HOW FAR AWAY, HOW NEAR
aka Jak daleko stad, jak blisko
dir. Tadeusz Konwicki, 1972
Poland, 95 minutes
In Polish, with English subtitles
"I'm going to kill a man in 86 minutes." These words launch, as our protagonist reveals an automatic pistol beneath his coat in a public square, one of the great postmodern dreams of Eastern European cinema. This timeframe is not referring to any linear course of events in a story where the present constantly collapses into a tangle of history and memory as elaborate as Wojciech Has' THE HOURGLASS SANATORIUM the following year, but to the deterministic system of the film narrative itself, where all events must inexorably converge in the final confrontation. In this, his most personal film, this opening statement is also that of the director to a complicit audience, accepting the blood on his hands.
The film itself plays out as a metaphysical mystery. Haunted by a friend's suicide, as much as by his memories of lost loved ones and the ever-present specters of WWII, our protagonist moves through the story like a detective in search of larger answers. Archetypal figures and ghosts appear out of the gloom to guide him: a comrade from his old partisan unit, a forgotten love, friends lost in the war, and eerie symbolic figures who pursue him throughout. These encounters thread through exquisitely shot tableaux of the rites and ceremonies of a once-multifaceted Polish culture -- a highly ritualized Catholic wedding, a Jewish funeral, an unending booze-soaked party -- as well as the oneiric burning houses and sunset landscapes of the mind itself.
Above all, Konwicki's masterpiece is a symphony of regrets: for that which is gone, for that which cannot be saved, and for that which still goes on unchanged. Threading throughout, echoes of the Holocaust, a submerged subject in a post-war Poland that, at the time of shooting, was rediscovering anti-Semitism for political gain, a grim reality alluded to by scenes of departing friends and intellectuals abandoning the the country by train. Inter-war memories recall the macabre premonition presented by a rabbi's death, and the protagonist (channeling Konwicki himself) reflects that his grandfather's identity was never known, making him quite possibly Jewish himself and protected only by omission. Legendarily, the film draws its structure from that of Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday of atonement and repentance.
SPECTACLE THEATER (View)
124 South 3rd Street
Brooklyn, NY 11249
|Kid Friendly: No|
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