Bez konca (No End) (1985)
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski.
Starring: Grazyna Szapolowska (Urszula Zyro), Maria Pakulnis (Joanna Stach), Aleksander Bardini (Lawyer Mieczyslaw Labrador), Jerzy Radziwilowicz (Antek Zyro), Artur Barcis (Darek Stach), Michal Bajor (Miecio, aplikant), Marek Kondrat (Tomek, Antek's friend), Tadeusz Bradecki (Hipnotyzator), Danny Webb (American), Krzysztof Krzeminski (Jacek Zyro), Marzena Trybala (Marta Duraj), Adam Ferency (Rumcajs), Elzbieta Kilarska (Antoni's Mother), Jerzy Kamas (Judge Biedron), Hanna Dunowska (Justyna).
a Polish woman struggles with personal problems while Poland is under martial law and Solidarity is banned in 1982
The telephone is off the hook and an electronic voice says "monitored conversations". A man hangs up the phone. The man says: "I died four days ago." He had a wife Ulla Zyro and a young son Jacek Zyro. One morning he was waiting for his wife and son to get into the car. He was at the steering wheel. As Ulla approached the car, he could feel himself slipping away. He could see but not hear Ulla screaming, but all the car doors were locked.
The man goes on saying that he saw them close the casket on him. He got into the house and found client Darek Stach's file on his desk. "It's a pity I'll miss his trial."
His conversation is interrupted by the telephone ringing. Ulla answers the phone. It's Tomek, a friend and colleague of Antek Zyro, on the phone. He says he's in Warsaw at the airport. He asks for that lawyer husband of hers, but Ulla has to tell him that Antek is dead. He died yesterday. She asks that the man call back later.
She prepares breakfast for Jacek. She fixes coffee for two, but then remembers that now there's only one coffee drinker in the house. She pours one of the coffees down the drain. She sits down with Jacek. Ulla asks him not to talk about the death to his friends. Jacek asks her to be at home when he comes back from school because he would like to be with her.
The phone rings and Ulla answers it. A voice asks if this is Mrs. Zyro. The female voice says she needs to see Ulla about her husband. It's Darek's wife, Mrs. Stach. She says that Ulla's husband was Darek's lawyer. It's a political case. Ulla tells her to contact her late husband's firm about the case.
Ulla walks her son to his school. Her spirit husband sits on the school bench with Ulla.
When Ulla climbs the stairs to her apartment, she runs into Darek's wife Joanna and daughter Sylvia on the steps. Darek's wife explains who she is. Ulla invites them into her apartment. The woman says she needs her husband's case file. Ulla replies: "I can't give it to you." Now the woman asks if Ulla doesn't want to help her? She asks if Ulla is aware that files sometimes disappear and nobody knows what happened to them? Ulla doesn't say anything, so the woman starts to leave. Ulla tells her to wait. She will show the file to her, but she can't give it to her.
The woman looks through the file but says there's nothing of real importance in it. Ulla asks what is this political case her husband is involved in? The answer is: "A strike." Her husband organized the strike.
The woman now asks who will take over the case? Ulla doesn't know, but she suggests that maybe her husband's mentor, an older man named Labrador, might be willing to take over the case. Ulla looks up his name in a list of lawyers and writes down the name and telephone number of Labrador.
Mrs. Stach introduces herself to Labrador. He tells her that the one political case he tried was back in 1952. That was his one and only political case. Now he handles only nonpolitical offenses. He specializes in smuggling cases. Mrs. Stach asks his opinion of the case and Labrador says it is delicate and difficult. But he will talk to her tomorrow about it.
An old friend of Labrador tells him that they are firing him after 70 years. Labrador himself is due to be let go too. He mentions that he would like to go out with a big bang and shake up the place.
Joanna comes up to Labrador. The lawyer says he has changed his mind. He will take the political case.
At home Ulla goes through some of her husband's things. She finds a letter addressed to Antoni Zyro. She opens it. Inside she finds photos of a naked, blonde woman with her face cut out in each photo. She starts to cry and then tears up the photos. The photos are of her.
Tomek comes to visit Ulla. She mentions to him that she has known him as a friend of her husband and she was wondering if he knew about the photos of her? Tomek says her husband told him about the photos. Now she asks how did her husband find out about the photos? Tomek says her husband told him that he got the photos from some "friend". Ulla says her husband cut her face out of each photo and she wants to know why did he do that?
Ulla shows the Stach file to Tomek. He finds a hidden message wrapped around a paper clip. The note says: "Dear Mr. Zyro, I am very happy to have you as my lawyer. You're young and you are the first person who understands. Indeed, I need to go back into society, but I also want to keep my dignity. I will do as you suggested. I will say I was a leader. However, I was not a member of Solidarity. I wanted to sort out a few things, not to break machines. I'm worried about my family. Joanna must not take Sylvia to her father's. My cell mates and I send you our best regards. Darek. Thank you for not taking me for a madman." Tomek notices in the list of lawyers that there is a red question mark besides Labrador's name.
Ulla picks up Jacek from school and asks if it was he who wrote the question mark by Labrador's name in the list of lawyers? He says no. She then tells him that she is going to Praga and asks if he wants to go with her? He says he wants to stay home.
As Ulla drives, her car conks out on her. Somebody in a car goes whizzing by her car and the fellow beeps at her. After a slight delay, she tries to turn the engine back on and the engine actually turns on. She hears the sounds of a crash as she's driving and then she sees that the car that just past her has had a terrible car accident where the driver rammed right into the side of a bus. The driver has been badly injured and blood flows onto the roadway. Bystanders take the man out of the car.
Ulla gets out of the car, but feels a pain in her side. She sits down on the bumper of her car and doesn't notice that there is a smear of grease on the bumper. She gets back in her car and leaves.
Ulla goes to see Joanna Stach. She has two guests in her house. Joanna tells them not to worry because Ulla is Antek's wife. A black dog keeps showing up around the Zyro family members. Ulla looks out at a black dog sniffing around her small Volkswagen and barking. And now Ulla notices that she has car grease on her right hand.
She shows Joanna the question mark by Labrador's name. She says she knows that her son did not make the mark. Joanna asks then who did make the mark? She says Antek did it. "He doesn't want Labrador on the case."
The male guest, Barbarossa, says he's going to get a cab, but Ulla offers to take him where he wants to go. He is going to the Curie Institution for his radiation therapy. Ulla now tells Joanna about the message they found saying that Joanna should not take Sylvia to her father's place. Ulla and Barbarossa leave together.
Labrador speaks with prisoner Darek in jail. He warns the defendant not to say in any way that he was influential in making decisions about the strike. If he does, the prosecutors will say that Darek was the leader of the strike and really go after him.
Ulla visits with Joanna again. It seems that Joanna's place is always filled with guests, probably of people active in the Solidarity movement in Poland. Ulla meets a woman named Marta Duraj, who met Ulla's husband 15 years ago. She asks how is her husband? Ulla says he's dead. Marta says that Ulla's husband died from heart trouble. Ulla asks Marta how did she know that information, since she acted surprised at hearing about her husband's death. They are interrupted by a worried Joanna. Joanna has some disturbing news. Her husband and other political prisoners have started their hunger strike.
At home Ulla searches through photographs of her husband. It looks like she found a photo of her husband with another man and two women on the beach, one of them Marta..
Tomek and Ulla have a beer together at a restaurant. She tells Tomek that Labrador told her that inside himself Antek was really free. He asks her about the photo in her hand. She shows it to him and asks him if he remembers it? He says he sure does. It was the holidays of 1967. She asks if the brunette in the picture is Marta? He says he doesn't remember her. He and Antek both liked the tall blonde in the photo. In fact, they would fall in love with the same girls, including Ulla. And he is still in love with Ulla. She asks him to please not say that. Tomek sees out the window that the police are towing away his car. Ulla tells him to hurry to the car pound.
Ulla keeps noticing a man at another table. He's an American and pretty young. He comes over to her and asks in English if he can buy her a drink? Yes. He says to her: "$50 dollars." She says: "Okay"
In a bathroom, Ulla takes off her blouse. (brief nudity) The spirit of her husband watches her. The couple starts making love. The young man is raring to go. She holds back thinking about her husband. After sex she asks if he speaks any Polish? No. So she starts speaking in Polish to him: "My husband died 36 days ago. One day he was there, then he was gone. I thought I loved him a little, not a lot. . . . Those days when I hated him, did they really exist? Now I realize how happy I was. It's horrible. I still see him. I can't forget him." The young fellow asks her to say it in English. She says no. He asks her to have dinner with him tonight. That's another no. She leaves.
Ulla comes to see Joanna again. A man is there at the table. Ulla just sits down on the couch without saying anything. The man picks up his things, says goodbye and leaves. She puts the money she got from the young man into Joanna's cash box. When Joanna returns from saying goodbye to the man, Ulla asks her who was that man? That man is her father. Joanna says she is pulled apart between her husband and her father. Her father always brings her articles in the newspaper about who are these Solidarity people in reality? She cries about it. Joanna also says she's afraid. Barbarossa was killed. Joanna says none of this really touches Ulla, because she is lost in her own personal pain. Ulla agrees with her. Joanna says that she knows a man who helped Marta when she was troubled and maybe the fellow can help Ulla. Ulla asks in what way can the man help her? Joanna replies: "To forget."
Labrador tells Joanna that he can get her into the prison to see her husband. When she's in there, he wants her to tell him to stop the hunger strike and eat his soup. Joanna says she will go visit Darek, but she won't tell him to stop the hunger strike. Labrador asks her why? Because he'd kill me. So Labrador says he will speak to Darrk himself about the matter. Joanna says that they have a new union in the place where her husband worked. Labrador asks his assistant to go speak to the man in the new union who knows Darek. Ask the new union man if he will vouch for Darek?
Ulla is put under hypnosis to help her forget the man she can't forget. But the spirit of Antek is in the room with Ulla and the hypnotist. While under hypnosis, she sees Antek and they use their fingers to signal to each other. After he awakens his patient, the hypnotist says she may need to come back and repeat the procedure. Ulla nods her head. She leaves.
Ulla masturbates in her bed. (Some nudity)
Tomek tells Labrador that he is a bastard for taking on the political case. Hey, Labrador said he wanted to shake things up.
Labrador talks with Darek. He shows him the newspaper article about the new union coming in. Darek says he knows one of the men mentioned in the article. They were childhood friends. And they went on strike together. Labrador says he's going to go see the man? Why? "To have him vouch for your good behavior." And if the man will vouch for Darek, Darek can get out of prison. And it will save Darek from the special court. He won't go to prison, since he will be getting a suspended sentence. Darek is not moved by this. Labrador changes to the topic of stopping the hunger strike. He says he doesn't want to see Darek die
Labrador now sends his assistant to speak with Darek. The assistant doesn't have any more luck than Labrador did with Darek.
The assistant tells Labrador that Darek gave up the hunger strike. He adds: "You won, Labrador." Labrador says yes.
Tomek tells Ulla that he is going back home via Canada. She tells Tomek that Antek is still here. She sees him.
Ulla goes back to the hypnotist. She says she wants to be put under again. He says that she lied to him last time. The man is dead, right? Yes, says Ulla. The hypnotist says he has no ability to contact the hereafter.
Jacek plays the piano and mother starts crying. She runs into the bathroom to cry. Jacek comes over to check on her.
Jacek and mom go to the cemetery. They stop at the grave of Antek. Alone mom tells Antek that she loves him.
Jacek tells his mother that he prefers his father's mom to her mom. They go see the maternal grandmother. She is going to take care of Jacek for awhile. Ulla says that she will be away for some time.
It's the day of the trial for Darek Stach. The judge sentences Darek to 18 months of imprisonment and grants him a stay. The court suspends the imprisonment. He is free to go. No one moves. Joanna starts crying. Finally, Sylvia goes over to her dad and he tells her that they are going home. Sylvia goes back and tells her mother. But neither father nor mother has made a move yet.
At home, Ulla cuts her telephone wire. She blocks off an air vent. She turns on the gas and puts tape over her mouth. Ulla just sits there in front of the stove. She sees Antek. Together, they walk outside the apartment building.
A good movie, but a sad one. A woman named Ulla loses her husband from a heart attack. To her surprise, she keeps seeing her husband over and over in different places. She is surprised because she only thought she loved him a bit, not a lot. She becomes more depressed as she realizes she can't get her husband out of her mind. Even hypnotism can't remove the images of her husband. The one thing that keeps her going is that her lawyer husband had a political case with someone being prosecuted for leading a strike when Poland was under martial law. The wife of the strike leader comes to Ulla and asks for her help in finding the case file and in finding another lawyer for her husband. The political case and her loyalty to the strike leader's wife is what keeps Ulla going because she feels that she is needed. After the court case, the woman fully realizes that she actually had been a very happy person with her husband, but didn't realize it and took the relationship for granted. So now she realizes how really alone she is. This drives her to do something drastic about her situation.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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