Director: Krzysztof Zanussi
In the midst of the Second World War in occupied Poland, Friedrich, a young German officer of aristocratic background, meets his older cousin, Hans Albert. Both are part of the same regiment, stationed in a beautiful country estate. Both men take the opportunity to resume their philosophical discussions which began before the war when Hans Albert was a university teacher and Friedrich was his student. The discussions are joined by Elzbieta, the daughter of the Polish owner of the estate. Friedrich is deeply impressed by Elzbieta but, in spite of similar class and cultural backgrounds, she refuses to continue the discussions with him.
Following the advice of Hans Albert, Friedrich changes his attitude to Elzbieta and starts treating her roughly. But this apparently provokes her to change her attitude towards him and she asks to meet him in secret. The meeting turns out to be a cover for sabotage action. Elzbieta betrays Friedrich and conveys the information she has obtained from him to the partisans. Hans Albert is killed in action and one of the captured partisans turns out to be Elzbieta's brother. She starts to fight for his life by exploiting Friedrich's feelings for her. He continues to love her in spite of the betrayal. Eventually, the brother of Elzbieta is released, but it turns out that he is really her husband. Desperate, Friedrich takes his leave and marries his German fiancee. On the way back to the front, he pays another visit to the Polish estate, but he finds the place burned and Elzbieta a widow. Soon afterwards. Friedrich is killed in the Ukraine.
Years later, in the epilogue, his grown-up German daughter receives some reminders of her father. But she shows very little interest in all that remains of her cultural heritage. Like many young people, sha believes that the best way to liberate herself from the past is simply to reject it.
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Poland/USA/West Germany, 1984
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