Polish Cinema: Goodbye to the Past (Wojciech Has, 1961, Poland)

Goodbye to the Past (Polish title: Rozstanie) is another early effort by Polish director Wojciech Has. Before he went on to direct some of the most iconic films in the history of Polish cinema, including The Saragossa Manuscript (1965), Has honed his craft on sensitive post-war dramas including the magnificent Lydia Ate the Apple (1958). Like that film, Goodbye to the Past addresses class and the structure of Polish society in a significant way, while addressing a narrative of love that would never be.

The film centers on Magdalena (Lidia Wysocka), a middle-aged woman returning to her Polish country estate from the hustle and bustle of Warsaw for her grandfather's funeral. While on the way there, she meets a young man Olek (Wladyslaw Kowalski), with whom she will have a fleeting romantic tryst. At the same time, she is being pursued by a lawyer in the town (Gustaw Holoubek). Interspersed are conflicts between Magdalena and the housekeeper, as well as the relationship between a tenant and the housekeeper's niece.

Despite being only around 70 minutes, Has manages to capture a great amount of human detail and challenging material in the film. Between Magdalena and Olek is not only a difference of age and class but also in outlook on life. Olek's future full of optimism contradicts that of Oskar Rennert, the lawyer, who longs for something more in his provincial life but realizes that he will stay in this town forever. We feel a progressive sense of suffocation as the housekeeper and tenants gossip about Magdalena. Ultimately, Magdalena knows she cannot stay at this time. Life in this period for many people was a series of dislocations and movements and Has managed to capture this sense of dislocation and urbanization very sensitively. Goodbye to the Past is a great companion to Lydia Ate the Apple.



Popular Posts