The conflicting images are the unemployed masses hoarded outside the gates, and the forest that's razed into piles of sand. The man in the middle (Franciszek Pieczka) is the newly appointed director of the chemical factory that will bring jobs to a small Polish burg while demolishing its flora. The tension is not between the town's progress and ecology, but between the dedication and the ambivalence of the protagonist, the earnest "builder" who "canít handle human problems." The grain from Krzysztof Kieslowskiís early documentaries is accentuated for his overcast freshman feature -- the presiding visual scheme favors peeling paint and battered cement, a few seconds of a belly dancer at the inauguration party provide the only contrast to the blocky figures in black suits. The cemetery lit up by burning candles is already in place, though while in No End it would be made into a celestial canvas by the cameraís cosmic vantage, here itís rigorously earthbound, a background for an argument between Pieczka and his wayward daughter (Joanna Orzeszkowska). Kieslowski shoots an industrial chimney like a provincial Tower of Babel, but heís too fastidiously detached for outright critique: "I want information, not denunciations," the protagonist tells his staff. The documentarian (Michal Tarkowski) remembers a diligent relative who "died of loyalty to an ideal;" Pieczka, last glimpsed framed in a doorway with his toddling grandchild, prefers to pursue his interest in photography and recorders. (Trying to reconcile engagement and technology is the subject of Camera Buff.) With Jerzy Stuhr, Halina Winiarska, Stanislaw Michalski, and Agnieszka Holland.
--- Fernando F. Croce