“Through and Through” or salvation through murder

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Grzegorz Krolikiewicz’s Through and Through is one of the best films ever made. Krolikiewicz realised his chef-d’oeuvre according to the principles of his theory in which the off-screen space is as important as what the camera actually shows to the viewer. Camera moves freely through the space, showing the scenes from unusual angles, and often swinging and diverting its gaze away from the place where the action is occurring. The viewer must often concentrate on what is out of the frame. He must use his imagination to fill gaps in narration.

Krolikiewicz treats the viewer as a co-creator who actively participates in the unveiling of the film’s meaning. Narration is not continuous. Cinematic space is used in the film to deepen its meaning rather than propagate the story. The film is composed of fourteen scenes and the viewer must link them together himself. Light and sound effects are the integral parts of the film. Close-ups are used to strengthen the feeling of Sachlichkeit. The full potential of out-of-frame cinematic space is used in the murder scene and in the scene where the camera is following a man from a moving lift.

There is little dialog in the first part of the film while the second part is composed of the two main protagonists, an impoverished married couple, explaining the meaning of their actions. Through and Through is the story of an attempt of self-affirmation in a society in which one’s choices are extremely limited. The pair commits a quadruple murder because this is the only way of escaping their social conditions and giving meaning to their lives.

Comparisons with Stendhal’s Scarlet and Black, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and Gide’s Caves of the Vatican would not be unjustified. This is a film about an excessive metaphysical hunger that ultimately destroys the main character. Murder destroys him but it also gives his life a meaning that has been hitherto lacking. The murder elevates both the man and and his wife cum partner-in-crime into a Kantian universe where each of them tries desperately to save the life of the other by taking the full and exclusive responsibility for the murder.

Krolikiewicz explains:

This film has two planes. The first is metaphysical. It’s a film about unlimited  metaphysical hunger. Malisz [the man] said in court: “I wanted everything, everything.” But for this metaphysical layer I had to find a particular area of life, at the level of existence.  The film starts with the scene of a drunken party, which is a picture of life, showing a particular way of eating, sleeping, lying down, talking … All this can best be described through a naturalistic method, which is used to register mundane actions like in a documentary.  The film moves between these two planes like a continuous wave, and progresses from naturalism to purification and sublimation. This upward movement is clearly seen when one compares the first scene with the last one, in the court.

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The two protagonists explain their actions before the judges – which are neither shown nor heard – in the following words:

He:  Yes, I plead guilty. I wanted to get some money. I only rented a room with those people to have an address to lure the postman to it. I posted some money to myself. On a blue form. I collected revolvers … I mean, I collected … I always liked to have a pistol on me. When I had it on me … I had an impression that it was my friend. Therefore … I have a pain in my heart. Now … I don’t care any more. I have a pain in my heart.

She:  I don’t believe in God. Contacts with people are abnormal. That’s how it is. Faith in people? I don’t know. I don’t believe that contacts with people will ever be better than they are. On their side and on mine, perhaps … I think I have complexes. Especially this one that I cannot make real contact with other people. That I’m incapable of getting along … with people. What could I give to a child? I’ve no … I wasn’t in a position to have a baby. It would have been no crime if we had one. I’m not sorry for those people. There are millions of people wronged in the world. Yes, I feel wronged too. In a different way, but wronged nevertheless. That’s not hatred … that’s a feeling of not belonging. I’m certain I’m not pregnant. I know they don’t hang pregnant women.

He:  Conscience … that’s something you can’t define. It’s a thing that’s somewhere … Yes, I feel sorry because … Not so much for him as for her … their daughter … you have to help people who suffer … when they are sick and suffering … you have to finish them off. But most of all I’m sorry for the old woman. She reminded me of my old mother.

She:  The brown belt. Al of them. All. With the pistol.

He: No.

She: I don’t know. I don’t remember. The caliber is not important. I wasn’t thinking of the calibre when killing. No, with two, I think. l Pulled the trigger with two fingers. I don’t remember. Maybe I beat first. They were old people. He defended me against them. No. I fired the gun.

He: No. She is lying.

She: No. I fired the gun.

He:  I killed. I killed them all. The postman? I fired at him once. I killed him at once. I fired at him as soon as I saw him. At his head. Why didn’t I kill the others at once? … She had no pistol. I had it. I had it because it was my gun. She didn’t even know how to shoot. No that’s not true. She is … She is simply … I forced her to do it. She did some sewing because we had … Yes she did.

She:  I wanted to ask for leniency for my husband. Because he is innocent. I urged him to commit this crime. Without my telling him, he wouldn’t have done it. He did it on my order. In this case, it’s not important who pulled the trigger. But who brought it about. That’s where this trial is faulty. All your procedure is devoid of logic. I assure you I’m speaking the truth. He was just a tool. You can’t punish a tool, can you? That’s why I’m asking for leniency for my husband. And for punishment for myself.

He:  My wife claims only she is guilty. Because she loves me. Yes, I love her too. I love my crime too because it’s mine. For once in my life I could have something of my own. Because I was continually humiliated. My background, my looks. Those people, those middle class people. I simply had no method for such a life … only why all those questions? I know very well: I did kill and should be … I’m tired of all this. What more is there to say? I wanted so much. Perhaps too much. I wanted so much. I wanted … everything. I think I’m gifted. I envied all those miserable little people. That they had it all easy. While I was kicked in the ass all the time. My wife loved me very much. I was very, very happy with her. She was everything to me. Really everything. That’s why I’m asking again for mercy for my wife. Perhaps something will remain after me. I want so much something to remain after me. Something to remain.

Through and Through is the story of elevation from existence to essence through murder.

The film can be seen here:


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