(director/writer: Kieslowski, Krzysztof; screenwriter: Romuaid Karas; cinematographer: Slawomir Idziak; editor: Krystyna G√≥rnicka; music: Stanislaw Radwan; cast: Franciszek Pieczka (Stefan Bednarz), Mariusz Dmochowski (Vorsitzender ), Stanislaw Igar(Minister), Jerzy Stuhr (Bednarz’s assistant), Agnieszka Holland (Secretary), Michal Tarkowski (TV Journalist), Joanna Orzeszkowska (Eva – Bednarz’s Daughter), Halina Winiarska (Bednarz’s Wife); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Zbigniew Stanek; Kino Video; 1976-Poland-in Polish with English subtitles)

“A polished political savvy drama about the days leading up to the Solidarity Movement in Gdansk, during the time of a bleak Poland under Communist rule.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The debut film of the late Polish filmmaker KrzysztofKieslowski (“Camera Buff”/”Blind Chance”/”Dekalog”), who died in 1996. Kieslowski left work as a TV documentary filmmaker and opted instead to make New Wave Polish cinema features. The Scar is a polished political savvy drama about the days leading up to the Solidarity Movement in Gdansk, during the time of a bleak Poland under Communist rule. It’s co-written by Krzysztof and Romuaid Karas, whose documentary style gives it an air of authenticity and fair-mindedness.

An ambitious local party chairman pushes through funding for a massive chemical factory outside the forsaken small town of Olecko, in the rural provinces, noting it will give the impoverished residents jobs, and appoints noted builder Stefan Bednarz (Franciszek Pieczka) as the director. The Warsaw dwelling Bednarz was raised in Olecko, and is not too thrilled to be going back to such a backward place; especially, since his wife (Halina Winiarska) remembers an unpleasant incident there some 20 years ago when she headed a communist cell and fired the local university teacher. Their estranged away college student daughter Eva (Joanna Orzeszkowska) disappoints dad over her reckless lifestyle and her many abortions, but manages to briefly visit him on the site and tells dad that he’s also not following a course of wisdom because he’s just as mixed up as she is about how to live life.

Though Bednarz has misgivings about the project, saying it might look good on paper but in reality might not work, his sense of duty prevails and he takes the job. On his first day, the valuable forest is foolishly cleared and environmentalist protest. When homes have to be bulldozed and the director is purposefully given wrong information to sabotage the project, open conflicts immediately abound between the residents, party officials, union members, the Minister and the communist authorities. The director has his hands tied, as there’s no solution to correct things, no common ground to retreat to and the project, though a mess, pushes on despite all the conflicts and lack of cooperation by the people. A TV journalist (Michal Tarkowski) reports on the construction of the factory and has little choice but to show that the locals oppose the project, not seeing how it will help them. The world-weary director, on a power trip his entire life, wants to resign, but the Minister (Stanislaw Igar) won’t let him. The director’s assistant (Jerzy Stuhr) is a party hack, who tries to stifle complaints and clear all interference from the project by doing things the soft Bednarz can’t and won’t do.

The pic’s main problem is that its conflicted protagonist, Bednarz, the subdued moral compass of the film, the decent ‘everyman’ who centers the film, is not the kind of person who can get the viewer fired-up to be on his side–he’s too smug and privileged for that. But what the pic does really well is give you an insider’s look at how a factory project in communist Poland was sponsored and the reactions it got from the disenfranchised public, as it gives us the points of view from all the parties.