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The Devil

(Diabeł)
Poland 1972. Dir: Andrzej Żuławski. 125 min. DCP

“Deeply disturbing and highly prophetic.”
DANIEL BIRD, FILM COMMENT

NEW RESTORATION | Andrzej Żuławski's controversial, incendiary second feature (after The Third Party of the Night, his startling debut) is a horror/historical hybrid set during the Prussian invasion of Poland in the late 18th century. Banned by the Communist government for its moral depravity and costume-veiled commentary on the March 1968 crisis — in which Polish authorities provoked then arrested political dissidents en masse — The Devil follows an incarcerated nobleman (Third Part’s Leszek Teleszynski) as he trudges through the decaying, dystopian wastelands of his war-ravaged country upon being freed by a satanic shadow figure. Vitriolic rage and violence follows, rendered by way of Żuławski’s signature, schizoid cinematography and a cold, glacial palette. The film’s (unsurprising) banning drove Żuławski to France, where, with the exception of his thwarted then resurrected Polish epic On the Silver Moon and 1996’s Szamanka, he would live and work for the remainder of his career.