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The Constant Factor

Krzysztof Zanussi
Poland 1980 / 87’

This film represents the trend of the 'cinema of moral anxiety'. Its essay-like structure and particular references bring to mind the earlier The Illumination. Also the main character, Witek, is another example of the Zanussi-style character, an uncompromising maximalist, for whom remaining faithful to his convictions counts more than anything else. In The Illumination, Franciszek's goal was cognition; Witek's ambition lies mainly in achieving ethical perfection. He is fascinated by such phenomena as coincidence, fate and probability and yet he believes that if he doesn't betray the ethos he learned at home, he can control his life. Witek wants to improve the world by himself, but his uncompromising attitude irritates and discourages people instead of converting them. The world shown in The Constant Factor is depressing, full of dodgers, bribe-takers, and jealous conformists. There are hardly any honest people here. Mountains are a very important motif here (Witek's father was a mountaineer and died during an expedition and his son inherited his passion), and the film touches on the interesting thread of Witek's mother, on the issue of choosing suffering as a sacrifice.

Mirella Napolska

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