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  Third Part of the Night, The Man O' WarBuy this film here.
Year: 1971
Director: Andrzej Zulawski
Stars: Malgorzata Braunek, Leszek Teleszynski, Jan Nowicki, Jerzy Golinski, Anna Milewska, Michal Grudzinski, Marek Walczewski, Hanna Stankówna, Alicja Jachiewicz, Leszek Dlugosz, Halina Czengery, Janina Ordezanka, Jadwiga Halina Gallowa, Grazyna Barszczewska
Genre: Horror, War, Weirdo
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Poland during the Second World War, and Michal (Leszek Teleszynski) has taken refuge in the countryside near the city of Lwow to recuperate from a disease which almost killed him, or so his wife Helena (Malgorzata Braunek) tells him, as he cannot recall too much about his ordeal. But the ordeal is not over, as the house he stays in with his wife, their child and his parents is abruptly invaded by Nazi soldiers, and they execute the women and the child, leaving the horrified Michal to escape with his elderly father to the city...

The Third Part of the Night was Polish director Andrzej Zulawski's first feature, having graduated from television, and was an adaptation of his father's book. Whether the text made more sense than the film is open to question, but as with many of the director's works, a sense of bafflement opens the doorway in the audience's minds to new points of view, so even if you did not wholly understand what was going on - it is deliberately obscure - you could attest to the fact you were genuinely stimulated intellectually simply by allowing Zulawski to take you by the hand and escort you through what could be Hell on Earth.

From the very beginning there are references to the Book of Revelation, as if the war was the actual apocalypse occuring to the Polish people and the Nazis were angels of death bringing the wrath of God down on them, not a God who had any time for salvation or mercy, simply punishment was his main activity. The landscape of the film, with its shoddy-looking buildings, suggests a world the deity has lost patience with, and is raining down his anger on the citizens as Michal tries to capitalise on his new lease of life, and lucky escape, by trying to join the Resistance he finds himself careering through those buildings and streets often in a blind panic.

Some have described this as a horror movie, and there are undoubtedly sequences which have no qualms about bringing out the nightmare in the war, not much of a stretch you'll admit, but Zulawski still found imagery which stressed the almost supernatural levels of suffering his characters endured. Indeed, by the end there's nothing "almost" about the suffering at all, and we have to consider that all we have seen are the ramblings of a dying mind, something of a cliché even then, but the director manages to make it convincing if not entirely lucid. The more Michal tries to make sense of the situation, the further it throws up complications.

Take when he goes to meet his contact early on in the film, only to be chased by the Gestapo and actually shot in the shoulder as he flees; there is another, lookalike man who is killed by mistake as he seeks refuge in an apartment block, whereupon he meets the man's wife, who is the spit and image of Helena, except she calls herself Marta and the shock has sent her into labour. She gives birth with Michal's assistance, and so it triggers a mix up in time where he's not sure if she is truly his dead wife or someone else, and the hallucinatory nature of the storytelling does us no favours in working that out either. The squeamish will not like the way he makes his money, feeding lice his own blood for a vaccination process to stop the spread of typhus, complete with extreme close-ups of the creatures being experimented on, but scenes like these serve to fuel the infernal quality of the narrative, its Biblical analogies easier to grasp than what Zulawski was saying about the relationships between men and women in harrowing times. Music by Andrzej Korzynski.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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