STRUCTURE OF CRYSTALS, THE (Struktura krysztalu) (director/writer: Krzysztof Zanussi; cinematographer: Stefan Matyjaszkiewicz; editor: Zofia Dwornik; music: Wojciech Kilar; cast: Barbara Wrzesinska (Anna), Andrzej Zarnecki (Marek Kawecki), Jan Myslowicz (Jan), Wladyslaw Jarema (Grandfather), Adam Debski (Forester); Runtime: 76; MPAA Rating: NR; Polart; 1969-Poland-in Polish with English subtitles)

"A cerebral psychological drama about a reunion between two intellectual scientist friends who have taken different paths."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A cerebral psychological drama about a reunion between two intellectual scientist friends who have taken different paths and now try to see if they can still communicate with one another in the common language they once shared. It's Polish director Krzysztof Zanussi's ("The Silent Touch"/"Our God's Brother"/"The Year of the Quiet Sun") first full-length feature after a number of documentaries, and it's a most intelligent, poignant, observant, moving and sensitive tale about friendship, science, love and lifestyles. There's not one false note to this realistic drama that looks at the uncharted territory of the scientific community with a knowing eye (the director is a product of the scientific community) and in a subtle way gives its nod of approval to those seekers of knowledge who persevere doing it their own way. The film is structured like a Chekhovian chamber drama, creating a rural serene atmosphere where nothing seems to be happening outwardly but inside the emotions of the characters are boiling over. 

Warsaw assistant professor Marek Kawecki (Andrzej Zarnecki) treks to the hinterlands by car for four hours to reach his one time best friend and college colleague, Jan (Jan Myslowicz). Kawecki is taken aback by his friend's humble cottage, without even a TV, where he has dwelled the last five years and where the 37-year-old resides with his feisty elementary school teacher wife Anna (Barbara Wrzesinska) and his elderly grandfather. Jan has given up his illustrious university career in the sciences to man this meteorological station in this godforsaken tundra, where he has little in common with the locals and there's no cultural life. The ambitious Kawecki, a brilliant physicist whose expertise is in artificial crystals, has returned after 2 1/2 years abroad at Harvard and Moscow, and is now on a mission to recruit Jan to return to the university and work for the old professor again. During their visit, their different attitudes to life, love and science becomes apparent, as Jan seemingly has given up everything to drop-out of civilization but nevertheless seems more content and at peace with himself than his restless friend. Kawecki is divorced and takes a cynically realistic attitude about his work and love life, and is egotistical in a different way than Jan. He's willing only to work for things that have practical results and can't understand how Jan can be satisfied wasting away in this barren area working on useless projects. 

A rare drama that covers such intellectual turf and raises deep philosophical questions about existence without the necessity of any contrivances to pump up its story. The black and white film is fast moving, interestingly photographed and relatively entertaining in its coverage of such dry material (I could imagine the average mall viewer of blockbuster action pics throwing rotten tomatoes at the screen). It's one of my favorite films about a likable and happily married couple who have found spiritual harmony with nature and have made the right decisions about how to live their life, and who have no misgivings about what luxuries they are missing by not living in a big city. 

REVIEWED ON 6/7/2008        GRADE: A

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"