Kieslowski’s most political film takes a look at activism, law and ghosts through two parallel but related stories, but it doesn’t quite achieve the transcendence of his later pictures.
Dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski
1985 | Poland | Drama | 104 mins | 1.66:1 | Polish & English
Not rated – likely to be M18 for sexual scenes
Cast: Grazyna Szapolowska, Maria Pakulnis, Aleksander Bardini
Plot: The wife of a recently deceased lawyer tries to cope with grief after her loss and to keep his last case going in court.
Awards: Official Selection (Rotterdam)
Source: Studio Filmowe
Subject Matter: Moderate – Grief, Justice
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse
Krzysztof Kieslowski may be my favourite Polish filmmaker, but I found No End to be slightly underwhelming. It is not one of his stronger efforts, and certainly much less widely seen than, say, his Dekalog (1988) or Three Colors trilogy (1993-1994), but it is arguably the most overtly political film he had ever done.
The film begins with the sudden death of a man who’s a lawyer working on the case of an arrested political activist. Kieslowski focuses on his distraught wife, a translator, who tries to find closure and take care of her child but to no avail. Meanwhile, the family of the aforementioned activist seeks redress for the legal case.
No End runs these two parallel but related stories together, though the fuller narrative doesn’t quite achieve the transcendence of the director’s later pictures.
Perhaps the rather liberal use of the ‘supernatural’ device, of the deceased husband’s ghost who appears several times throughout the film as an ‘observer’ of personal events, might have made the film less mysterious and its metaphysical aspects diluted.
No End is bleak and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, as painfully if metaphorically expressed in the epilogue by Kieslowski to the sombre music of the great Zbigniew Preisner, who marks his first collaboration with the director here.
Political activism, law and ghosts are a tricky combination and there are times when No End feels like an overreaching experience, but for completists, this is worth a pop, though newcomers to the brilliant work of the Polish director should stay away from this for now.