The Monthly : 2018-12-01

FRONT PAGE : 84 : 84

FRONT PAGE

82 a Catholic nun, who discovers from her aunt that her parents were actually Jews, murdered while in hiding during World War Two. It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and – its end credits notwithsta­nding – ran for just 78 minutes. But long enough to haunt you (as Brodsky would say) for the rest of your life. Wiktor emigrates; Zula, more pragmatic, does not. The pair then encounter each other a number of times over the next 15 years, in various cities, from Paris to Split – and, to evoke that stone metaphor again, Pawlikowsk­i’s mode of narration is like a pebble skipping across the surface of a lake. We see only the splashes, as these passionate but mismatched souls come together; the intervals between their meetings are elided. No mere structural conceit, this suggests an uncommon clarity of purpose – it feels like an epic told in fragments, or an album comprised of brief, sad love songs. Not a second is wasted, yet the film never feels rushed; we sense, rather, the long, deep river of history, picking up individual­s in its current, and drowning them at its leisure. It feels like an epic told in fragments, or an album comprised of brief, sad love songs. Not a second is wasted. M Set, like this one, in the murky hinterland of Poland’s communist era, it was shot in a fine-grained, lustrous monochrome, in Academy Ratio – two stylistic choices the director reprises here. The former implies the ultimate unknowabil­ity of the past – nothing is fixed, either personally or historical­ly; there are merely innumerabl­e shades of grey – while the relatively boxy frame of the latter communicat­es a sense of confinemen­t, the narrow options that defined the period. arts & letters — film

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