The Scar Review
The director of the Municipal Council of a small provincial Polish town, Olecko sees the possibility of developing an industrial complex in the nearby countryside. The development is supposed to bring investment into the community, but instead of immediate benefits, all the inhabitants can see is the destruction of forests and homes to make way for the factory’s construction and transport infrastructure. Stefan Bednarz (Franciszek Pieczka) is appointed as Director by the government to oversee and carry-out the project, dealing with local unrest from inhabitants, press and social study groups.
Bednarz has more than a few problems to smooth over. As well as trying to keep the locals happy, he must address the concerns of the workforce in a period of social unrest. Ultimately however Bednarz must answer to higher powers - the Minister and the Communist Party representatives. To add to his difficulties, he has family concerns – constantly away from home, he doesn’t see eye-to-eye with his daughter Ewa’s wayward lifestyle. He also uncomfortable having to work with a man disliked by his wife.
The Scar is a good film and an unrelentingly serious one, but it never seems to get directly to the heart of its subject, have a concrete point or a clear position on the matter. Do we sympathise with the townspeople, who’s lives have been turned upside-down or are they ungrateful or just uncomprehending of the wider issues involved, too concerned with their own backyard to see the greater benefits to the community? Or do we side with Stefan, who has no easy task to keep the townspeople, the press, the Minister and The Party all appeased while maintaining control of a difficult family situation? The film very clearly puts across all these contradictory and opposing views, but never convincingly and we are never really clear about the outcome. The ambiguity of the situation not so much a filmmaker’s caution in dealing with such a political subject under a Communist regime as a typically Kieslowskian documentarian rigour for impartiality. Unfortunately, this is not a subject or a medium where objectivity gives the best results – something that Kieslowski would come to see and a problem that he would address in Camera Buff.
The picture quality is not perfect, but the main problems are undoubtedly down to the film stock used by the director and the conditions under which it was filmed. Different parts of the film have different colour casts – the early part of the film looking a drab washed-out blue, while later scenes seem relatively fine. Contrast is strong however and the image is by and large clear and free from marks or scratches. There is some quite visible grain on the print and a mesh-like texture to certain scenes which causes artefacting problems with camera movements. There are six or seven noticeable jumps in the image as if frames are missing. The overall quality however is good and none of the above-mentioned issues cause any serious problems.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono and is strong and clear with no audible background noise. It is perfectly functional and causes no problems at all.
Slawomir Idziak Interview (5:46)
Cinematographer Idziak reflects back to the beginning of his collaborations with Kieslowski and how they settled on a near-documentary style that the director was happy with. He provides some background on the Lodz Film School and how Kieslowski applied the freedoms they had there into his film work.
Michal Zarnecki Interview (20:33)
Zarnecki worked as sound engineer with Kieslowski on several films including The Scar. He talks about how Kieslowski pulled together a team of filmmakers who were united in their passion for the medium and how while filming The Scar they had to be aware of censorship, including scenes they knew would be cut, so that others might pass intact. He goes into detail on Kieslowski’s approach to sound and music in his films and how the director was fanatical about using direct sound for authenticity, refusing to dub in post-production.
Agnieska Holland Interview (15:13)
Rounding out a strong collection of interviews, Holland, as in Camera Buff, gives a good account of the political climate Kieslowski was working under. She talks about her own difficulties in exile from Poland during Martial Law and how Kieslowski took great personal risks to help her re-establish contact with her young daughter still in Poland. She talks about The Scar and, although a filmmaker herself, how she got an acting role as Bednarz’s secretary in the film.
Concert of Requests (15:21)
Kieslowski’s second short feature film from 1967 is included. A biker and his girlfriend are harassed by a coach party of youths when they lose the tent from the back if their bike. Strikingly filmed, this is an unusual Kieslowski film, but quite fascinating to see the techniques he uses. The film is in black & white, 1.33:1 aspect ratio and has English subtitles. The subtitles are optional but the thick grey bar they are superimposed upon isn’t – it being used to mask the burnt-in French subtitles underneath. There are a few large areas of damage to the print and numerous scratches, but the majority of the film is in very good condition.
A full filmography is provided, covering Kieslowski’s short films, documentaries, TV work and feature films.
In later years the Kieslowski would come to see The Scar as a failure, but it’s a strong enough film that shows a young director willing to tackle serious subjects in a considered and original manner. The DVD presentation is quite good with a strong array of extras features which – along with similar material presented on the DVD releases for Blind Chance, Camera Buff and No End – form an impressive and comprehensive insight into an important director’s early work.