Warsaw, Poland, in the 90s. Two friends and business associates, Adam and Stefan, want to expand their business. They want to open up a scooter factory, but the bank refuses to grant them a loan due to their insufficient financial security. Adam and Stefan are crushed. When they meet their old neighbourhood friend Gerard, who offers to help them find a reliable loan guarantor in return for a commission, they believe their luck has turned around. The agreement falls through, but Gerard wants his alleged ‘expenses’ reimbursed – summing up to a couple thousand dollars. Adam and Stefan won’t hear of it, but then Gerard takes his ‘debt’ by force. The next day, he calls the two friends and says he still hasn’t had his money back and that he’s waiting for reimbursement, and so the collection of a debt that can never be paid off begins.
Through threats, blackmail and physical harassment, Gerard gradually takes everything they have. Finally, there comes a time when the aspiring businessmen are left without any assets and nowhere to escape to. They have been cornered. They are desperately searching for a way out. Three months after Adam and Stefan’s first meeting with Gerard, the police discover two beheaded bodies in the Vistula river… The screenplay is based on a true story.
(…) The Debt’s poignancy, the disturbing feeling that accompanies us after we leave the cinema, much like after Kieslowski’s A Short Film About Killing stems from the film's hidden meaning.(…) The anatomy of murder – blackmail, persecution, bloody revenge and what comes next – is terrifyingly ordinary. This crime happens amongst people similar to ourselves and occurs as a sort of natural outcome of the situation. Terror lurks unseen in the world of fancy bars, elegant boutiques, glass and marble banks, the flashiness of the new times, green tea and endlessly dieting girls. The criminal is in the midst of this world. He is no different than us in terms of appearance or behaviour. But worst of all, we turn out to be the criminal ourselves! (Tadeusz Sobolewski Gazeta Wyborcza)
(…) The Debt has all the characteristics of a good thriller: there is a mystery, fast-paced subsequent events, there are of course plot twists and growing tension. It also possesses the best features of a psychological film. It brilliantly shows how the main characters sense a growing threat, how their fear evolves and is amplified by a sense of complete and utter helplessness that eventually turns into desperation. Finally, The Debt is also a drama that accurately portrays the transforming reality of Poland, where everything is in motion, where everyone is trying to find their place, where a game is taking place, yet the rules are unclear. (Lech Kurpiewski, Film)
- The Debt, Poland 1999. Directed by: Krzysztof Krauze, Screenplay: Krzysztof Krauze, Jerzy Morawski, Cinematography: Bartosz Prokopowicz, Set decoration: Magdalena Dipont, Music: Michał Urbaniak, Film Editing: Krzysztof Szpetmański (Editon Studio). Produced by: Juliusz Machulski. Cast: Robert Gonera (Adam Borecki), Jacek Borcuch (Stefan Kowalczyk), Andrzej Chyra(Gerard Nowak), Cezary Kosiński (Tadeusz Frei), Joanna Szurmiej (Basia, Adam’s fiance), Agnieszka Warchulska (Jola, Stefan’s girlfriend), Joanna Kurowska (Ania, pregnant lady in the hospital), Sławomira Łozińska (matka Adama), Krzysztof Gordon (Adam’s father), Przemysław Modliszewski ("Młody", Gerard’s assistant), Maria Robaszkiewicz (Basia’s mother), Edyta Bach (Joanna, Adam’s sister), Jakub Bach (Jurek, Adam’s nephew), Katarzyna Trzcińska (Gerard’s wife). Production: Studio Filmowe Zebra, Canal+, ITI Cinema, colour, 97 min.
- Grand Prix – The Gdańsk Gold Lion for Best Film, Best Score and Best Actor for Andrzej Chyra as well as the Journalist’s Award at the Polish Feature Film Festival in Gdynia, 1999;
- Polityka’s Passport – Polityka’s Cultural Award for directing ‘a film that for the first time gives away the complex reality of 90s accurately’
- The Grand Prix at the Newest Polish Cinema Festival , Wrocław 1999;
- Eagles – Polish Film Awards – for Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor (Robert Gonera) and Best Supporting Actor (Andrzej Chyra), 2000;
- 'Jańcio Wodnik' – Grand Prix and Best Music Award at the Prowincjonalia Polish National Festival Of Film Art, Września 2000;
- Best Director Award at the International Film Festival in Philadelphia, 2001.
Translated by: Zuzanna Wiśniewska