Zanussi himself called the Ways in the Night a study of conformism. This TV film was inspired by true events which took place during WWII in the General Government in Poland. Only a signet ring and an unread letter survived from the story of a relationship between a man and a woman put in opposing camps by the war. For Elżbieta, a Polish countess, it is obvious that there is no chance for love in such a situation. Captain Friedrich von Odenthal, a German officer stationed at her estate, hopes against all odds that the countess will reciprocate his feelings - after all, they share a love of culture and art, noble origins and sensitivity.
In Ways in the Night Zanussi touches on the dualism of nature and culture, a frequent motif in his films. War reflects the wild nature which is hidden in man and sometimes - in such moments - prevails. Zanussi believes that erudition and knowledge of culture is not an excuse for participating in crimes and neither can it save a victim from death. In the background is the moving librarian, Amadei (Zbigniew Zapasiewicz), sneeringly and desperately posing as a conformist in a game for his life against the Nazis.