Andrzej Zulawski's debut feature, The Third Part of The Night, is a mind-bending, startling drama about a young man who witnesses the death of his wife and son at the hands of the Gestapo, narrowly escaping the massacre himself. Devastated, the young man lives on the run, attempting to join the resistance while narrowly evading capture at nearly every turn. Taking refuge in the home of a pregnant young woman who eerily looks like his deceased wife, the young man grows intimate with this woman, helping her bare her child. Andrzej Zulawski's The Third Part of The Night is a dark, somber film which is a truly a harrowing portrait of Poland during WWII. Aesthetically speaking, The Third Part of the Night features a very grimy, dirty aesthetic, with Zulawski's trademark cinematography being prevalent, albeit somewhat restrained compared to some of his other films. Structurally, The Third Part of The Night is very disorienting, ambiguous, and challenging, as early on I found myself wondering if this other woman was even real, or just a figment of a tortured souls' imagination. This disorientation leads to terror and a sense of hopelessness that hangs over the entire film, with The Third Part of Night effectively capturing the traumatic circumstances and grief facing this character. The Third Part of The Night is not overly violent but when it does come, it's brutally realistic, with Zulawski not holding back or shying away from showing the torment and violence these characters go through and/or the pain they feel, showing this anguish in a very genuine feeling way. Rather typical of many of his film canon, to say I completely understood everything Zulawski was going for would be grossly overstating on my part, but I think a lot of it is just his overall cynicism towards our society, the fragility of it all, and showing this bleak, dark nightmare that was the Nazi occupation. Our main protagonist is clearly a man who cannot seem to let go of his wife and the grief that comes with that haunts him through this fragmented nightmarish wasteland.
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