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Persona non grata

Krzysztof Zanussi’s latest film sees the veteran director once again dealing with a clash of attitudes: idealism versus conformism, and faith versus cynicism. Wiktor (Zbigniew Zapasiewicz), the Polish ambassador to Uruguay, returns home after receiving news of his wife’s death. He meets his old friend Oleg (played by Russian actor-director Nikita Mikhalkov), who is now a deputy minister of foreign affairs. Wiktor doesn’t really trust Oleg, suspecting that he spied on the Polish anti-communist movement in which Wiktor was active. Moreover, he thinks that Oleg had an affair with his wife. Stricken with grief and suspicion, Wiktor is also disillusioned with contemporary Poland and the conformism of the younger generation. Although he rejects both consumerism and the lack of ideals, Wiktor himself is vain and nonchalant and not above using his access to people in positions of power. Returning to Uruguay, he becomes more and more suspicious and his superiors wonder whether his wife’s death has caused some kind of trauma.

Zanussi draws a compelling picture of a mature intellectual who has distanced himself from the world and who, in his stoicism, has lost the ability to express emotions. Nothing is black or white in this intriguing peek into the well-heeled but treacherous world of career diplomacy.

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