(director/writer: Krzysztof Kieslowski; screenwriter: Krzysztof Piesiewicz; cinematographer: Slawomir Idziak; editor: Krystyna Rutkowska; cast: Grazyna Szapolowska (Ula Zyro), Maria Pakulnis (Joanna), Aleksander Bardini (Labrador), Jerzy Radziwillowicz (Antek Zyro), Artur Barcis (Darek Stach); Runtime: 109; New Yorker Films; 1985-Pol.)
“The film was powerful enough in its political jibes to have made the state and the church and the opposition party condemn it.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

No Endtakes place in Poland during the early ’80s, it’s at a time martial law was in place and when any kind of minor resistance against the government (political graffiti or striking) was met with a few years of jail time. Kieslowski (Blue, Red, White, Decalogue) deals with this from the humanistic point of view of a young, politically aware lawyer, Zyro (Jerzy), who dies from a heart attack and returns as a ghost to watch all the sorrowful events that take place after his death.

The film focuses on three people whom Zyro was concerned about: 1) Ula (Grazyma) plays his widow, who can’t get over loving him. What startles her is how she didn’t know how happy she was with him when he was alive. 2) His client is the political activist Darek (Artur), who is now on trial for being a union striker. Darek ideologically refuses to compromise his position, even for a lenient sentence. 3) And the lawyer who takes Zyro’s place in defending Darek is his old mentor, a much more wary and pragmatical lawyer, Labrador (Bandini). Labrador takes the case only after he learns that he is being forced to retire because he has reached the mandatory age of 70, and decides he wants to make this controversial case his swan song.

This film is bubbling over with passion for the Solidarity Movement as well as for the sensuousness and passion the widow feels for her departed husband Zyro. So much so that Ula sees her dead husband in another man’s strong hands and makes ecstatic love with him in a one time stand, but thinks only of her husband even while in the middle of sex.

The political argument of the times is best seen through the eyes of the idealistic, uncompromising Darek, who has a wife and child to support, but still thinks he is “selling out” if he is set free. This is something his lawyer can get for him if he accepts “the gift horse of freedom.” Darek’s lawyer feels the only choice is the more rational position, that he is better off not going to jail. The “realpolitik” of this dilemma is powerfully presented as is the emotional state of Ula, internally wrestling with her memories and conscience, trying desperately to find a way out of her emotional entrapment.

The film was powerful enough in its political jibes to have made the state and the church and the opposition party condemn it. Though this is not the director’s top-of-the line artistic work, nevertheless it does fit positively into his opus. His only failing moments, were the ghost scenes. It seemed awkward and out of place in this straight forward film, whose darkened camera shots fully captured the sobering mood of Poland. “No End” is a compelling story about the unfinished business of the struggle for freedom. The title seems to signify an unending search for political justice, something Kieslowski was not optimistic in achieving in such a repressive country without paying the ultimate price.