A YEAR OF THE QUIET SUN (Krzysztof Zanussi, 1984)

Winner of the top prize at Venice, the Golden Lion of St. Mark, writer-director Krzysztof Zanussi’s Rok spokojnego słońca is magnificent. It is the love story of Emilia (Maja Komorowska, phenomenal) and Norman (Scott Wilson, nearly as wonderful), a World War II Polish refugee and an American soldier who is stationed in Poland as driver while a commission investigating war crimes convenes—two gentle souls. (Clearly, the American is delaying going home; a flashback of his humiliating capture by Germans partially explains this.) Their relationship grows hesitantly, slowly. But Zanussi’s film is also the story of this grown daughter’s love for her sick mother (Hanna Skarzanka, shrewd, deeply affecting) and of this mother’s sacrifice for Emilia that makes Stella Dallas or Mildred Pierce seem puny by comparison. Indeed, this is one to see with one’s own mother while holding on to her dearly. Or while holding on to her spirit.
     This is a film full of the unexpected twists and turns that human hearts impose on the matter of reality. (This is a film devoid of coincidences.) Nazi horrors are exhumed; a line of Soviet soldiers marches through the street. Norman secures the help of someone who can presumably translate English and Polish and thus mediate between him and Emilia. But the man is too young! He summarizes Norman’s expressions of caring quickly, concisely, with no indication of their depth. But Norman and Emilia break into laughter because they do understand each other on at least this score. Later, Norman pledges to Emilia he will work hard for her and her mother on their farm in America. This is not to be.
     Years later, word of Norman’s death sends Emilia to America. We get a glimpse of John Ford’s Monument Valley.

B(U)Y THE BOOK

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