The Noose - Wojciech Jerzy Has
Pętla / The Noose is a feature film by Wojciech Jerzy Has, completed in 1957 and based on a short story by Marek Hłasko.
Kubuś (played by Gustaw Holoubek) has just decided to change his life. There will be no more drinking from now on. If he manages not to reach for the bottle in next few hours, everything will work out somehow. About 6 o’clock, his beloved will return home, and together they will go to the clinic. The Antabus tablets will eliminate his alcohol cravings. The happy ending of fighting the addiction is ten hours away – the longest ten hours of his life. The situation gets more difficult as the phone starts ringing from the early morning. One by one, his friends congratulate Kuba on his new resolution, bringing him to the brink of frustration.
Wojciech Jerzy Has's feature debut, which he co-wrote with Marek Hłasko, was interpreted as a poignant study of alcoholism and human fall at the time of its premiere. Krzysztof Teodor Toeplitz commented:
Clearly, the authors’ point was to tire out the viewer. To make the viewer tired of the nightmarish experience of alcoholics, tired of the constant thought of a shot of vodka...
In fact, the Noose was more than just a story about a day in the life of an alcoholic. To Has, the story by Hłasko was a starting point for an account of the loneliness of a man facing his own weakness. Has led his character through the subsequent levels of a drunken hell. What used to be a familiar space suddenly appears as a sinister, haunting maze. The ringing phone forces Kuba out of the apartment and a walk through the city turns out to be a nuisance – friends he runs across remind him his alcoholic excesses, the buildings he passes are silent witnesses to his humiliation, and the accident caused by a drunk driver seems to him an accusation thrown at his addiction by the world.
Has’ character navigates this space like a prisoner locked in a tiny cell of his own weakness. The only escape from it is a dream to break the habit. But Has deprives his character of hope, and shows that the tragic end is inevitable, there is no escape from innate demons. As Kuba says in one of the scenes:
I dreamed that I was a boozer – that my name was Smith, and that there was a phone in my house – you understand it. I dreamed that I wanted to forget about drunkenness, get away from the people I drank with, from the pubs, from the memories. It so happens sometimes in a dream – true, but in a dream you cannot run away from anything.
Broniewski – man from the Noose
The story of an alcoholic whose over-zealous friends make it difficult for him to quit drinking was drawn by Hłasko and Has from life, and the prototype of the main character was Władysław Broniewski, a poet, a communist, an alcoholic and a friend of Marek Hłasko. In Beautiful Twentysomethings Hłasko wrote about that day:
One day, Broniewski stopped drinking and started writing new poems, and it even went well. After about an hour, someone called him and asked him how he was doing, Broniewski said he got to work, and that he hoped to work hard for another month or two. To his misfortune he mentioned he didn’t drink; his interlocutor congratulated him and the conversation was over; Broniewski carried on writing. After fifteen minutes the phone rang again; someone else who had spoken with the previous caller and had learned that Broniewski had decided not to drink congratulated him and asked him to persevere in abstinence; Broniewski thanked him and went back to work. After ten minutes the phone rang again; a word of warning again and an expression of gratitude from Broniewski. The eighth phone call was from comrade Jakub; a pale and trembling Broniewski came to my place and said: Go get vodka!
To Has and Hłasko, Broniewski’s story became the starting point for an account of the impossibility of liberation from the pressures of others and from personal weakness. Their Noose was a story about a man, existentially bankrupt, who reconciles with his condition, gradually abandoning hope of rescue. Has’ character is doomed; the titular noose tightens every minute. The director repeatedly shows a visual motif of a noose as a prediction of the tragic fate of the character. The loop is formed by a phone cord, a saxophone strap worn around the neck of a drunk friend, a girl’s jump rope and the belt of a man who gets arrested by the police officer.
Cinema as time
To Has, the Noose was a story about the inevitable. About the fate befalling a man doomed to failure and conscious of his circumstances. It was also a film in which, for the first time, the author of the Doll formulated his style. In the Noose, the director reached for the visual motifs that years later were to become a hallmark of his films. The interior of Kuba’s apartment, as well as the décor of the pub, in which he spends the day, resemble the symbolically cluttered space of the Hourglass Sanatorium. As in his later films, Has also speaks of time – slipping through one's fingers and relentlessly approximating the inevitable.
Noose was the first film based on Marek Hłasko’s prose. In following years, other productions inspired by his novels and short stories appeared in cinemas: The Eighth Day of the Week by Aleksander Ford, Spotkania /Encounters by Stanisław Lenartowicz and Baza ludzi umarłych (The Base of the Dead People) by Czesław Petelski.Culture.pl