And a Warm Heart - Krzysztof Zanussi
Krzysztof Zanussi - film director and moralist, a leading figure of intellectual cinema in the past quarter of a century, director of such famous projects as Iluminacja / Illumination, Barwy ochronne / Camouflage, Constans / The Constant Factor, Kontrakt / The Contract, Rok spokojnego słońca / A Year of the Quiet Sun, Paradygmat / The Power of Evil, Dotknięcie ręki / The Silent Touch, Cwał / At Full Gallop, Życie jako śmiertelna choroba przenoszona drogą płciową / Life as a Fatal Sexually Transmitted Disease, and Persona Non Grata, award-winner at the festivals in Gdańsk, Cannes, Venice, and Moscow - is good at surprises. With almost 80 films to his credit, many of them ironic and witty despite the seriousness of their subject matter, he has never made a dark comedy - until now.
The public followed this project with considerable interest, if only because Zanussi invited the leading star of the Polish pop music scene on set - Dorota Rabczewska - "Doda". Her appearance aroused substantial controversy - how could such a respected director give a part in his film to someone who causes an uproar wherever she goes? Allegedly some of the actors were prepared to withdraw from the project... Luckily the situation was eased, none of the actors - the cast was made up of none but the biggest names in Polish cinema - let Zanussi down. And Doda? Well, she submitted to the director completely, in return gaining an opportunity to give an original point to the whole story.
The plot is surprisingly simple. A Polish business oligarch named Konstanty (played by Ukrainian actor and politician Bohdan Stupka, who won an award at the Rome festival for his interpretation) is expanding his hypermarket chain. Celebrating his success surrounded by attractive beauties, he suffers a heart attack - not his first. Though he has a doctor with him at all times, so there's no question of his life being in imminent danger, a heart transplant is recommended to avoid such mishaps in future. Konstanty doesn't like to wait for anything; in hospital, he meets a young man - a gentle loser whose only dream is to depart this life. Stefan has just lost his job (at one of Konstanty's hypermarkets), his girlfriend has emigrated to Ireland, and his persistent suicide attempts have all failed. Because the young man's test results show the two men to be a match, Konstanty the old cynic and calculating schemer decides to help Stefan, out of the kindness of his heart. He sends one of his trusted men after him, a devil incarnate who carries the misleading name Angelo...The ironic moral of the film makes it impossible to reveal the ending of this intellectual game with the audience. It has to be said that Zanussi is good at laying a false trail, playing with what viewers expect, only to take them completely by surprise at the end.
"I won't risk saying", wrote reviewer Bożena Janicka ("Kino", No. 9/2008), "that the whole film was made for its perverse ending, but as it is such an auteur element (as we say in such cases: 'it's the author all over'), this cannot be ruled out. The ending's irony could actually get dangerously close to mockery if there weren't a dash of self-irony in it as well. Self-irony: a kind of inner laughter with which passing time rewards us for the loss of delusions (my own definition, all rights etc.). That's when a director pushing seventy, an intellectual and moralist, might suddenly make a comedy."
- Serce na dłoni / And a Warm Heart, Poland/Ukraine 2008. Screenplay and director: Krzysztof Zanussi, cinematography: Adam Bajerski, music: Wojciech Kilar, set design: Joanna Macha, Aleksiej Wieliczko, costumes: Ewa Helman-Szczerbic, Anna Archipowa, editing: Wanda Zeman, sound: Maria Chilarecka. Cast: Bohdan Stupka (Konstanty), Szymon Bobrowski (Angelo), Marek Kudełko (Stefan), Krzysztof Kowalewski (surgeon), Borys Szyc (lawyer), Maciej Zakościelny (secretary), Stanisława Celińska (ex-wife), Marta Żmuda-Trzebiatowska (Małgorzata), Nina Andrycz (mother). Production: Documentary and Feature Film Studio (WFDiF), Sota Cinema Group, Tor Film Studio, Monolith Films, co-financed by: Polish Film Institute, distribution: Monolith Films. Length 96 min. Released on 26 September 2008.
Author: Konrad J. Zarębski, November 2008
- 2008 - Silver Marcus Aurelius Critics' Award for best actor for Bohdan Stupka at the International Rome Film Festival.