Review by Rumsey Taylor
Posted on 08 September 2004
Source Kino Video DVD
features: Kieslowski’s Trois Couleurs
reviews: Blind Chance
reviews: Camera Buff
reviews: The Scar
Krzysztof Kieslowski’s stark and activist No End begins with a man, Antek, describing the circumstance of his own death. He was a young, well-to-do lawyer, and has isolated his wife, Ulla, and young son, Jacek. She awakens one morning, involuntarily prepares two cups of coffee, and quickly discards one in embarrassed shame.
Antek is a tangible and influential presence in the film, a passive ghost that, like us, views the actions in the film with an apparent inability to involve himself physically in them. Spiritually, his presence may be affirmed, but Ulla is not emotionally capable of discerning his influence. She sees Jacek off at school, and the camera pivots to reveal Antek sitting beside her.
Ulla is visited by a similarly estranged woman and her young daughter. The woman’s husband has been jailed (he is a political protester), and his release is jeopardized by Antek’s unforeseen death, as he was the man’s lawyer. Ulla firstly sends the woman off, and later welcomes her, as reconciling their family was the preceding intention of her late husband, and may serve to mend her own family. Ulla searches her husband’s files for evidence, and notices a mysterious question mark made with a red felt pen (a mark apparently made by Antek’s ghost) that prompts further investigation.
Primarily, No End concerns Ulla’s desired redemption and strife for emotional closure. The film, secondly, possesses a thorough and well-developed subtext detailing the nature of the case Ulla becomes involved in. No End is the first of Kieslowski’s collaborations with Krzysztof Piesiewicz, a former lawyer and co-screenwriter for the director’s remaining films. Piesiewicz was involved with Poland’s Martial Law trials of the early 80s, and the scenarios of political unrest distinctly inform this and other collaborations with Kieslowski. (No End is also the first of Kieslowski’s collaborations with composer Zbigniew Preisner.)
Fortunately, and unlike in Kieslowski’s previous Blind Chance, No End’s individual and collective political concerns cohere; Ulla’s emotional state is mended due, in part at least, to the sympathy she acquires for Poland’s tumultuous working class. Symbolically, the intentions of an older, deceased generation informs the younger in Poland’s enduring political conflict. Kieslowski posits this larger social concern on an intimate, familial level, and the connection between personal and interpersonal becomes transcendent.
No End is conceptually reminiscent of Blue — both detail a widow’s salvation in channeling her husband’s political allegiance. As 2004 so clearly indicates for the United States, a nation’s indigenous political climate permeates its media. No End, by this respect, is a dated although nonetheless remarkable work of propaganda. No End debuted in the growth of Solidarity (an anti-Communist labor movement, which Ulla’s husband supported) as a legal trade union, and it is noteworthy as a voice expressing dissent against the political majority.