Monday, 3 February 2014

Life as a Fatal Sexually Transmitted Disease [2000]

The title of this late Zanussi, viz. Life as a Fatal Sexually Transmitted Disease, which seemed typical of a Woody Allen wisecrack, made me assume this to be an irreverent, satirical, darkly funny and, possibly, a campy film on the ironies of life and death. It’s on the ironies that govern, and inextricably link, life and death alright, but contrary to my presumptions, this turned out to be bleak, melancholic, downbeat and serious – that, perhaps, was the Polish filmmaker’s deadpan joke on his viewers. The ‘film within a film’ sequence about a horse-thief in 12th Century France who is facing execution and whose perceptions of life and thereafter are altered after a tryst with a priest, that it begins with, set the tone for the rest of the film and set the thematic context for what followed. Tomasz (Zbigniew Zapasiewicz) is an ageing, divorced doctor whose insulated life comes crashing down when he’s diagnosed with terminal cancer. Suddenly faced with a fact of life that one chooses not to think of, i.e. the certainty and inevitability of death, the cynical and atheistic protagonist starts experiencing changes in his outlook as he begins grappling with questions of faith, spiritual conflict and mortality, and even befriends, contrary to his asocial nature, a young physician and his pretty fiancée. The topic of euthanasia, too, was touched upon as this grim, beautifully photographed and minimally scored film played out at a leisurely pace portraying his transformative journey as life starts slipping away from his grip. It was made all the more affecting by Zapasiewicz’s tour de force performance with his face as a substitute for unspoken words and conflicting emotions.

Director: Krzysztof Zanussi
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Existential Drama
Language: Polish
Country: Poland


Sam Juliano said...

This is an absolutely brilliant piece of writing here Shubhajit--one of your master class capsules that makes the strongest case possible for this film to be viewed - as as a definitive example of a film that mightily defies expectations.

Shubhajit said...

Thanks a ton Sam. You're always kind & generous with your praise! This was my 1st tryst with Zanussi, by the way.