In post-WWII Poland, a pianist and an ingénue he has selected for the national cultural ensemble fall in love. He escapes through Berlin on a concert tour, but she is hesitant, and they are separated. They see each other every few years, and eventually, they are reunited in Paris, free. But they cannot make a go of it, she retreats back to Poland, and in what is supposed to be a grand gesture of everlasting devotion, he admits his sin against the state, returns to his native country and does 15 years hard labor, which, coupled with torture, destroys his fingers.
I suppose this was supposed to connect as a moody, timeless, passionate yet doomed romance. But the two leads, who alternately smolder and pout, are so childish and impetuous, it’s hard to gin up much sympathy. Indeed, when she makes it to Paris, they bicker like children, she constantly kvetching about his prior lover and Western ambition, he inexplicably distant (in fact, he often looks as if he knows he made a very big mistake in working so hard to be with her but can’t bring himself to admit it).
Neither character acts in a manner showing any deference to their good fortune. These aren’t lovers separated by culture or prior marriages or obligation, but rather, an iron curtain where, to be on the wrong side of it, you lose your freedom and you can get your delicate pianist fingers mangled by 15 years of forced labor and torture. And they surmount that curtain! So, when they chuck it for seemingly pedestrian reasons, and he insists on his grotesque punishment, you don’t care. Well, maybe you will. The movie is very well regarded. But I didn’t.
On the plus side, the movie is beautifully shot and blessedly short at under an hour-and-a-half.
Nominated for Best Director, Best Foreign Film and Best Cinematography and available on Amazon.