A vintage KAVI 35 mm print deposited by Suomi-Filmi viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Pawlikowski's Poland), 26 May 2015
A stark Tadeusz Konwicki movie. A woman and a man, Wala and Michał, have a clandestine meeting in a little room in a little hotel in a little town during All Souls' Day holiday. Overwhelming memories from wartime love affairs, seen in long flashbacks, haunt them.
I was too young to understand Zaduszki when I saw it on television 45 years ago but it still managed to impress me even then. The film has stood the test of time well.
Konwicki (1926-2015) was a distinguished modern writer but he was equally accomplished as a film-maker. He puts to use a rich array of cinematic means in Zaduszki (interesting angles, field sizes, montages, inserts, handheld shots, a swirling 360° carousel shot, subjective shots and majestic olympic extreme long shots).
But most relevantly, Konwicki knows the power of the close-up of the human face; even the image during the opening credits is a close-up. I was especially impressed by the soulful performances Konwicki receives from Ewa Krzyżewska in the female lead and Michał's two previous significant women, Elżbieta Czyżewska (as the partisan lieutenant) and Beata Tyszkiewicz (code name "Katarzyna"). It is mostly for them that I look forward to revisiting Zaduszki again.
The affinity to Hiroshima, mon amour is clear, but not in imitation. Rather Alain Resnais and Marguerite Duras may have inspired Konwicki to be daring, combining the historical and the intimate in this way. These men and women live history in their soul and in their flesh.
Politically, Zaduszki is surprising in its wide understanding of the political contradictions in Poland during WWII and the following civil wars. Konwicki plays by the rules of the current establishment to a certain degree but refuses to simplify things. He feels for all of them.
Zaduszki is a poetic vision of a deep unrest. It is a psychological post-war film. There is also a Holocaust element in the story of Mr. Goldapfel whose family was murdered and home destroyed during the war.
The soundtrack is an interesting compilation with many songs (including "Warszawianka" and "Dzis do ciebie przyjac nie moge"), organ music, marches, and sound effects treated musically.
The cinematography is based on grayness, apathy, and rain. Yet there is a special intensity and sensuality in the imagery, and the lyrical montages often involving flying birds are eloquent.
The used print is still quite watchable. In some shots the visual quality is perfect, but usually the look is slightly duped in a regular kind of way.
BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK OUR PROGRAMME NOTE BY PETTERI KALLIOMÄKI