Mid-level executive and middle-aged man Stefan Bednarz (Franciszek Pieczka) is placed in charge of building the new chemical plant in his hometown of Olechów, Poland. The only problem, the people of Olechów don’t want the plant. There is a perfectly suitable wasteland nearby that would accommodate a chemical plant. But since a competing company owns that plot of land, Bednarz’s company will have to level a strip of forestland—the trees have been growing here for over 200 years—to build their plant.

Bednarz is an honest man, one who believes in the Party and that this plant will bring honest jobs to honest people. But his shortsighted vision cannot see that the plant’s impact on the land and the people of Olechów will have long-term consequences. Nor can he see that the Communist that placed him in power have done so not because he has earned it, but because he is a homer and might be able to sway public opinion.

The Scar (Blizna) was Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski’s first feature film made for the cinema, and it marks his tentative association with the contemporary Polish movement, Cinema of Moral Anxiety (aka Cinema of Distrust, Cinema of Moral Concern). Writing in The Fright of Real Tears, Slavoj Žižek points out, “the problem here is that of the good—who knows what is good for others, who can impose his good on others?” In The Scar, that imposition comes from the physical world. In later works, Kieślowski will explore that imposition from much more ethereal realms.

Reflecting years later, Kieślowski called The Scar “badly made. Socio-realism à rebours.” The art movement social realism—a Communist movement depicting life and politics, as they ought to be, not as they are—gained ground in the 1920s and 30s, but its didactic qualities fell out of fashion in the mid-1950s. Considering Kieślowski’s extensive background in documentary, it makes sense that he would have leaned heavily on social realism. Still, he was already becoming frustrated by the confinement of the form and craved invention and insight. Kieślowski identifies The Scar’s crucial mistake:

No doubt the flaw, as with any film that doesn’t work, began with the script. [The Scar] was based on a report, which was simply a collection of certain facts, written by a journalist called [Romuald] Karaś. But I deviated from this report a great deal because I had to invent the action, a plot, and characters, and I did it badly.

Kieślowski on Kieślowski, ed. Danusia Stok (Faber and Faber: London, 1993), 99

Though The Scar isn’t as competent and balanced as Kieślowski’s later works, it does bear the fingerprints of someone interested in the human cost of political beliefs while exploring the division between public spaces and private lives. Bednarz is the sort of fellow that could have come from Kieślowski’s documentary work, but the presence of a camera—either Bednarz’s still camera, the journalist’s documentary camera, or Kieślowski’s—the distance between Bednarz and his wife (Halina Winiarska), and the constant search for home prefigures themes that Kieślowski will continue to build on for the remainder of his career.

Polish poster designed by Andrzej Krauze and Tomasz Sikora

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Scar (1976)
Directed by: Krzysztof Kieślowski
Written by: Krzysztof Kieślowski, Romuald Karaś
Produced by: Zbigniew Stanek
Starring: Fransizek Pieczka, Mariusz Dmochowski, Halina Winiarska
Film Polski, Not Rated, Running time 112 minutes, Premiered December 6, 1976