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No End: Krzysztof Kieslowski (Poland, Eastern Europe 1985)

The early 1980s in Poland was one of the darkest times in Polish history because this was the time their communist government was at its peak under martial law. In response, filmmaker Kieslowski set his 1985 film “No End” on December 13, 1981, which began the gloomy period of martial law. During this time, people in Polish society were living under a curfew and military control, which could have meant that reality was blocked from the entire culture. There were also moments when people struggled to survive because nothing was pleasurable around them, such as television programs, leisure activities, or basic needs such as food and water. Martial law lasted for about 18 months, so Kieslowski created a story of how people grieved during martial law.  

 

While most Polish films center around politics, this film took a different approach to confronting psychological reality. The personal loss of the main character, Urszula, was the center of the story, whereas politics and martial law were plot points that were pinpointed on the side. These included illegal gatherings, private phone calls monitored by the government, and propaganda. As a result of this dark time, the overall mood of the entire film was depressing because people in society could have been curious to be informed of how life was during those harsh 18 months. One scene in the movie mentions communism and socialism.

 

The film’s perspective was Urszula’s grieving process of her husband, Antek, and how it negatively impacted her mental health and her overall well-being. There was a moment when she saw him as a ghost by the tombstone and tried to fall in love again with somebody different, but everything was all unsuccessful. She even got physically abusive to herself, where she abandoned her son at her grandmother’s house and eventually committed suicide. In that scene, Kieslowski used the camera as the dead husband’s point of view, which was very knowledgeable of the cinematographer. The closing credits had a dark background of Urszula and Antek reunited.

 

Although this film was rich in content for many viewers, the title “No End” has many open-ended positive and negative meanings. On a positive note, this was one of the few Polish films with social drama, whereas, on a negative note, people were faced with the reality across the world of how badly the Polish people were living.

 

In contrast, the communist government of Poland heavily criticized the film, where the story was about anticommunism. The Catholic Church also criticized it for using an anti-Christian ending. The film’s main message was that people in Poland want to live in peace and not live in misery under martial law. This film also foreshadowed life without communism, and it was abolished four years later in 1989. Between 1984 and 1990, filmmakers in Eastern Europe started creating films about what life would be like without communism, and most famously, in 1987, one filmmaker created a Western German film about what life would be like once the Berlin Wall was torn down. Despite heavy criticism from the government, Krzysztof Kieslowski was successfully able to create this movie that foreshadowed the future of the Polish society.

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