"A YEAR OF THE QUIET SUN" is a sensitive if not entirely successful love story. It's a tender study in nonverbal communication between two war-weary souls, an American soldier and a Polish refugee who don't speak the same language. But gestures, a few clumsy phrases and the occasional interpreter aid their modest romance.
Scott Wilson and Maja Komorowska costar in this well-acted, introspective melodrama written and directed by Poland's Kzysztof Zanussi and produced jointly by studios in Poland, West Germany and the United States. Wilson plays Norman, a driver for a war- crimes investigations team who visits the small Polish town where Komorowska, as Emilia, lives.
The weak winter sun of the title shines on the rubble that was Europe in 1946. The armies have been withdrawn, the boundaries redrawn, and the survivors are rebuilding their war-torn world.
Emilia, a pensive painter, cares for her crippled mother, acted by Hanna Skarzanka with affection and ancient ease. After a shy courtship, Norman tries to bring Emilia and her mother to the West, but Emilia, a determined masochist, delays. "I don't know if I have the right to happiness," she says.
Norman and Emilia are ordinary people in love in extraordinary times, but not even love can transform these two suffering souls, both forever maimed by the sorrows of the war.
Like many Eastern Bloc works, this love story is also a political metaphor. The producers note that the couple's "hopes of happiness together seem impossible and their lack of opportunity and failure of communication are mirrored by the mutual distrust which marks the beginning of the Cold War."
The filmmaker adds a coda to the film, a fantasy scene set in Monument Valley, Utah, in 1964, in an attempt to expand on the East/West theme, but it seems like an intrusive, unnecessary afterthought in this otherwise contained and intimate film.
"A Quiet Sun," winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in '84, offers eloquent performances, lovely moments and a heartfelt concept. But ultimately it's too somber a parable.
A YEAR OF THE QUIET SUN (Unrated) -- In English and Polish with English subtitles at the Key.