No End Review

After the unexpected death of her husband Antek - a lawyer willing to take on "political" cases during Martial Law in Poland in 1982 – Ulla (Grazyna Szapolowski) agrees to help a young woman by finding a new lawyer to defend her husband’s case. Her husband is accused of organising illegal strike action – a political activity that could be judged very harshly by the Communist authorities. However, Ulla receives mysterious messages suggesting that the lawyer she has chosen might not be the best man for the case. She believes the messages are being left by her dead husband.

No End is not an easy film to watch or follow. Even as far as Kieslowski films go, this one has a great deal of different levels and themes all working at the same time and a particularly bleak and oppressive atmosphere. The principal theme of the film is freedom, but typically for Kieslowski, much like his treatment of the same subject in Three Colours: Blue, he tackles the subject from a unexpected angle. Similar to Juliette Binoche’s character in Blue, Ulla is trying to come to terms with the sudden and unexpected death of her husband, having to consider their relationship in a new way since his death. She is also trying to come to terms with her own sexuality after his death and some painful realisations about their relationship. Added to this is the political element. For the political prisoner freedom does not mean being released from arrest or prison, freedom means standing up for your beliefs. Paradoxically and in typically Kieslowskian fashion, freedom in this case may even mean going to prison rather than compromising one’s freedom of speech and beliefs. As usual, the answers are not easy and nothing is clear-cut.

Added to the above two themes of death and freedom, Kieslowski also throws in elements that he would explore in other films – chance, co-incidences, fate - mixing them all together in a similar manner to his later film La Double Vie de Véronique. Like that film, it's a lot to take on and a lot for the viewer to take in. The over-riding theme is clear, but the connections between the disparate elements aren’t immediately obvious and I think the film suffers from this lack of focus. Here all the director’s ideas seem to be competing for space and none of them make the necessary impact and there is not the same unity of theme and purpose that Kieslowski would bring to later films.

There are large amounts of compression artefacts and macro blocking evident in backgrounds throughout the whole film on this Artificial Eye release. How annoying these are will depend on individual set-ups, but they were quite visible if not overly distracting on a 32" widescreen television. If you have a larger screen than this, this could be a bit of a problem. It’s a pity, because otherwise the picture quality is excellent – beautifully balanced colours and tones, a clear image that is only slightly soft, but superbly detailed. There is a faint green tint to the colour - I'm not sure of this is how the film is meant to look, but it certainly doesn't overly affect either the tone of the film or the colour schemes. There are a few minor marks and scratches, but for the most part the print is free from any kind of damage.

The sound is quite adequate, retaining the original Polish mono soundtrack in Dolby Digital 2.0. The sound is clear and there is very little in the way of background noise. The film marks the beginning of Kieslowski’s partnership with composer Zbigniew Preisner, who contributes an effectively haunting score that deepens the mood of the film to an almost pitch-black level of bleakness.

Grazyna Szapolowski Interview (5:41)
Grazyna Szapolowski (who also played Magda in Kieslowski’s A Short Film About Love) talks about how difficult it was for her to film some of the quite graphic erotic scenes in the film. She believes the film has aged well now that it has been removed from the political events of the time it was made, as the film was never meant to be a political statement. She speaks well about Kieslowski’s fusion of ideas and technique.

Jacek Petrycki Interview (27:18)
Cinematographer Petrycki provides a lot of background information on Kieslowski’s film-student days and his almost god-like status even back then. The majority of the interview discusses Kieslowski’s pioneering documentary work which Petrycki was involved with, as well as the two films they worked on together, Camera Buff and No End.

The Office (5:32)
One of Kieslowski’s early student films while at Polish Film and Television School is included here. The Office is another documentary on petty government officials, in this case set in a Polish social security office. The film was made in 1966, black and white, 1:33:1 aspect ratio. Quality is good.

A full filmography is provided, covering Kieslowski’s short films, documentaries, TV work and feature films.

No End is not easy viewing. It features many of the dark, meditative themes of A Short Film About Killing, La Double Vie de Véronique and Three Colours: Blue, and although it doesn’t blend the different storylines and themes as successfully as those films, it is none the less a fascinating film from one of the masters of 20th Century cinema, well-presented on a good quality DVD.

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