“The Story of Sin” (“Dzieje grzechu”)
Thrown Into Chaos
Set in nineteenth century Poland, we meet Eva, (Grazyna Dlugolecka), a good Catholic teenage girl and a confession goer. The priest warns of impure thoughts and giving into lust and sin. Eva’s family takes in a lodger named Lukash (Jerzy Zelnick) and he and Eva fall in love. family take in a young man, Lukash, as a lodger and soon they fall in love. Lukash is married but since he is unable to acquire a divorce, he and Eva live in sin. Eva’s family disowns her and when Lukash sets off for Rome, Eva discovers that she is pregnant and when her child is born she drowns it. Eva hears from a Count Szczerbic, who wounded Lukash in a duel that Lukash is in prison in Rome. However, when she tracks him down, she learns that he has been released and deported. Lukash remarries, thinking that Eva has began a relationship with Szczerbic. Then Eva conspires with two conmen to take revenge on Szczerbic because she believes that he is the one responsible for Lukash not being in her life. She poisons him as they make love. Having no other job and unable to find one, Eva returns to Poland and becomes a prostitute but is rescued by a kindly gentleman who offers her work. However, the two conmen return, using her to lure Lukash. As she warns Lukash that the conmen intend to kill him, she is shot dead. So in a nutshell and quite a boring one at that, this is what the film is about.
The late Polish filmmaker Walerian Borowczyk is considered one of the most influential and acclaimed animators and is also he is a director of soft-core pornographic films with artistic ambitions. Borowczyk’s career changed forever in 1975, when he directed “The Story of Sin” with adult themes and nudity and is based on a novel that was banned by the Catholic church (and filmed twice previously). It is a tale of a woman who suffers for love. Eva tells us that she is ‘a victim of circumstance’, whose love for Lukash, was constantly thwarted by both fate and society and is the cause of her downfall. Borowczyk’s fidelity to the literary tradition is one of the film’s strengths; making Eva’s rise and fall the central feature of the film rather than the more salacious subject matter. The early scenes in ‘The Story of Sin’ between Eva and Lukash are filled with sexual tension. Conversations occur with the focus purely on the eyes though the talk is flirting in nature. Memories blur with real life. The film is also full of satire although at the time it came out, was not picked up on. Eva’s initial piety, dedicated to avoiding sin and impure thoughts, does not seem to be shared by the other members of her family or local society. Whilst she covers ‘sinful’ works of art and books, others cheerfully avoid attending confession. When Eva falls in love with Lukash, she is thrown out by her family as a slut and a whore, despite their own lack of piety. Borowczyk hints at the moral corruption at the heart of this society. Eva is exploited and taken advantage of by everyone she meets and no matter how much she searches for Lukash or attempts to create a life for them both together, society prevents it. Conmen use her body as a means of committing murder; her motives to kill Szczerbic are noble of sorts but the conmen seem purely motivated by greed. Exploited and rejected by all, Eva’s fate is sealed. The satirical elements of Borowczyk’s work are subtle and underrated and obscured by the more sexually frank reputation he has.
Eva’s life of is thrown into chaos when her parents takes in Lukash as a lodger. Because of their affair and wanting to do the right thing, Lukash goes to Rome to seek a divorce from his estranged wife. Because she cannot live without him, Eva leaves home and falls victim to the infatuations and lusts of criminals. She is quite pretty and curvaceous, but more importantly, she is a realistic and winning person even when she is a prostitute.
What we see is a restrictive society and the complexities of sin. however, is as obvious and colorful as a vintage snapshot. Turn-of-the-century Czarist-dominated Warsaw was rough on the staunchly Catholic, disenfranchised Polish bourgeois classes. Eva is no exception. She is quickly caught up in the throes of first love with Lukash who is seeking a divorce and thus begins a convoluted, bitter romance indicating that sin isn’t necessarily simple.
Dlugolecka Grazyna;Voit Mieczyslaw;
Eroticism, costuming, settings and photography are artistically detailed. The lovers live in ecstasy in cramped village quarters. Lust and murder are made specific in rich, red damask rooms filled finery. Thos is a conventional story of a woman’s life destroyed by love, not unlike “Madame Bovary” or “Anna Kerenina”. The primal drive of love and the beastliness of sinners in Eva’s life make for a complex plot with some seemingly abrupt transitions.
When the film departs from the expected tropes of the period piece, the effect is startling. Eva and Lukasz meet each other with all the expected formality yet just couple of scenes later, Lukash is groping Eva in a public park. They begin writing ardent letters to each other.
Most scenes in the film are permeated with sexual threat be it from the lascivious artist (another lodger), to the priapic villain who propositions Eva in a village tavern and, when she refuses, improbably pursues her across Europe. If every man lusts after Eva, it is not that she is irresistible: it is that they see Eva, like all women, as nothing more than prey, which they have a god-given right, as men, to use for their pleasure. Even Lukash never seems to be around when she needs him most. There is just one scene in the film where male and female bodies are making love and feeling equally vulnerable and desirable beneath the camera’s gaze. Yet even this image is severely compromised by the fact that Eva is being forced: her partner, completely in love with her, doesn’t realize that another man has orchestrated the encounter against her will. “The Story of Sin” has been subject to critical debate about whether it is art or soft-core pornography. Now you can decide for yourselves.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
- 2K restoration from the original film negative
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
- New subtitle translation
- New 2K restorations from the original negatives of Borowczyk’s ground-breaking Polish shortshe School
- New introduction by poster designer Andrzej Klimowski
- New interview with Story of Sin lead actor Grazyna Dlugolecka
- New interview featurette on Borowczyk’s career in Poland by Daniel Bird (co-founder Friends of Walerian Borowczyk)
- New interview featurette on Borowczyk’s innovate use of classical music in his films by writer and filmmaker David Thompson
- MORE extras to be announced!
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Andrzej Klimowski
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Fully illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new and archival writing, including an exclusive interview with the producer of Story of Sin, director Stanislaw Rozewicz; a text by art historian and one-time Borowczyk collaborator, Szymon Bojko; and excerpts from Borowczyk’s memoirs presented in English for the first time.