No End (1985) Poster


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No equal
paul2001sw-124 October 2004
Krystoff Kieslowski is today best known for his last four films, made wholly or partly in France, which in some ways is a shame, as while these movies are not without merit, they are outshone by the massive brilliance of his earlier, Polish work. Kieslowski was, of course, the greatest visual poet of communist architecture; and there's also something magical about the way he communicates the most intense emotion behind the facade of Slavic stoicism (witness, for example, in this film, the scene where the car is taken by the police). And also there was the subtext of the political beneath the personal, never more apparent than in 'No End', set (and, courageously, made) in the aftermath of the impact of the Solidarity movement on Polish society. In the face of civil unrest, the government had declared martial law, hoping to stave off a "friendly" Russian invasion; but system had lost confidence in itself, and had already effectively negotiated its own demise by the time the collapse of the Berlin wall finally cast it into oblivion. It's in this intermediate period, where normality intermingled with fear, that 'No End' unfolds, a drama that combines moral complexity and human sympathy in equal measure.

The first words of dialgoue in this film are "I died". Billy Wilder had planned to start 'Sunset Boulevard' in a similar manner, but the suits didn't like it and that film makes less sense as a result of the changes they demanded. More recently, films like 'Truly, Madly, Deeply' and 'The Sixth Sense' have repeated one idea explored in 'No End', that of the ongoing relationship between the living and the dead. But whereas both of those films are weighted down by obvious sentimentality, the opening speech in 'No End' is simple, disturbing, painfully real and yet leads naturally into something far more than a ghost story, a tale in which there is no right and wrong, but in which the mixed motives of the characters only illuminate their humanity.

Kieslowski is famous for his collaboration with Zbigniew Priesner, who wrote wonderful scores for this film (and all it's successors); but watching it, one is also struck by how well he used silence. He also had a talent for finding the most wonderfully expressive faces: the lawyer (Aleksander Bardini), the wife (Grazyna Szapolowska) and the client (Artus Barcis) all went on to appear in his 'Dekalog'. It's impossible to imagine a better actor than Bardini for his role; while Szapolowska appears more beautiful than any Hollywood starlet precisely because of the complete lack of glamour with which she is shot; her portrayal of a woman holding things together in the face of an unconquerable grief is wonderful and immensely sad.

There are so many moments of brilliance in this film, almost of all them unflaunted; the moment where the woman's son interrupts her phone call; the tiny flinch induced when a door closes behind her, the way that light floods a previously darkened room; the speech of introduction uttered by the lawyer; Kieslowski constantly finds the subtlest of ways to shed light on his subjects. This is a ten star film, made by a master, grounded in its era but which speaks of so much more. Now released on DVD, it has to be seen.
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Superb performances as usual
ellkew7 June 2008
Mesmerising, if only for the performance by Grazyna Szapolowska as the widow who moves through the film and ignites every scene. Beautiful and tragic at once she emanates power over the audience and one cannot turn away. I had not realised how much this film must have influenced some established mainstream films that we assume to be original. Obviously many of them owe a great debt to this story. Told unflinchingly by Kieslowski in a unshowy manner it still demonstrates moments of brilliant insights into the human condition. The pain and torture we must endure after such heartache runs through the the heart of this film. I particularly liked the little moments as always, such as the glass slipping through her fingers, the dog trying to get in the car, the dirt on her hands from the bumper whilst witnessing the accident, the hypnotherapy session where she sees him. All simple and yet so elegant. No hammering it through to the audience with big signposting saying 'Remember this for later!'. Why don't more films treat the audience with a tiny bit more intelligence or is the majority of film going to assume we are all thick. And just because a film is mainstream doesn't mean it has to be low brow. Godfather, Deer Hunter, French Connection? Very strong films? If you see this also see Amator.
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Kislowski's Masterpiece
denis88811 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This is a real pleasure to both eye and mind. The untimely demised Mr. Kislowski was a true genius of Polish cinema and with this excellent film he again proves it. The film is divided into two genres, if it may be said so - one is a mystic one, where we see the ghost of a dead Warsawa lawyer, Antek, when he watches his widow and his little son and their life from the ether and the only creature that sees him is a big black dog. The other plot is a deeply tragic and serious story about 1982's Poland, when the anti-Communist political movement called Solidarnosc (the Solidarity) was banned, the country suffered curfews, arrests and political trials.The widow of Antek, Ulla, is a famous translator, and she is devastated with her husband's death. She starts to help the wife of a man who is in prison, who was in Solidarnosc's actions and who was Antek's client. So, now that Antek is dead, another lawyer, his teacher, an elderly man takes the case, and his young assistant also helps him. The story tells us about the small and still tragic events of their lives. We see the unbent Solidarnosc activists, who meet secretly in their shabby apartments. We see Ulla's soul struggle when she is rushing from one extreme to another, having a quick date with an American, having help from the Solidarity people, having troubled relations with Antek's friend. We see and feel her pain, her mute suffering and her constant plea for her late husband. Finally, when the case is won, and that young man is released right during the trial, Ulla decides to take her life and finally join Antek. The cast is superb, we see young Marek Kondrat among others, we see other great actors and we feel the same pain they all suffer in those bleak, cold, merciless days of repressions and purges. A serious, earnest film for all who think.
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Bewildered epiphany
chaos-rampant9 March 2016
I've began to follow Kieslowski over the past days, hoping to finally encounter his color films which I've seen for years pop up among the brilliant works. I watched this as background glimpse into his formative period. Interestingly he does two things:

One is he presents a world that has come undone and carries the past. A woman, her husband has died as the film begins, life has broken down and she has to go out and face it. Everything that she encounters is an echo from the past. Two instances that involve photos exemplify it; nude photos of her that her husband had found but he's now gone before she had a chance to explain, the other shows an idyllic summer that he possibly spent with another woman (before they met?). But also an old friend who now vies for her, a night of prostituting herself because he reminds her of her husband, being hypnotized to forget him conjures his presence, and round it goes from bewilderment to epiphany.

The other thing they do here is look to frame a response to bewilderment felt by Poles who had just been through strikes and martial law. A man is awaiting trial, different narratives are offered up by lawyers. Should he be pragmatic or protest? It's one of the threads that were left undone at the time of the husband's death who was a lawyer on the case. His own advice, which I perceive to be Kieslowski's, is for everyone to remove the distortions that prevent them from seeing each other.

Viewers who are content to encounter a life of episodic confusion will be happy with what he does. I miss a more penetratingly visual way of threading these events and, already from my brief glimpses into Dekalog, I believe it's this ability to surround and submerge causality that he's going to cultivate, a way of dreaming in advance. Here, tellingly, we have the husband announcing his own death in the very first shot whereas it could have been threaded as discovery and glimpsed in a haze (he already tries this by the first episode of Dekalog).
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mute howling
chaizzilla23 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
the movie seems to state it's "thing" directly at least twice: when urszula reads antek's notes to labrador, and in the poem read aloud by labrador near the end. for the longest time i couldn't find subtitles for it but my reason for wanting to see it so much i watched the first time without them was no, not b/c i liked "Blue", but b/c jerzy radziwilowicz is foxy. this was a good thing though, seeing it once without much grasp of the dialogue and once with nearly all of it available in translation made the way the dialogue turned so many of the scenes on their head stand out a lot, so i don't know how much the effect would have stood out seeing it all at once. the second time seeing it being much easier also, and made so many small things that happen in the movie turn up, including a couple of details i'm sure i would have understood if i simply had a regular amount of the context i think the movie's audience would be assumed to have. as a whole it felt a little like i'd been walking neck-deep in an immense but somewhat deceptively smooth river. when the movie was over it felt like it had been physically heavy, leaving one a little wobbly. but this is how it can feel when you become stretched between things going on and relationships. popular wisdom (over here anyway) tries to say one is more Real, and the other steals from this, but as much as this is true in some sense it is also from a perspective of either luxury or detachment. when labrador is hoping to coach darek's wife in getting her husband to break the hunger strike, he asks her, do you want him free? her answer seems to convey that stretch, "he'd kill me" (figuratively) isn't just about how he'd respond to her betraying this thing he's fighting for, it's not as simple as he's neglecting his family for this thing. everyone lives in that thing, labrador's assistant conveys another facet of it, which you can immediately see is selfish when he talks to darek, but so what? the hypnotherapist seems to point to other dimensions of the emotional toll of this paradox, and at the same time the sessions almost seem to concentrate a feeling spread throughout the movie. something about the vulnerability of the living characters in the setting of the movie, there's almost a feeling like everyone's sleepwalking but the dead. i'm guessing that is how someone like myself, who can only guess, picks up the movie's expression of the feeling of the systematic oppression in the setting of the movie. no end?
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Poles Apart
writers_reign8 November 2004
This is an excellent film and a great discovery. It's from about ten years before The Double Life Of Veronica and the Three Colours trilogy and is, it its way, equally good. It almost certainly inspired Truly, Madly, Deeply because the main story is about a young lawyer, Antek Zyro (Jerzy Radziwilowicz) who tells us at the outset that he is dead and spends the remainder of the film watching over his widow and young son. Grazyna Szpapolowska is outstanding, not to say beautiful, as the widow who 'feels' her husband everywhere and tries a variety of remedies - hypnosis, casual sex - to dispel his presence all to no avail. It's a stunning film shot in muted blue tones throughout and well worth a visit. 9/10
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A Pessimistic Picture of Polish Reality
ilpohirvonen9 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The films by Krzysztof Kieslowski can be separated into two parts; the Polish films and the international films. The Polish films were concrete and filled with the mirthless Polish reality. The international films (the last four) were much more absurd, ethereal and characterized with aesthetic styling. In 1985 Kieslowski was already very appreciated in the European art-house cinema due to his international breakthrough, Camera Buff in 1979. No End was his first film with the screenwriter Krzysztof Piesiewicz and composer Zbigniew Presiner, with whom he continued working in all of his later film.

Poland is under martial law and Solidarity is banned. A woman's (Ula) husband suddenly dies, who was a lawyer of an opposition activist. After his death Ula realizes how much he meant to her and begins to love him more and more. The activist needs another lawyer and Ula recommends an older more experienced lawyer, who has a much more calm approach. While the trial goes on Ula tries to get rid of the ghost of her husband. She tries hypnosis, sex and oblivion - but in the end is forced to commit a suicide - the only way out.

A very overwhelming thing in No End is the fact that Ula must commit a suicide. There is no other way out of the system, there is no end for the yearning of love and peace. Killing herself and leaving her young boy alone is the only way for her to live, to have peace and to get rid of the ghost. The last shot where she walks among her husband is very paradoxical.

Krzysztof Kieslowski says in his interview book, Kieslowski on Kieslowski that it was very hard to get No End on the screens. WFD (The Government's documentary film office), which usually allowed and financed the films in Poland, wasn't interested. It didn't want a film to show Poland giving false sentences under martial law. After Kieslowski got the production rolling with Piesiewicz WFD didn't want to pay the salaries for the cast & crew. Kieslowski had to go there himself to demand them to pay for their work - at the same he, of course, denied to take money for himself. When the film finally was ready the Government, the church and the critics hated it and it was very hard to see. But the audience, the people who actually saw it loved it. They said that it was the best description anyone had made about the martial law in Poland.

Watching No End today is very interesting and I think it has gained more value in the course of time. It's an incredibly realistic description of its time and it shows how sad things were back then. "During the martial law we all weighed our heads. And my generation never raised its head back up." Krzysztof Kieslowski. Even that I am familiar with kieslowskian pessimism and it can be seen in all of his films, I think No End is his most pessimistic picture of the Polish reality. The whole movie and especially the ending shows us that there is no hope and No End for all this.

Kieslowski said that the biggest flaw of No End was that it had three separate parts and it didn't work as an entirety. The political part, where the activist tries to choose whether to fight or fall. The emotional part, where the woman falls in love with a dead man and finally the metaphysical part, where the dead man takes contact with the living. I think all of these different things work brilliantly and do no harm on the film. Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy, which tries to explain the fundamental nature of being and to my mind in addition to this Kieslowski tried to study the true nature of love.

The acting and the cinematography of No End is very raw, brutal documentary. This incredible concreteness Kieslowski was able to achieve in Dekalog and No End was because of his long experience with documentaries, which he had made seven of. The nature of the film changed during the process; in the beginning Kieslowski intended to make a film about guilt and at sometime he was going to title the film, Happy Ending due to its final shot with the man and the woman walking together. But in the end No End is a philosophical film, a picture of reality and its time, a paradox of politics and a study of the true nature of love.

As is the film so is the title very complex and it has many purposes. I think the title works for all of the three different parts. There is No End for the martial law and oppression; the activist is unable to fight against the Government. Nor is there end for the being of man and the love of the woman. There is No End in sight.
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lorilol7 January 2009
I state for the record that I did not understand this film fully. The second plot with Solidarnost protester imprisoned and released by the court is not completely clear to me. Yet it has little to do with politics and more with human condition (ideals, expectation, compromise). Prisoner's family doesn't react happily upon his immediate release in a court room. There is awkwardness and embarrassment in that scene, as if some unforgivable compromise has been made and it tainted all of their relationship. Accident scene with a death of motorist seems random but reoccurring theme in Kieslowskij movies. Randomness of death, randomness of existence. Movie is wonderfully shot , music (as always) is haunting. I just cannot put it all together in my mind like I could with Veronique.
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Convoluted and difficult
azerda5 January 2000
Although there is the obvious plot of the grieving wife, the movie is really about Poland under martial law. Probably unable to directly focus on such political topics, Kieslowski attempts to 'hide' this other side beneath a twisted Ghost subplot.

A dark movie, one that demands attentive viewing, this one will probably never be as successful as some of Kieslowski's other works, which have probably led its viewers to pick up this one.
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Another (relatively) early Kieslowski deserving of more love
TheLittleSongbird15 February 2017
What has been seen of Krzysztof Kieslowski (almost all his films and 'Dekalog' in its entirety) all ranges between very good (the 8th episode of 'Dekalog') to masterpiece ('Three Colors: Red' and 'Blue' and the whole 'Dekalog' series). To me, he was an immensely gifted director, who died far too early.

'No End' is not one of Kieslowski's best, but like 'Camera Buff' it is another early film of his that deserves more love and attention. It may be alienating and strange to some viewers (its, as reasoned, pro-solidarity sentiments must have been reason enough for it to not be released internationally for over a year) and his more international work is somewhat more accessible. However, while some of the political story could have had more clarity in places, 'No End' is great in many ways with all the typical Kieslowski strengths that make his films so good.

As was always the case in Kieslowski's work, 'No End' is made exceptionally. As well as being beautifully shot with atmospheric use of colour to match the mood, it is gritty yet beautiful with many thoughtful and emotionally powerful images and little things lingering long into the memory. Kieslowski's direction is quietly unobtrusive, intelligently paced and never too heavy. The music is suitably intricate.

It's a thought-provoking film in writing, as ever thematically rich and with complex characters, and resists the trap of rambling. The 3-part story is intriguingly told, and while the political story could have done with more clarity the emotional story is harrowing and affecting and the metaphysical story fascinating. 'No End' is always engaging and suitably challenging. The acting is as always from Kieslowski marvellously nuanced and natural, especially from heart-wrenching Grazyna Szapolowska.

Summing up, not among the best work of Kieslowski but deserves more love as a result of being overshadowed by his later stuff from 'Dekalog' onward. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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Weak script, but very good acting
zetes29 June 2002
The narrative in this film is far too flawed. There are two intertwining halves of it, one good, one poor. The good one involves a woman, Ulla, whose husband died suddenly and unexpectedly one morning while he waited in his car to take their son to school. Now he gently haunts his family as they deal with the pain. The acting is magnificent here. Kieslowski is masterful at directing his actors in material like this, as he would show a million different times in The Decalogue, made a few years later. There are a few outrageously and subtly powerful scenes. Most memorable is the one where Ulla decides to prostitute herself to a British tourist. This happens about a month after her husband has died. After the man has sex with her, she asks him if he speaks Polish. He says no, and then she begins to talk about her problems in Polish. The other half of the plot is utterly weak in comparison. The husband was a lawyer, and the defendant in the case he was working on is screwed because of the death. The defendant's wife comes to Ulla for help, and though she is refused help at first, Ulla eventually introduces her to her husband's mentor, a cynical old man about to be kicked out of the business. Perhaps it's just my aversion to lawyer and courtroom dramas, but I just didn't care a lick what happened in this part of the plot. Supposedly it's meant as a criticism against the Communist law at the time. I don't know. It's dull whatever it is. But the film is slightly worth watching, especially for the acting. Even in the parts that I didn't care for, the acting is exquisite. 7/10.
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This film has one of the strangest and most memorable beginnings in film history!
MartinHafer20 November 2015
Warning: Spoilers
"No End" is one of the strangest films I have ever seen. Overall, I think I like it...but I'm not sure--especially in light of the ending that left me very cold.

This film begins with one of the most interesting and striking scenes to ever start a movie. A dead man talks about his death to the audience and describes the heart attack that took him. Then, throughout the film, the man appears and watches the action. And, in a couple instances, he's seen by others or a dog! Weird, that's for sure.

The dead man, Antek, was a lawyer and he was working on a very difficult case. In 1982 when the film was set, the labor union Solidarity was pushing for reforms and freedom from the Soviet- dominated government. The lawyer had been defending one of those arrested in a repressive move by the government...but his heart attack left the guy without a defense attorney. The widow, Ula, is now trying to piece together all her dead husband's notes and she becomes interested in the freedom movement. However, she also is incredibly depressed and finds her life without meaning now that he's gone. Where all this goes is very strange...very strange!

This film is NOT for everyone by any stretch! It's very sexually explicit and it's also very weird, artsy as well as confusing. I can easily imagine folks hating it or loving it or, like me, are just plain baffled by it.

By the way, I did find the context for the film surprising. It was made in Poland in 1985--while the country was STILL being run by the repressive Soviet-backed government of General Jaruzelski. I cannot imagine that they would have allowed such a film to be made...but it was! Also, throughout the film you keep seeing a black Labrador Retriever...and one of the characters was named Labrador. Was this a deliberate pun?
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Intense and Original
himanshutri7 January 2018
The story depicts a lady's dealing with grief of her husband's sudden demise. How a lady makes many efforts to come to terms with the reality. A story told with honesty and sincerity and without any judgement.

The brilliance of both the direction and the acting is seen in its simplicity. Many intense montages are shown with no suggestions (no exaggerated expressions and lilts in the background musical score). The director leaves that to be felt by the audience directly. That respect given to the audience is uncommon in today's mainstream Hindi cinema.

The portrayal of grief and despair is intense and direct. The storyteller offers no balm that doesn't exist. How a store starts and ends is of course a raconteur's choice, yet their effort to do so non-judgementally is authentic-and original.

The movie plot develops in the backdrop of Solidarity movement in Poland. The political background is delicately woven which enriches-and doesn't disturb-story's progress.

Watch the movie in a positive frame of mind to appreciate the finnesse of the story.

So many great stuff to absorb and reflect beyond Hindi and English literature and cinema.
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a trial under martial law
lee_eisenberg6 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
We might call Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Bez konca" ("No End" in English) a Polish predecessor to "Ghost", but that doesn't do it justice. This movie emphasizes the woman and how she tries to take up her late husband's task under difficult circumstances. Set in 1982, when Poland was under martial law and the Soviet-backed government was persecuting the Solidarity labor movement, it focuses on Urszula Zyro (Grazyna Szapolowska). Her lawyer husband Antek dies and she has to find a replacement for him in a case. But his spirit remains to watch over her and their son.

This was a bold movie for its time. I don't know whether or not Poland had eased up on its persecution of Solidarity by the time that it got released (it was a sad irony that in the 21st century, long rid of Soviet domination, Poland assisted in the extraordinary rendition program). I suspect that this was one of the first Polish movies to feature a sex scene, if not the very first (by contrast, the first Soviet movie to feature a sex scene was 1988's "Little Vera"). Whatever the case, it remains an important piece of cinema history, and reminds us why Kieslowski was one of Europe's most influential directors.
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