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NIGHT PATHS

Germany, 1979 (MIFF 1979)

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.

See also...

FAMILY LIFE

Poland, 1970
A young man returns to his family home to discover that the life he left behind is still very much a pan of him, and not so easy to escape from. ... Wit, an engineer, the son of a once rich industria… More »

CAMERA BUFF

Poland, 1979
The Polish cinema has produced new directors in recent years who have started to make films in which one can find some genuine and positive contemporary social criticism. Led by Krzysztof Zanussi, a … More »

THE CONTRACT

Poland, 1980
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, Illu… More »

THE YEAR OF THE QUIET SUN

Poland/USA/West Germany, 1984
A film of gentle emotions and autumnal colours, set during the post World War II reconstruction of Poland. Two women, mother and daughter, leave from the east and arrive in the home town they have be… More »

ILLUMINATION

Poland, 1973
Illumination won the grand prize at the Locarno festival last year, and its director. Krzysztof Zanussi, is considered by many critics to be the most original film maker working in Polish cinema. He … More »

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