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Illuminacja, 1972

Illumination opens to a dry lecture footage from Professor Wladislaw Tatarkiewicz as he defines illumination as the moment of enlightenment in which the brain sees truth directly, explaining that it is through this state of intensified thought that a person attains wisdom. The film then cuts to a clinical shot of Franciszek (Stanislaw Latallo) as his vital statistics are measured and his cognitive skills tested by a team of research scientists. Drawn to the science of universal laws and exact and predictable phenomena, Franciszek enrolls in the Physics Department at the prestigious University of Warsaw. However, he finds his logical and analytical approach to life tested when he becomes involved with a beautiful and sophisticated woman who is unable to reciprocate his affection. Haunted and obsessed by the traumatic love affair, Franciszek seeks solace and adventure by communing with nature on a mountain climbing expedition, and meets a charming young woman named Agnieszka (Monika Dzienisiewicz-Olbrychska). Upon receiving the news of her unexpected pregnancy, Franciszek convinces her to marry him. He moves his family into a small apartment, enlists as a subject for behavioral research to earn extra income, and, overwhelmed by personal responsibility, takes a leave of absence from his studies in order to find full-time employment. Frustrated by his stalled academic progress and unable to reconcile with the unexpected death of a friend at the research hospital, Franciszek sinks into despair.

From the generation of 1970s through 1980s Polish directors inspired by the socially relevant cinema of Andrzej Wajda collectively known as the Cinema of Moral Anxiety (that included such filmmakers as Krzysztof Kieslowski, Roman Polanski, Andrzej Munk, and Agnieszka Holland), Krzysztof Zanussi creates an visually complex, incisive, and compassionate examination of the essence of knowledge and truth in Illumination. Working under an artistic doctrine that incorporates cinéma vérité into the narrative as a means of conveying realism and presenting contemporary social issues within the limited creative freedom of communist Poland, Zanussi intersperses real-life interviews, statistical data, and behavioral studies within the story of a young scientist's personal struggle between reason and passion to reflect a universal truth on the nature of human existence: the obstetrician's appointment that cuts to stills of embryonic development; Fanciszek's indecision over his declared field of study that is conveyed against the impressive educational statistics of notable physicists (Albert Einstein, Max Planck, Werner Heisenberg); the jarring contrast between the clinical documentary on surgical procedures and the harrowing emotional toll that results from a failed routine operation. Inevitably, Illumination serves as an idiosyncratic, engaging, and insightful fusion of science and art, precision and creativity, intellect and emotion - a reflection of the innate human need for personal balance and the inextinguishable human quest for enlightenment.

© Acquarello 2002. All rights reserved.

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Cyclo Opowiesci Weekendowe, 1996-1997
[Weekend Stories]

LaszczkowskiSet in in post-communist Poland, Weekend Stories presents a series of eight episodes that examine moral dilemma in contemporary life. A Woman's Business poses the question of forgiveness and finding closure in the absence of acknowledgment of guilt, as a middle-aged, emotionally fractured scientist named Zofia (Joanna Szczepkowska) is presented with an opportunity to face a callous and opportunistic entrepreneur named Lukowska (Magdalena Zawadzka) whose past influence with communist officials led to Zofia's personal and professional ruin. Deceptive Charm presents the lure of financial gain over personal ethics as a struggling professor, Karol (Maciej Robakiewicz) is encouraged by his wife Iwona (Katarzyna Herman) to accept a part-time employment offer by a wealthy, dubious man (Zbigniew Zapasiewicz) based on his photogenic appearance. Little Faith chronicles the interrupted lives of a pragmatic scientist (Maciej Orlos) and his wife (Dorota Segda) as they struggle through issues of secularity and regaining true faith during an agonizing weekend while awaiting the results of their son's medical tests. The Dilatory Line illustrates the overreaching effects of jealousy as a young director's (Bartosz Opania) increasing suspicion over his colleague's relationship with his girlfriend (Monika Kwiatkowska) brings animosity and chaos to a planned live television production. The Soul Sings examines the conflict of personal sacrifice and compassion when a struggling opera singer named Adam (Jacek Laszczkowski) is faced with a decision to risk his promising professional opportunity in order to assist an elderly neighbor (Maria Koscialkowska). Unwritten Law presents the variability of moral conscience when an opportunistic and callous married man named Czarek (Piotr Szwedes) witnesses the ruthless business practices of his employer (Krystyna Janda). An aging ballet dancer named Vitold (Daniel Olbrychski) is compelled to reassess his personal values and emotional distance when he is reluctantly reunited with his ex-wife and former dance partner, Jadwiga (Olga Sawicka), in The Last Circle. The Hidden Treasure presents the bittersweet homecoming of a humbled aristocrat (Maja Komorowska) who is given an opportunity to reclaim her confiscated family estate after the fall of communism.

Krzysztof Zanussi presents a compassionate, insightful, and provocative examination of the moral issues that present themselves in everyday life. Using variations of a recurring opening shot through a view from a window, Zanussi sets a tone of personal reflection as the protagonists in each episode attempt to reconcile with their own human frailty: vengeance and forgiveness (A Woman's Business), greed (Deceptive Charm), absence of spirituality (Little Faith), obsession and jealousy (The Dilatory Line), compassion (The Soul Sings), sense of fairness (Unwritten Law), narcissism and emotional abandonment (The Last Circle), humility and service (The Hidden Treasure). Throughout each episode, Zanussi provides a compelling portrait of contemporary Poland, from the vestigial scars of life under shifting communist policies, to an increasingly impersonal and materialistic urban society. Inevitably, Weekend Stories proves to be a compelling and universally relevant glimpse into the quiet celebration and travails of modern existence.

© Acquarello 2001. All rights reserved.

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