The Structure of Crystal | Struktura Krysztalu (1969) | Kinoteka 2018

March 19th, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Krzysztof Zanussi; Cast: Barbara Wrzesinska, Jan Myslowicz, Andrzej Zarnecki; Poland 1969, 75 min.

In his feature debut, Polish veteran Krzysztof Zanussi examines the nature of friendship and male rivalry and explores whether a bond of shared history can still reunite us years later, or whether change and the passage of time is destined to drive us apart. The Structure of Crystal is an caustic psychodrama that has been compared to the work of Bresson, a filmmaker Zanussi very much admires.

Jan (Myslowicz) is a highly regarded chemist who has left the fast lane and competitive life of Warsaw behind to marry a local schoolteacher and earth mother, Anna (Wrzesinska) in a country village. Anna’s remote family home provides an idyllic retreat for the couple and their two children and for a time life is good. Until they invite another chemist and former colleague, Marek (Zarnecki), to stay. Marek has worked in the USA, and his photos of New York provide a bracing contrast to the couple’s placid rural existence. But the two men are soon arguing over work issues and Anna is a little bit too flirty with this man from ‘the big smoke’, although she also complains about the men’s “egoistical” attitude. Jan starts to come over as a martyr, trying to justify his country existence on environmental grounds, over his life in Warsaw. He tries to undermine  his rather racy city colleague taking the moral high ground– the usual male rivalry is played out but Jan is unsure whether he’s made the right choice. Zanussi, who studied chemistry himself (“I loved chemistry, but it did not love me”) was a documentary filmmaker before he turned his talents to filmmaking and this is borne out in DoP Stefan Matyjaszkiewicz’s long panning shots that circle the protagonists, showing them as objects in the domestic environment – the human interaction intruding upon the peaceful, balanced rhythm of the setting. A reflective and humane ‘Kammerspiel’. AS


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