Dan Fainaru in Jerusalem

Dir. Krzystof Zanussi. Poland 2002. 101mins.

Polish moralist Krzystof Zanussi, whose ethical codes permeate every one of his movies, is at it again. Going back to the plot of his 2000 award-winning feature Life As A Fatal Sexually Transmitted Disease, but looking at it from a different angle, he now focuses on issues such as religion, the search for perfection and reconciling oneself with death. It's hardly the kind of stuff that'll enjoy mainstream success, but will definitely be cherished by arthouse and festival audiences, more so as part of double bill with Life As'. Just like the first part of this diptych, Zanussi's film was first unveiled at the Moscow International Film Festival, where it shared the FIPRESCI prize with The Cuckoo. Since then it has appeared at Karlovy Vary and Jerusalem, with other dates pencilled in.

Life As' centred on Tomasz Berg, a sceptical doctor without any religious faith, who facesd the ultimate existential crisis when he discovers he has terminal cancer. For Supplement Zanussi takes two of the secondary characters, Filip, a medical student, and his girlfriend Hanka, a wardrobe mistress for a film production, and gives them centre stage.

The film opens with lead character Filip (Pavel Okraska) grappling with his own doubts in a convent cell, unable to decide whether he is ripe for monastic life or should return to his studies. Torn between the two callings and at loss to make a choice, his torments sap his relations with Hanka (Monika Krzywkowska) and leave his older brother seriously concerned. An idealist who refuses to settle for mediocrity and compromise, he is only drawn out of his self-imposed moral despondency by the gentle chidings of Dr Berg who, as he approaches his last hour, helps Filip and Hanka face their own future in a different light.

Directed with the pedant, smooth and well-modulated craft typical of all Zanussi's films, Supplement is replete with the director's own doubts and reflections on faith, its impact on modern life and its pointless vanities. He also explores the egotism of those who subject not only themselves, but also others, to their personal anguish.

As is usual for a Zanussi film, every detail conveys a message: it is no accident that Filip's favourite pastime is climbing, or that his passions in life are religion and medicine. And Zanussi's answer to the dilemmas he set for himself and his protagonists is not to choose between faith or science, reason or emotion, but to accept all as equally valid.

The same cast as Life As' fill out the major roles. Pavel Okraska lends Filip all the characteristics of the classic romantic hero torn by passions that are beyond his control, while Monika Krzywkowska as Hanka offers the solid, sympathetic reality he is afraid to opt. But it is veteran Zbigniew Zapasiewicz, as Tomasz Berg, who steals the show every time he comes on screen with his masterful, unerring presence.

Zanussi uses some of the footage left over from Life Is'as well as a couple of clips from the film itself. And while Supplement can be viewed as a standalone piece, there is no doubt that seeing both films - and it does not matter in what sequence - is preferable in every sense.

Prod co and int'l sales: Tor Film Production
Zanussi, Iwona Ziutkowska
Eduard Klosinski
Wanda Zeman
Prod des: Halina Dobrowolska
Music: Wojciech Kilar
Cast: Pavel Okraska, Monika Krzywkowska, Zbigniew Zapasiewicz