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Poland, 1980 (MIFF 1981)

Director: Krzysztof Zanussi

Zanussi's latest film is a departure for him in two ways. Firstly, it is a comedy, a lighter and more sprightly film that the intense dramas of conscience for which he is best known (Camouflage, Illumination, Family Life, Spiral, etc) Secondly, rather than focusing on one central character, it develops across a broad fresco of characters and incidents requiring subtle management and timing to keep the narrative flowing.

Peter is the son of Adam, a successful cardiologist, Lidka is the daughter of a local activist, a man also well off but with a "provinciality'' complex The young people are questioning their parents' money and positions However, they yield to their persuasion and agree to get married, even married in church Peter is the more ready to compromise The future couple quarrel.

At the wedding distant relatives are present They are Maria, Adam's first wife and Peter's mother She is a doctor working in a small town Dorota. Adam's former student, now his wife, who had given up her professional career for her husband and home, meets Maria for the first time Another guest is Nina, Dorota's sister, and her young Swedish boyfriend whom Nina wants to marry after divorce. There also is Zygmunt, Peter's friend, another "young angry man" who is cleverly taking advantage of the presence of Adam's influential friends for his own benefit.

The guest of honor is Penelope, the rich widow of Adam's brother, a once-renowned ballet dancer, an eccentric lady who came because she was interested in her late husband's home country She brings with her her daughter Patricia, a candidate for career in the ballet.

"The Contract has a deceptively simple story to work from, but like Luis Bunuel's moral fables, it bursts its seams to become a sardonic comedy of the Polish Party bourgeoisie, one of the finest and bitterest films Zanussi has made to date. A great show, one of the best pictures to emerge from Poland this season"

Ron Holloway, Variety.

See also...


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