Zanussi described Imperative as the most expressly religious work he had ever made. It was the first time he had made such a direct analysis of the relationship between reason and faith. The mystical nature of the film is based on images (excellent black and white cinematography by S. Idziak), and its meaning is open and free of didactic overtones.
Augustyn (Robert Powell, who had played Christ in an earlier film) is a mathematician, but his admiration for the potential of science and the power of the human mind has passed. He tries to free himself from reasoning and the shackles of cause and effect; he is fascinated with phenomena which seem to have no purpose, such as a falling clump of snow. Searching for liberty and its boundaries, Augustyn tries experimenting on himself: in the film's opening scene he jumps naked out of his flat window onto a snowy pavement. His search leads him to an act which is a demonstration of disbelief on the one hand and an attempt to provoke God to manifest himself on the other.
Imperative also depicts the confrontation of two traditions in Christianity - of the West and of the East. In Western culture the sacred is reduced to a world of dying symbols.In the Orthodox church it is alive and its presence can be felt in everyday life.