the film, because its message is clearly what it shows without any comments – namely the quest for love and freedom. It is however conveyed through two parallel story structures – one concerns Urszula, the bereaving widow of a young lawyer. The second, the trial of a Solidarity activist, who was supposed to be defended by Urszula’s husband, but whose case Urszula refers to her husband’s mentor Labrador, an ageing lawyer who will take it up as his last case before retirement. Urszula’s grief for her deceased husband Antek intensifies by the day as she realises she loves him more than she even thought she did, and tries various methods to overcome her loss through work, casual sex, and even hypnosis. Antek’s ghost lingers in the forefront of all events happening in the film – it is from his viewpoint that we will see events unfold, bleakly, darkly…
If only Kieslowski had anticipated the part Solidarity will play in the dismantling of the Eastern Bloc, including the Soviet Union, perhaps he might have penned a slightly different script. But as it stands, this unforgiving film will remain one of his bleakest. Masterfully shot and with a haunting signature track, the angst-filled atmosphere is palpable even during its most tender moments, particularly in scenes between Urszula and her young son – it is editing at its superlative best. There is something achingly beautiful about the film despite it requiring more than one viewing for me to tie in some loose ends, especially the trial’s outcome which is greeted with a sense of shame by the defendant and family despite his discharge. I shall no doubt be picking up hitherto missed nuances upon further viewings. Grazyna Szapolowska gives a fine performance as grief-struck widow Urszula, and it is her magnetic presence that will stay with you even after the credits roll. This is not only one of Kieslowski’s most important works, it is also a film that captures Poland at an important moment in its history – it is Highly Recommended Viewing..!
Amazon DVD Link [NTSC]
This is a beautiful edition with interesting interviews from Kieslowski’s long-term cinematographer Jacek Petrycki and lead actress Grazyna Szapolowska. It also includes Kieslowski’s first documentary “Office” made in 1966 as a film student.
The Nudity: Grazyna Szapolowska
The film contains two scenes of nudity, both from the beautiful Grazyna Szapolowska who plays Urszula’s character. The first is a love scene with an American who mistakes her for a prostitute, and the second is of her alone in bed, reminiscing her deceased husband.