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No End [Import]

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Product Details

  • Actors: Grazyna Szapolowska, Maria Pakulnis, Aleksander Bardini, Jerzy Radziwilowicz, Artur Barcis
  • Directors: Krzysztof Kieslowski
  • Writers: Krzysztof Kieslowski, Krzysztof Piesiewicz
  • Producers: Ryszard Chutkowski
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, DVD-Video, Subtitled, NTSC, Import
  • Language: English, Polish
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: NR
  • Studio: Kino Video
  • Release Date: Aug. 17 2004
  • Run Time: 109 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • ASIN: B0002CHI9M
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars 8 reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars “We all bowed our heads” (Kieślowski) July 14 2016
By Film Buff - Published on
Format: DVD
No End (Bez Końca, 1984) is a key title in Krzysztof Kieślowski’s filmography. The first film made with writer Krzysztof Piesiewicz and composer Zbigniew Preisner, it announces the ethical inquiry and metaphysical speculation which dominates everything from Dekalog (1988) through to his final film Three Colours Red (1994). It also constitutes the final word on the gritty political debate that dominates all the earlier films and documentaries from The Scar (1976) through The Calm (1976) and Blind Chance (1981) to A Short Working Day (1981). A transitional work, No End mixes politics with metaphysics to powerful if uneven effect.

The film’s narrative has three strands which Kieślowski admits are not welded together very well. First there is the political part about a young worker Darek (Artur Barciś) who has been arrested and is standing trial for organizing a factory strike for his trade union (Solidarity in all but name) which violates the martial law of the time. Second there is the life of recently widowed Urszula Zyro (Grazyna Sżapołowska) as she attempts to deal with the loss of her husband, her son Jacek (Krzysztof Krzeminski) and her work as an English translator. Third there is the metaphysical part about the ghost of her husband Antek (Jerzy Radziwiłłowicz) who hovers over events intervening from time to time. Antek was the civil rights lawyer who was defending Darek and his sudden death necessitates Urszula getting involved with Darek’s wife Joanna (Maria Pakulnis). She helps find a new lawyer named Labrador (Aleksander Bardini) whose conservative pragmatism proves to be very different to Antek’s pro-Solidarity radicalism.

Viewers from the West may be put off No End by the dour and depressing trajectory of the narrative and may laugh at its original title, ‘Happy Ending’. None of the powers that be liked the film at the time. The Polish government hated it for its pro-Solidarity stance and interfered with its release, holding it up and then permitting only limited badly publicized screenings at just a few cinemas. Solidarity hated it because Kieślowski refuses to portray a clear cut victory for their side. Darek’s eventual release feels like a defeat as it is arrived at by a compromise of his ideals and is the work of the conservative lawyer Labrador intent on winning his final valedictory case before taking retirement. Antek would have fought the case much more boldly, his death before the film starts suggesting perhaps Kieślowski felt at this time of martial law that Solidarity’s fight had been lost before it had even begun. And then there was the Catholic Church who hated it because of nude scenes depicting the heroine masturbating and prostituting herself for sex. Then there’s the suicide (an even greater sin for Catholics) and the fact that a little boy is left behind. The Church probably also disliked it because spirituality is acknowledged as existing outside as well as inside traditional notions of Christian Faith, the final shot in particular seeming to reward the transgression of various sins rather than condemn it. The only people who liked the film were the Poles themselves who were unanimous in acclaiming it as a realistic spot-on depiction of how life under martial law was at the time, how “we all bowed our heads” (Kieślowski). The director was inundated with letters from people rejoicing that he had given them a film that really seemed to be about them, about their very lives. Of course these were the same people who were later to walk away from him, accusing him of betraying his roots in foreign films like The Double Life of Véronique (1991) and the Three Colours Trilogy (1993-94) where politics and everyday Polish realities are ignored.

It is probably correct to see politics disappearing from Kieślowski’s work at the same time Communism came tumbling down in the late 80s. He and Piesiewicz decided to eliminate it from the whole of Dekalog and in The Double Life of Véronique there is a symbolic scene where the Polish Weronika turns her back on a Solidarity demonstration while the French Véronique photographs it as if the act is a tourist attraction and nothing more. The get-rich-quick Capitalism of the new Poland is satirized in Three Colours White, but on the whole Kieślowski’s attention shifted intellectually towards metaphysics and geographically towards Western Europe. The values and ideals of France in particular are placed under the microscope and it’s understandable that many Poles who had followed him from the beginning felt the director had deserted them for the rich pastures of the West. For them No End was the last Kieślowski film which really ‘spoke’ to them, especially through the compromised victim Darek, his long suffering wife Joanna and most trenchantly of all through the words of the dead lawyer Antek written against martial law: “The law demands too much of people today. It kills what is most precious in human relationships. If the law is against loyalty and trust, then it is immoral. No government should be interested in ruling over a divided nation.”

As interesting and courageous as No End is as a depiction of the times (Kieślowski was not to know then that Solidarity would eventually emerge victorious), it also looks forward thematically, especially to the Three Colours Trilogy and Blue in particular. The similarities are many – both No End and Blue are studies of a woman’s grief at the loss of her husband, both husbands die in cars, both husbands hover over their wives as ‘ghosts’ either at times visable (in No End) or invisible as music (in Blue), the music in both films is the same (Preisner’s Dies Irae death chant-inspired dirge for No End becomes a ‘Concerto for the Unification of Europe’ in Blue), both widows are shaken by jealousy at finding their husbands had affairs with other women (in No End before the marriage, in Blue after), both widows have moments of ‘take two’ fate (in No End the widow’s car stalls mysteriously as another car passing her crashes into a bus meant for her while in Blue the widow does not receive her husband’s papers meaning she definitely will find out about his affair later). The main difference between the two is that while Julie in Blue undergoes a resurrection through a display of charity and a renunciation of liberty in favor of universal love, in No End Urszula disappears down a giant sinkhole of despair with no hope of a ‘happy ending’ in this world. Julie deals with her grief by attempting to destroy her past and lead a neurasthenic anonymous existence, but her past will not let her go and she is eventually redeemed by the love of a man. Urszula on the other hand continually rakes over the past, pours over old photographs and clings on passionately to the memory of a man whom she now realizes she loves much more than she had ever realized while he was alive. As in Blue, redemptive love is offered by the husband’s friend Tomek (Marek Kondrat) who pines for her, but his hopes are as doomed as his car which is towed away as he makes his advances, Urszula preferring instead to sell herself for $50 to a British student just because his hands look like Antek’s. She convinces herself that Antek exists everywhere; in the shape of a ghost who cuts her car engine off; in the shape of a black Labrador dog who sniffs around her son’s school playground, around her car and who sits outside her apartment; and actually in the flesh during a session with a hypnotist where husband and wife count fingers to each other. Feeling Antek is there and waiting for her she doesn’t hesitate to eventually ‘join him’ on the other side as there is no end to suffering for her on this one.

The most interesting point about No End is that metaphysics do not only come into play in the film’s depiction of a widow’s grief. Antek’s presence hovers over everything to the extent that he becomes the first of many omniscient God-like artistic creator doppelgänger narrators in Kieślowski’s films. These figures represent a higher power controlling everything we see from above. Other narrators are the ‘young man’ who appears every time a crucial decision has to be made in Dekalog, the puppeteer who uses/creates the lives of Weronika/Véronique in The Double Life of Véronique, and the retired Judge Joseph Kern who we find out at the end of Red presides as ‘God’ over the whole Three Colours Trilogy. This higher power is wielded by the lawyer-writer Piesiewicz and the director Kieślowski, the Gods of the narrative we see. They voice through these narrator figures a thicket of ethical dilemmas centered on the enduring question of how we should all best live our lives when faced with ethical hell.

In No End the ethical hell is clearly that of Poland under martial law. Antek voiced his opposition to this and intended to help his client Darek as boldly as possible. His death and the choice of Labrador as a replacement compromises this fight and as a ‘ghost’ Antek makes his opposition to the new ‘pragmatism’ known. He writes a question mark next to Labrador’s name as Urszula looks for a new lawyer, he knocks into Labrador making him drop his watch (a present from Antek) and break it, and he moves a newspaper which Labrador is about to give his assistant to take to Darek’s factory to get the new union leader (a friend of Darek’s) to stand bail. In perhaps the film’s most poignant scene Antek is seen sitting next to Darek in prison as he sleeps, the point being Antek feels guilty that his client is being sold out by having to compromise his ideals. In many ways Antek is present in Labrador’s assistant Miecio (Michal Bajor) who questions his master at every turn and eventually gets to say his piece to Darek directly, but which has the ironic effect of pushing him toward accepting the compromise. At the culminating trial Miecio congratulates Labrador on his hollow victory which the older man acknowledges with the recitation of a poem in which people are reduced from wolfs to mere dogs which it is inferred is what happens when society is restricted. In No End Kieślowski and Piesiewicz parallel the hopelessness of society under martial law with the hopelessness of a widow in that there is no end to the suffering of both unless the law governing that society changes. In a democracy people have a freedom wherein the ‘higher power’ looks down and there is always the possibility of redemption for those who suffer as Kieślowski demonstrates in the Three Colours Trilogy with all the main characters being resurrected in one way or another. But where society is unequal and people cannot choose how to lead their lives, that possibility is removed and people are left impotent as all the characters are in the courtroom here.

Those familiar with Dekalog and with Polish cinema in general will respond well to the actors Kieślowski places before us. Jerzy Radziwiłłowicz was cast deliberately as Antek because Polish audiences would recognize him as the man who appeared in Andrzej Wajda’s Man of Iron and Man of Marble as the embodiment of moral purity and honesty. Aleksander Bardini is a Kieślowski regular who appears most memorably perhaps as the doctor in Dekalog 3 and then as another lawyer (possibly the same lawyer?) in Three Colours White. Even though Labrador sells Darek out, he isn’t a bad man and Bardini emphasizes the warmth as well as the conservatism. Artur Barciś will be familiar to everyone as the ‘young man’ who appears throughout Dekalog. Here as Darek he gets to speak and puts in a committed performance. His wife is played by Maria Pakulnis whose wide eyes bore into us equally as effectively here as they do in Dekalog 3 where she plays the mistress. And of course Grażyna Szapołowska goes on to make a wonderful impression as the woman who torments poor Tomek in Dekalog 6 / A Short Film about Love. She is excellent here as Urszula, but the reason she doesn’t make as big an impression as Juliette Binoche in a similar role in Blue lies in the script which fails fractionally to get the balance right between the political and the personal. The main problem is that we just don’t FEEL her pain as much as we should. Perhaps Poles intimately familiar with the politics shown would be more involved, but there is much obscurity here which flies over the heads of Western audiences and detracts away from this widow’s plight. The film impresses nevertheless mainly by Kieślowski’s bold use of metaphysics through the use of a central omniscient creator, something that will become ever more polished and more sophisticated from now on. There are scenes here (especially the ones of candles shot in a cemetery at night) which jump off the screen with a searing spiritual intensity altogether unique to this director and I for one was incredibly moved by the closing image. This film should be seen by all people who respond to metaphysical spirituality, not just to Kieślowski devotees.

This disc comes with two extended interviews with Szapołowska and cameraman Jacek Petrycki which are interesting. Of greatest interest though is Kieslowski’s early short film, The Office (1966) which is a b/w documentary lasting 6 minutes about a State-owned insurance office in which a queue of people are all dealt over the counter with the same question: “What have you done with your lifetime?” The film is clearly meant as a sardonic satire on monolithic bureaucracy.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes the only end to pain and suffering is just that; the end... June 18 2009
By Andrew Ellington - Published on
Format: DVD
`Bez Konca' is a hard film to really describe. It's somber, chilling and absolutely haunting, and yet still I find myself grasping at air to try and convey my real feelings for the film. I consider it nearly flawless. I consider it a near masterpiece. I consider it one of the best films of the 80's and quite frankly possibly one of the best films of all time and yet still, I am struggling to find a way to get that across without just coming right out and saying it.

That ending just kills me.

The film, as some have already expressed, is basically two separate films that interweave due to a tragic death. Urszula Zyro is dealing with the death of her husband, Antek, trying to move on. Before his death, Antek was working on a case involving a stubborn and unflinching political prisoner. Urszula finds herself involved with the case as her husband looks on from above (or from mere inches away), watching to make sure that all he left behind is properly taken care of.

The more interesting of the stories by far is that of Urszula's emotional recovery, but in my opinion (and I could be wrong here, as far as you are concerned), both are necessary to capturing the real meat of the film. Both stories really compliment one another, and serve to help keep the audience more than merely interested in the events unfolding; we are intrigued and completely engulfed in them.

If you see this film for any reason, see if for Grazyna Szapolowska. Her stellar (and by stellar I mean S-T-E-L-L-A-R) performance carries this whole film to another level. As Urszula tries to shake the feeling of her husband, we watch Grazyna completely devour this character, sinking into her every natural emotional struggle. There are so many subtle moments that just nail us with such power, such strength. There is so much beauty within her pain (if that makes sense to you) and she is, without doubt, unforgettable here.

I really want to see more from Krzysztof Kieslowski. I hear so many good things about his films and yet I still have yet to see anything else from him outside of this brilliant film. I have even been told that this is less than stellar for him, and if that is the case than I am going to adore everything else he has to offer; I'm sure of it.

With a delicate delivery (the direction here is spot on flawless for the emotional weight the film carries) and expert performances, `Bez Konca' is a stunning testament to the power of love, the power of loss and the power of humanity.

And that ending.

Double gulp.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No happy endings Aug. 25 2004
By Flipper Campbell - Published on
Format: DVD
"No End" (1985), probably the best of Krzysztof Kieslowski's early feature films, was assailed by the church because of its dark, numbing ending. The film was set in 1981, during martial law. With a setup out of "Six Feet Under," this was Kieslowski's most personal film, his friend and fellow director Agnieszka Holland says in the extras. "Audiences didn't know what to make of it." Grazyna Szapolowska plays a young widow who fights to find a reason to go on; a second story concerns the trial of an uncompromising political prisoner. Critics of the time complained it was really two movies. Perhaps. They're both well worth seeing. This is one of four recent additions to Kino's Kieslowski collection -- along with "The Scar," "Camera Buff" and "Blind Chance" -- all of which show that the Polish master's writing and directing skills arrived almost fully formed when he turned to feature films. Each of the films benefits from a powerful central performance. They are products of the 1970s and '80s, a time of vast sociopolitical changes in Poland, but are not timepieces or simplistic attacks on the communists. Highly recommended. The color images (full frame, enhanced) and sound are adequate. Subtitles are clear. The DVD includes a short film.
5.0 out of 5 stars A haunting elegy of considerable power July 14 2011
By technoguy - Published on
Format: DVD
A film not seen outside Poland until 1986 because of its pro-Solidarity stance. Coming out of the dead end of a materialist-determinist culture as in the Poland of 1982 under martial law,this film uses the ghost of a young lawyer,Antek(Radziwilowicz )explaining he is already dead,and who oversees proceedings.We are in the realm of metaphysics:the spiritual and hypnotism figure,the Pope isPolish. Antek affects the living world in small ways,the family dog is aware of his presence. Antek's wife,Urszula(Ulla)[Szapolowska], tries to overcome her grief and wants to help one of Antek's former clients, Darek,-a worker accused of being an opposition activist-who will now be defended by Labrador(Bardini),one of Antek's colleagues-an older experienced lawyer.

Social political obligations balance Ulla's private grief,the film's politics and glimpses into daily life under martial law are equally as involving as thepersonal drama.Unable to affect change under martial law the average person possessing a clear conscience is reduced to being a ghost,hence the exploration of thespiritual and the private realm of feelings of Ulla(and Kieslowski).Coming at the end of a series of short films and documentaries from 1970,Kieslowski made features like Camera Buff,Blind Chance and No End in the late 70s and early 80s.Prior to the Dekalog most of his work was openly political,but with this film and the Dekalog series,he pushes poverty,political struggle and bureaucracy into the background,focusing instead on emotional,ethical and psychological dilemmas common to any modern Western society.Kieslowski shows a growing command of interior representation,Ulla's reflective moments,odd visual details-a clenching hand,the rubbing of toes.Everyday reality is no longer enough,it's the exploration of what lies beyond that,how people are connected,and where they might end up.This is the 1st of Kieslowski's screenwriting collaborations with former lawyer Piesiewiicz. Though watched over by Antek,Ulla is attempting through sex and hypnotism to murder her overwrought memories,while raising her son.

Antek watches as the client,charged with organising a political strike,is defended by the veteran lawyer who knows as he did not,how to compromise.For the prisoner freedom means standing up for your beliefs,freedom of speech is more important than prison.The film is about bereavement as well as politics,a kind of ghoststory as well,with Kieslowski triumphant,because of the passion of his commitment toboth major themes and the leading two actors' interpretation.The ghost story works due to the real understanding of what it is like to lose someone you love. Kieslowski creates in No End a moment of mourning for both Ulla and a nation disenchanted with its present and future possibilities.There is a beautiful balance of colour and tone in the picture quality. The final, bittersweet image depicts the two of them walking together through an indigo twilight.Kieslowski's future creative team was composer Zbigniew Preisner, whose deliberate and haunting melody for No End would surface again as the central theme in Blue,with its Pauline hymn to the power and necessity of love.A master then of contemporary world cinema.
5.0 out of 5 stars A true classic April 8 2012
By ken fogelman - Published on
Format: DVD
Perhaps the most intuitive and self revealing among Kieslowski's films, "No End" explores a duality of stories which interweave in their support of the truth. Both political and self exploring, this film further established Grazyna Szapolowska as perhaps the most sensual actress in today's film community. Her depiction as a tortured survivor and a savior to a cause of others' choosing seals her fate which results in the most noble of surrenders at film's end. Wanting to pull the tape off the vents, open your arms for her embrace, and set her soul free to move along, you must be content to simply watch the unraveling of life and the surrender of a soul. The Szapolowska/Kieslowski pairing makes for a wonderful film experience for the viewer who might continue to debate the "what ifs" long after its viewing. An honor to watch.