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Long Conversation with a Bird

Krzysztof Zanussi
Das lange Gespracht mit dem Vogel
West Germany 1990 / 93’

This film, which is hardly known in Poland, is quite exceptional in Zanussi's artistic output. It is based on a scenario co-authored by an outstanding German playwright, Tankred Dorst. Long Conversation with a Bird is a Nabokov-styled drama - John, an actor in his forties, becomes the object of fascination for the taciturn adolescent Laura and he himself - like Humbert Humbert - is somehow (but not entirely) enchanted with the mysterious, natural, faint and coquettish innocence of the nymphet. Something is going on between John and the girl's mother Elisabeth, too. Finally John faces the opportunity he has dreamt of and he backs off. But his noble intentions ironically lead to tragedy.

The story is set in Tunisia - the exotic location adds to the film's beauty. But it is not about landscapes, it is about an atmosphere of temporariness, elusiveness, unreality - of a sort of impunity. The film's form is simple, its style resembles amateurish holiday chronicles. The leading roles were entrusted to the very young Olivia Leigh and the couple known from the Imperative (Imperativ): Brigitte Fossey and Robert Powell. And a bonus: Daniel Olbrychski as the successful king of life, actor and counterpoint for John.

Mirella Napolska