In his fantastical visions appear phantoms of people to whom he was once closely tied. The character is followed by Włodek, an unsuccessful actor, and a group of masqueraders dressed up as the so-called chochoły – straw constructions put on fragile plants for the winter; an easily recognisable symbol in Polish culture, introduced in Stanisław Wyspiański’s 1901 play The Wedding, mostly associated with decay and the supernatural realm. In a May Day march (participation in which in the communist system was often compulsory; the parade was organised by the state) Andrzej meets Musia, a girl who took part in the underground movement and with whom he was in love before she died in Siberia. He also talks to his late father, and witnesses a bride running away from the altar in a 19th-century Eastern Orthodox church as she doesn’t want to marry a Russian. When Andrzej leaves the temple, it turns out it is the 1970s and he is on the street in Warsaw. A police car takes him and Włodek to a film set. On the street lies the body of Maks, a screenwriter, who jumped from a skyscraper. When queried by the police, Andrzej is unable to provide any information about his co-worker and friend. He then celebrates his 40th birthday in a vision. Both the living and the dead are in the crowd of guests. Once he returns to his childhood, Andrzej warns his friend, Szloma, against the Holocaust that is coming…
As Tadeusz Konwicki, the director, explained in Filmowy Serwis Prasowy in 1972:
This adventure happens in the conditional mode. It's as if the character assumes he is able to travel in time, everything happens in the time created by him. He himself changes, transforms, dispenses, enters, or exits this time; or presumes variants that never happened, but could have. What I’m after is an emotional and intellectual chain of events, disregarding time as a value that would be emphasised. It’s some sort of a transposition, altering time, but nothing is a memory there. If something takes place in the past, it’s visible in the costume or set design, but these aren’t retrospections in the traditional, common sense…
Joanna Piątek mentioned the film in Leksykon polskich filmów fabularnych (editor’s translation: Polish fiction films lexicon):
How Far, How Near is an authorial film by the eminent writer and director. For the first time, Konwicki is trying to transpose the distinct, poetical atmosphere of his prose onto the screen: the uninhibited intersection of time and space, obsessive return to his childhood in the Vilnius Region (editor’s note: a territory lost by Poland after World War 2), and reminiscences of the war.
- How Far, How Near / Jak daleko stąd, jak blisko. Screenplay and directing: Tadeusz Konwicki, cinematography: Mieczysław Jahoda, music: Zygmunt Konieczny, set decoration: Ryszard Potocki, cast: Andrzej Łapicki (Andrzej), Gustaw Holoubek (Maks), Alicja Jachiewicz (Joasia), Maja Komorowska (Musia), Zdzisław Maklakiewicz (Włodek), Ewa Krzyżewska (Zosia), Edmund Fetting (Szymon), Piotr Pawłowski (Andrzej’s father), Jadwiga Kuryluk-Cebrzyńska (mother), Marek Jasiński (Orthodox priest), Stanisław Jasiukiewicz, Ryszard Terlikowski, Anna Dziadyk [Dziadyk-Dymna]. Production: Tadeusz Urbanowicz, Zespół Filmowy PLAN, Łódź, 1972, colour, 35 mm, 2600 m, 94 minutes.
- 1973 – Special Prize at San Remo International Film Festival
- 1972 – Summer of Films Film Festival in Łagów – Special Jury Award; Warsaw Mermaid Award of the Film Critics Club of the Polish Journalists Association
translated by NS, August 2016