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Pawel, a Polish man in his early 30s, makes a living with his father Zygmunt importing second-hand clothing from the North of France to Southern Poland. On his way back from one of regular "business trips", Pawel is shocked to discover his father's picture on the cover of a Polish tabloid newspaper. The headline "traitor" is written next to his name. Zygmunt is a genuine hero of the struggle against totalitarianism and a recognized member of the "Solidarnosc" labor movement of the 80s. But now, Zygmunt is suddenly accused by the paper of having acted as a secret informer called THE MOLE by the communist regime. Written by
For his first feature film, French-Polish documentary maker Rafael Lewandowski has hit home. "La dette" (The Mole) is indeed an intelligent evocation of the Solidarity social movement as well as of the reassertion of authoritarian control of Poland by the Communist Party and Moscow (1980-1989). It also constitutes a precious contribution to the current national debate on those events that stirs Poland these days. But be reassured, "La dette" is no way theoretical, dogmatic or oversimplified, in other words boring. The scriptwriters (Lewandowski himself and Iwo Kardel) and the director must be credited for privileging the human factor on the one hand and bringing life and emotion to what could have been nothing but a dry message film on the other. Sure there is a thesis : have some Solidarity unionists betrayed Solidarity and if so, why haven't they been punished? Should they be exposed and prosecuted now or should a new leaf be turned? But, as important as the problem tackled are the characters, their feelings and relationships. The issue in not forced on them but is presented through them ; they quite rightly prevail. The backbone of the story is the bond that ties a son (Pawel) and his aging father (Zygmunt). The two men get on very well, all the better as Pawel regards his dad as a hero, who once helped his country become free. As a Solidarity fighter the latter even served a prison sentence. So imagine the shock he experiences when, back from a business trip to France with his father (where the two men buy second-hand clothes to resell them in their poverty-stricken country) the son finds out that his hero is under attack from the press for being a traitor. Rejection of such an idea comes first, then doubt sets in, slowly but surely. On his part, Zygmunt is shown refusing to fight back while eluding Pawel's investigation questions, which creates growing discomfort. The two men's feelings as well as their troubled relationships are analyzed with remarkable accuracy and, which makes it even better, always in cinematic terms. Action is privileged and culminates with a highly suspenseful sequence involving Pawel and former secret services general Stefan Grabek (Wojciech Pszoniak, fabulous). Informative and entertaining, emotionally deep, extremely well acted and constructed, "La dette" is an outstanding movie. An inspired scene concludes it shrewdly, avoiding to supply an easy answer to the questions asked. A real achievement from beginning to end.
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