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aka Dolina Issy
dir. Tadeusz Konwicki, 1982
Poland, 110 minutes
In Polish, with English subtitles

Konwicki's later films continue to dissect the present late-Warsaw Pact Poland, but through the lenses of its literary past. Approached by the family of newly Nobel Prize-winning poet Czesaw Miosz, Konwicki accepted an adaptation of his Issa Valley, a pastoral coming-of-age story that resonated with Konwicki's own youth in interwar Lithuania, a place he returned to again and again in his own works. His film is less directly story than a sweeping expressionist collage of landscape, cultural detail, and melodrama and is above all luminous with nostalgia for the lost world it represents. Despite this, his film is more multifaceted than a simple reminiscence or elegy, dancing from light into the shadow undercurrents of the modern era about to overtake the countryside in the form of two world wars: pious hypocrisies lead to suicide, Lithuanian-Polish tensions explode, children flirt with sacrilege, and a forester, isolated in the landscape, descends into madness and murder. Every image expounds on this balance of light and dark as the entire film seems to have been shot backlit by sunset, as if, as well, capturing the last moments of the entire fading era.

It is ultimately these images that linger in the memory more than any detail that could be conveyed by the synopsis, or the loosely-binding bildungsroman structure. Sun-flared skies, grasping foliage, suggestive spirits that haunt the ridgelines and ornate cemeteries in silhouette, each moment a voice in the chorus of memory. And the voice of Miosz himself, echoed through his poems in the mouths of the cast, appearing out of character in interludes of modern Poland, as the past continues, always, to bleed inescapably into the present.


124 South 3rd Street
Brooklyn, NY 11249
United States

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Kid Friendly: No
Non-Smoking: Yes!
Wheelchair Accessible: No


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