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SPIRALA (director/writer: Krzysztof Zanussi; cinematographer: Edward Klosinski; editor: Urszula Sliwinska; music: Wojciech Kilar; cast: Jan Nowicki (Tomasz Piatek), Maja Komorowska(Teresa), Zofia Kucówna (Maria), Aleksander Bardini (Doctor), Jan Swiderski (Henryk), Piotr Garlicki (Henryk‘s Son), Daria Trafankowska (Nurse), Marian Glinka (Doctor), Andrzej Hudziak (Augustyn); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; Kino/PAL format; 1978-Poland-in Polish with English subtitles)
Unappealing suicide pic directed by Krzysztof Zanussi.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Unappealing suicide pic directed by Krzysztof Zanussi (“Silent Touch”/”Camouflage”/”Year of the Sun”), that aims to show mankind is never fully prepared for death.

In the Tatra Mountains an unruly middle-aged man, Piatek (Jan Nowicki), acts strangely as he parks his red Opel on the hillside of a log cabin inn and kicks his car keys down the mountain slope to a waterfall. He then crashes at the inn a youth tourist group of amateur mountain climbers and rudely treats Teresa (Maja Komorowska), the widow of a noted Alp mountain climber; crudely comments on the middle-aged pregnancy of a doctor named Maria (Zofia Kucówna); argues over nothing with a group of students who plan a trip for profit in Sweden; raises the ire of the well-connected senior citizen Henryk (Jan Swiderski) by making uncalled for nasty comments that he’s a man of special privileges, and insults Henryk’s son (Piotr Garlicki) and wife when they try and console him to defuse the situation.

Without a room, the uninvited tourist borrows a sleeping bag from a philosophy student (Andrzej Hudziak) and sleeps in the dining room. In the early morning he disappears and is located climbing the mountain without the needed equipment. On a rescue mission, Henryk’s son breaks his leg. Through Henryk’s connections a helicopter rescues the frostbitten and unconscious lone climber from an avalanche and he’s brought to a hospital for a mental and physical evaluation.

The chief doctor (Aleksander Bardini) discusses with his younger colleagues the patient’s mental meltdown, and we learn that an incurable fatal disease left Piatek rapidly deteriorating, at the height of his successful career, and caused him to become suicidal. The surly, unlikeable, egotistical man is now looked upon slightly more sympathetically and is treated as best as he can be by the limited doctors and receives a few visitors from the mountain lodge, before he finds everything hopeless and plunges to his death from the top floor of the hospital facility.

The obsessed film about death points out how man has an obligation to come to terms with dying in a peaceful and spiritual way. This unpleasant look at someone who can’t cope with his death as a reality, serves as a reminder how it can bend one out of shape if it’s not handled right. Its message is hard to argue against, but its drama is lacking.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”