24 November 2015 | chaos-rampant
"Putting your hands in the vortex"
I don't like to treat movies as simply fictions to pass the night, that way lies the habit of simply partaking of culture. The whole point is that we're roped in life by forces that have significance for us - and if film is to be a truthful reflection, it will devise ways to portray this pull, turn it into something we can see.
This is how I welcome Zulawski. It's not because of what he has to say or because themes might be important, here Polish life under Nazi horrors. Similarly I don't reject him because stories are muddled or the acting is hysteric. I welcome him because he can use the eye of the camera to rope forces that move us.
On the surface this is a glimpse of anguished life during WWII, but not the mock historical type that seeks to enshrine bygone events in pious ceremony. This is one that speaks very much about anxiety that haunts the soul now in this very life, rending the air with dread and confusion. Horror that is very much present and didn't go away with the war but still lingers. He would rail - more or less covertly - against a repressive Soviet regime in later films as well.
So he's angry with god that won't manifest, he shouts dejection at a broken state of things, everything he would become known for is already present here, fully formed as template. But no answer can be found in the mind that despairs and clamors and none would suffice to explain anything. No his power is that he can show these things truthfully for what they are, confusion as confusion, ignorance as ignorance. So of course the narrative becomes oblique, muddled, sense takes flight and we're left with fragments.
He's still striving to burst forth here, not yet channeling madness through the eye to alter how we see. That would come to him in due time. But everything you need to know about him you'll see in the very beginning of this first film.
A man's wife and child are taken from their house one day and murdered in the yard; evil that swoops over this world and wrecks lives. He joins the resistance and immediately people are chasing after him and shooting to kill him, agents of that evil.
So he hides in an apartment building and by a chance turn of fate, police arrest someone else in his place, someone with the same color of coat who was going up the stairs to a pregnant wife. In a stunning turn he helps the wife give birth, becoming the husband who was taken away.
Jancso and Tarkovsky were previous masters of the floating eye who could maintain equanimity in the face of horror and misfortune; he is ruptured by it, splintered in selves. But it's still the same deep roar from the engines of consciousness that propels him.