Krzysztof Kieslowski's No End (1985), is part of Kino Video's second wave of Kieslowski releases, featuring four of his early features for the first time on DVD. With The Scar, Kieslowski left behind a 10 year career in documentary films to focus on feature filmmaking. His later works (The Three Colors Trilogy), separated by the time Kieslowski spent working on The Decalogue, are viewed as less overtly political, and much more poetic explorations of the themes found in these early films. In 1996, Kieslowski died of complications from a heart attack at the age of 54.
No End (1984) takes place, and was made, under Poland's period of Martial Law in the early 80's. It is easily Kieslowski's most political film and requires some knowledge of the political situation at the time. Under Martial Law, it wasn't uncommon for someone to receive a multi-year jail sentence for breaking curfew, painting graffiti, or participating in any resistance activities, including labor strikes. Although No End gained Kieslowski even more recognition, the film was not well-received at home. In Kieslowski's own words regarding No End he said, "It was received terribly by the authorities; it was received terribly by the opposition, and it was received terribly by the Church… Only one element didn't give us a thrashing, and that was the audience... they went to see it... Never in my life have I received as many letters or phone calls about a film... And all of them, in fact… said that I'd spoken the truth about martial law. That that was the way they experienced it, (and) that's what it was like."
No End, in typical Kieslowski fashion, is actually three interconnected stories in one. The primary focus is on Urszula, a new widow still coping with the sudden death of her lawyer husband, Antek. Only after he is gone does she realize how much he meant to her and how little meaning her life has without him in it. Also affected by this death is Darek, a man who has been jailed for his participation in a labor strike. Antek was one of the few top lawyers who would have been willing to take and successfully defend his case and now he must find a new lawyer to help him. Finally, there is Antek himself, or more accurately, his Ghost who continues to observe things from beyond the grave. While an intriguing concept, the metaphysical aspect of No End is also it's weakest. Kieslowski uses Antek's Ghost more as a symbol than an actual character, coming to represent the Everyman oppressed by Martial Law, unable to affect change.
Urszula, still coping with her grief, takes on the task of finding an attorney to replace her late husband and defend Darek in court. She contacts Labrador, Antek's former mentor, who is about to retire and takes the controversial case because he knows, regardless of the outcome, it will be his last. It is here that Darek's dilemma truly comes into focus, for even with a wife and child to support, he refuses to compromise his ideals for a more lenient sentence. Labrador, however, views compromise with the State as the only rational course of action and tries everything to persuade his client to stay out of jail. Darek agonizes over this decision as Urszula begins to receive a series of signs, from Antek's Ghost, that she may have made the wrong decision asking Labrador to take the case.
No End is ultimately a movie about freedom, with the title signifying the never ending fight for (pardon the cliché) truth, justice and political, personal and religious freedom. Kieslowski, with his typically humanistic approach, is able to provide biting social commentary through the correlation of a widow's loss with Poland's struggles under Martial Law. By doing so he is also able to offer a moment of mourning for both Urszula and a nation that has become disenchanted with its present possibilities and a grim future ahead.
Picture: The movie is presented in an anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Overall, the image quality is good, even if the colors seem a little flat. This may have been a stylistic choice or just the result of the conditions under which the film was made.
Audio: There is a 2.0 Dolby Digital Mono track in the Original Polish, which sounds fine.
Extras: The DVD Extras include interviews with Kieslowski collaborators Grazyna Szapolowska (actress), and cinematographer Jacek Patrycki, Kieslowski's short film "The Office" (1966), a complete Kieslowski Filmography and a Kieslowski Trailer Gallery featuring 6 trailers, including the theatrical trailer for No End.
Conclusion: No End is a compelling film, but, if anything, suffers from being a bit too cerebral. Much like The Scar, his first feature, Kieslowski doesn't choose sides instead presenting all the facts and letting the audience decide how to react. This is a bold move, but might have also been a necessary one considering the problems he had with getting Blind Chance released (on a side note, Blind Chance was made 4 years earlier, but released 2 years later). While not as emotionally engaging as his later works (The Decalogue, The Three Colors Trilogy) would come to be, No End still presents some of Kieslowski's favorite themes, loss, courage and morality in a dark and powerful film from an amazing director.