Stories of hope, betrayal and disillusion are very common in film but this has the unusual setting of Poland during the 1960s. All the deadening uniformity of the times comes out on the screen as does, what appears to this era, the shoddiness of a planned economy dominated from outside. The story of a doctor condemned to the fringes of his profession by his refusal to embrace the Party orthodoxy is well told and there is a surprising twist to the end of the plot.
Although both main characters suffer from the excesses of petty bullying by officialdom, it is not portrayed in a didactic sense and those who go along with the system are treated with enough ambiguity to show that everyone had his own way of dealing with life back then.
The film is dominated throughout by the superb performance of Janusz Gajos as Dr. Hoffmann. Pushed to the edges of tolerance by an unseen enemy that never forgets, he manages to keep the flame of hope alive despite his almost total withdrawal from life outside his job. Grosz's brooding presence fills every scene and provides a focus of decency when all around appear to have lost theirs.
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