Conceived and shot in the space of a few weeks due to the Solidarity crisis of December 1981, Jerzy Skolimowski‘s black comedy is much more than a political tract: it’s a profound, gripping comedy of terror and isolation, oppression and entrapment. Jeremy Irons, in a performance worthy of Chaplin, is the head of a Polish construction crew doing illegal work on a flat in London; when the military coup occurs back home, Irons—the only member of the group who speaks English—must keep it a secret from his men. Though the film is founded on a metaphor, it is never forced or abstract: Skolimowski’s direction is a concrete creative response to these actors in this setting at this time, making full expressive use of the details, gestures, and situations at hand. It is, in short, a film—unimaginable as theater or literature—and very possibly a great one.
An airy allegory (from a Robert Graves story) held to earth by some scathing sexual passion. Alan Bates is the traveling madman who holds a composer (John Hurt) and his wife (Susannah York) in thrall. Sexuality triumphs over civilization through a series of small betrayals, each registered with appalling, pinpoint accuracy by Jerzy Skolimowski‘s camera. Though Skolimowski had backed off from his formal ambitions somewhat (he once seemed a real rival to Godard), this 1978 feature is shrewd, imaginative moviemaking, a trance thriller that beats Peter Weir on his own turf. R, 87 min.