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Poland, 1964 (MIFF 1971, Jerzy Skolimowski Retrospective)

Director: Jerzy Skolimowski

Andrzej, a university drop-out, wakes up one morning, and after strolling through the streets, walks into an army recruiting office and signs up for military service. He is given two hours to pack his things and make his farewells before reporting for duty. During this brief period, he wanders around calling on old friends and sounding out acquaintances. He tells no one of his enlistment - not even his wife. In this series of short encounters, Andrzej assesses the range of alternatives that exist within the framework of the society in which he dwells.

The film takes a sharp look at the bewildered allegiances of the generation that missed the war, and reveals a society in which everything is betrayal: from the education system that fills a student with a wealth of useless knowledge, to the friends who rough Andrzej up when he catches them eavesdropping, or the clinic that kills his dog rather than curing it. People are constantly being overheard, stared at, interrogated, spied on; there is suspicion and distrust everywhere.

Fresh from writing Innocent Sorcerers and Knife in the Water, Skolimowski was in 1964 the spearhead that had punctured the bubble of heroic Polish cinema after its dramatic growth during the late 1950's, and his first film as a director confirms his radical impatience through an unnerving restless fury unmatched by his later works.

Anti-heroism may be its theme, but Rysopis marked the arrival of a new kind of film-making courage.

Philip Strick, Monthly Film Bulletin

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