The Third Part of the Night/The Devil - Standard Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Eureka
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (13th February 2024).
The Film

"An uncompromising visionary and a true maverick of European cinema, the Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present Andrzej Żuławski’s first two films on Blu-ray."

Third Part of the Night: His health having deteriorated supporting his wife Marta (The Deluge's Malgorzata Braunek) and child in the city by "feeding lice" to help produce a typhus vaccine, law student-turned-salesman Michal (With Fire and Sword's Leszek Teleszynski) is convalescing at the country residence of his parents when Nazi troupes raid the area and execute his wife, son, and mother (Halina Czengery). Michal and his father (Jerzy Golinski) escape back to the city where the younger man is driven to join the resistance in spite of the warnings of his Marian (Nights and Days's Michal Grudzinski) that he is ill-suited to it due to his middle class upbringing.

When Michal goes to meet his contact, the other man is gunned down and Michal flees the Nazis and manages to evade them only because they have shot and wounded a man dressed similarly to him on the stairwell of an apartment building right in front of the man's pregnant wife. Michal must help deliver her child when she suddenly goes into labor, and he is suddenly struck by the realization that she is the living image of his dead wife as he passes out from his own gunshot wound. Michal dreams of his past when he could no longer study due to the Nazi occupation and became a salesman whereupon he first met Marta, then unhappily married to Jan (The Hourglass Sanatorium's Jan Nowicki) who she claims has gone crazy due to his work feeding lice in order to produce a typhus vaccine and treats her cruelly.

The two fall in love and have a child together, but Michal nevertheless takes out his guilt about displacing her husband onto her. Feeling as if he has wronged his wife, Michal sees his chance at redemption in helping his wife's double and her newborn child who have sought shelter in the convent where his sister (A Hundred Horses to a Hundred Shores' Anna Milewska) once hid him, Marta, and their son even though no one else can the resemblance of the woman to his wife. Becoming a lice feeder again to obtain the vaccine and rations for the woman and her son, he starts to reflect on his marriage and question just how truthful his wife was to him, and the only way to alleviate his own guilt may be to join the resistance again and rescue her husband who is on his deathbed after having suffered beatings and interrogations in Michal's place.

Co-scripted with his father Miroslaw Żuławski (The Atlantic Tale), Andrzej Żuławski's The Third Part of the Night is very different from even the most doom-laden Polish war film, including those of Andrzej Wajda for whom Żuławski had served as assistant director (Wajda would later produce Żuławski's follow-up The Devil). The film is an interior journey in which past and present merge, revealing unpleasant things to the protagonist about his relationships that have only been concealed from him by him with the metaphysical elements – from the various projections of his father and sister of Marta as a "devourer" or the "Great Mother of Harlots" to the increasingly obvious final twist – a psychic smokescreen. When Michal tells the possibly real or spectral Jan he no longer feels guilty about him, it is not a disavowal but an admission of not of mere complicity but his role in what transpired.

The film was photographed by Witold Sobocinski (Frantic) and the camera operated by Maciej Kijowski who then photographed Żuławski's The Devil, and the handheld, constantly mobile, rushing, and encircling approach to coverage that would become the signature of Kijowski's operator-turned-cinematographer Andrzej Jaroszewicz's subsequent work for the director – even on later films like Possession on which ? stepped back into the role of operator under Bruno Nyutten – is already in evident here as if underlining Michal's essential passivity however fast and recklessly he rushes through the story devastating those from which he seeks knowledge or tries to help. The anachronistic, experimental scoring of Żuławski regular Andrzej Korzynski (Cosmos) quite aggressively underlines the psychological approach to what could have been a melodramatic scenario in other hands.

Żuławski's follow-up feature The Devil takes place during another turbulent period in Polish history, the second partition of Poland in 1793. Amidst the massacre of Polish soldiers who had been told by Parliament to stand down but had been personally paid by their commander to fight, a mysterious stranger (The Promised Land's Wojciech Pszoniak) rides straight into the prison with orders to escort the prisoners who attempted to assassinate the King to Warsaw. Jakub (Leszek Teleszynski again) is delirious from fever, so only the nun Zakonnica (Łuk Erosa's Monika Niemczyk) witnesses in mute terror the stranger's cold-blooded murder of Jakub's co-conspirator Tomasz. Putting Jakub atop a horse with Zakonnica to care for him, the stranger reveals that he is actually there to free Jakub. He orders Jakub back despite the younger man's sense of duty that he should go to the Warsaw where he believes the other members of the plot must be fighting for their lives.

Jakub travels to the palace of his best friend the local Count (Maciej Englert) just in time to see his own fiancée (Malgorzata Braunek again) forced into marriage. The stranger turns up just in time to inform him of the treachery of his co-conspirators who told his fiancée that Jakub was dead. When his fiancée sees him, Jakub overhears the Count tells her that she has only seen a ghost. Jakub goes home to discover his father has committed suicide and his corpse is still propped up in his study, being tended by Ezechiel (Michal Grudzinski again) – a man who claims to be his half-brother by their mother who abandoned her family years before – who has not only assumed Jakub's place in punishing his sister (Anna Parzonka) for attending balls at the Count's palace where her flirtations have driven Ezechiel to violent jealousy (as the man also claims to be his sister's fiancé).

Jakub learns from the stranger that his mother (The Cradle's Iga Mayr) is nearby running a bordello, and she tries to seduce him and nearly sleeps with him before he reveals his identity. Jakub takes out his frustration on a prostitute, slitting her throat with a straight razor given to him by the stranger. After learning that his father went mad and raped his fiancée before "selling" her to the Count, Jakub goes to rescue her only to be set upon by the Count and his co-conspirators as the traitor. The Count cannot bring himself to kill his former best friend, and instead crucifies him in the woods where he is rescued once again by the stranger. With all of his friends having betrayed him, his father mad and dead, his sister gone mad and engaging in incest with his half-brother, and even his mother – who is seemingly pulling strings behind the scenes for someone in power and possibly grooming his sister to take his fiancée's place – wanting him to join her gang with the promise that he can kill as many prostitute as he wants so long as it is entertaining for their clients, Jakub is losing the will to resist the stranger's urging that he should purify his family with the blade; but will the price he must pay for the stranger's help be his life or his immortal soul?

More "gothic" in conception than The Third Part of the Night, The Devil is another interior journey set within a historical setting turned into a Boschian hellscape. Teleszynski's "every man" is another essentially passive observer; but the parallels between his character and Hamlet that are apparent even before episodes involving a theatrical troupe living a commune-like existence in the woods with the owner (The Hourglass Sanatorium's Wiktor Sadecki) so covetous of Jakub's youth and beauty that he is willing to overlook Jakub's murder of the lead actress (The Finger of God's Bozena Miefiodow) and the young actor (Żuławski's brother Lukasz Żuławski) actually playing Hamlet in the troupe. This time around, it is the stranger – who may or may not be the devil himself or a devil of another sort – drives the narrative by repeatedly saving Jakub, even dragging Jakub along when he is both physically and mentally exhausted.

The viewer may either have familiarity with Żuławski's filmography, so preoccupied determining whether the stranger is meant to be Satan himself, a demon, or a human agent, or even the Hamlet references to question just how much of the hidden truths the stranger goads Jakub towards are truthful. It may be that Jakub is so righteous and eager to cast himself as a Hamlet that he so easily accepts an entire conspiracy against himself that would make his friends turn against their ideals – his best friend purely out of lust it seems – and that his father, sister, and Ophelia-like fiancée would be driven mad by the machinations of some strange cabal (of which the titular devil may just be an errand boy). While Teleszynski plays things just this side of the absolute hysteria of which others in the cast wallow freely, Pszoniak catches us and the hero off-guard, alternately gloating or complaining about Jakub's thankless behavior that it is difficult to predict his end game. In a film where women are either "evil" women are powerful and "innocent" women are driven mad, Niemczyk's nun is a character who seems destined for the same fate and only seems to triumph because her own inaction for much of the film has allowed her to see things more clearly than Jakub (and she is the only person to see the stranger's true nature).

With the aformentioned Jaroszewicz serving as operator for the first time on a Żuławski film (under The Third Part of the Night operator-turned-cinematographer Kijowski, the handheld camerawork feels even more frenetic, particularly in the context of the period setting; and yet, or because of it, Korzynski's almost psychedelic score – sounding like a hybrid of Bruno Nicolai, Alessandro Alessandroni, and Peter Thomas – suits a film seemingly less concerned with the plot of the "plot" than all of the things to which God is seemingly silent and indifferent (calling to mind the father's prayer in The Third Part of the Night over the bodies of his dead wife, daughter-in-law, and grandson: "Oh, God, who allows cruelty to be propagated and people to torment each other…"). Due to the film being banned and not screened publicly until 1987, Żuławski would exile himself to Paris where he made a splash with the French/Italian/West German co-production That Most Important Thing: Love; whereupon the Polish government would invite him back and give him virtual carte blanche to mount his biggest film yet… or so it seemed.


Screened at the 1971 Venice Film Festival and then released in Poland theatrically, The Third Part of the Night has since been difficult for general audiences to see outside of festival screenings throughout the years until Second Run released the film on DVD in 2007 utilizing a fair-looking non-anamorphic letterboxed master. We have not seen the transfer that appeared as part of an English-friendly Polish DVD boxed set of the director's works or the HD master that appeared on the 2018 Japanese Blu-ray or the French limited edition set from Le chat qui fume earlier last year and Eureka's own limited edition set Andrzej Żuławski: Three Films later last year which presented the two films along with On the Silver Globe and a bonus disc.

Eureka's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.66:1 widescreen Blu-ray of The Third Part of the Night comes from a 4K restoration, the grading of which was supervised by Andrzej Jaroszewicz. The master seems to better represent the film's cool look, with the actors exhibiting different degrees of paleness owing to their health and the chilly setting than the older SD master that pinker skin tones. Detail varies during the frenetic handheld sequences but static shots and close-ups allow assessment of the gritty textures of authentic locations, clothing, hair, and the fevered flesh of the characters.

Banned upon release and then forgotten until 1987 as Żuławski returned to working on On the Silver Globe, The Devil was long available in Poland and France in a non-anamorphic letterboxed transfer that found its way stateside on an unauthorized label. Eureka's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.66:1 widescreen Blu-ray comes from a 2016 restoration that was initially rejected by Żuławski for the wrong grading and subsequently corrected by Jaroszewicz. We have no idea if the earlier Japanese and French Blu-ray utilize this version because Jaroszewicz discovered that the master provided to Eureka once again had the wrong grading and the licensors could not find the corrected version. This caused a delay from the initial street date as Jaroszewicz went back to work to fix this master. The DVD transfer was a murky affair where costumes, shadows, and hair became masses of black and whites were either blindingly free of any detail and texture or diluted by blue or green tinges. The new transfer sets things right, removing the blue tinge to the darker scenes, revealing the white habits of nuns to be dirtied (or perhaps stained in order to not blow out on film), skintones that are various shades of pink rather than gray or white, and wooded settings are also now browner than gray and white.


While rechanneled 5.1 mixes have been prepared for both of these 4K restorations, Eureka has opted for the original mono mixes in 24-bit LPCM 2.0. Presumably the restorers have gone back to the original stems and magnetic materials rather than just attempting to clean up optical tracks, and the tracks are clean and crisp, conveying post-synchronized dialogue, vividly mixed scoring, and sound effects that range from merely supportive to deliberately grating. Optional English subtitles are free of any glaring errors.


The sole extra for The Third Part of the Night is "Michael Brooke on The Third Part of the Night" (15:03) in which Brooke discusses the Żuławski family's artistic heritage – with great uncle Jerzy one of the pioneers of Polish science fiction, and his father Miroslaw an artist in addition to being a diplomat – his education at the Sorbonne and then film school in Poland, working under Wajda, and his first shorts. He also provides some context to the Polish treatment of the war in film, as well as noting that Żuławski was a child during the war unlike colleagues like Wajda, so the film draws from his father's memories (including being feeding lice). Of the film, he discusses the cast including Braunek who was his wife at the time – and the separation from here which would inform the broken family dynamic of Possession – Teleszynski who would embody similar sort of "every man" in The Devil, and Nowicki as well as discussing the recurring use of the doppelganger in Żuławski's filmography, and noting that Wajda would produce his next film in spite of Żuławski telling him what he could do with his opinion of The Third Part of the Night.

Brooke appears again on The Devil in "Michael Brooke on The Devil" (18:18) where he classifies the film as the "first real Polish horror film" and muses on the title and its lack of article in Polish. He muses on the film's emotional excesses, the theme of the ruptured family, and the use of dance and performance, as well as providing background on the cast (particularly Pszoniak who achieved international recognition playing Robespierre in Wajda's Danton.

In "Lukasz Żuławski on The Devil" (19:02), the director's brother discusses his schooling and stage career, and how an inflammatory line in a play he did lead to his enforced stint in the army amid the expulsion of forty-thousand Jews in 1968. He describes the film as "Gothic" in its scenario but "baroque" in execution, that he was cast because he could act and ride a horse – and was willing to do it without a stuntman on the uneven woodland – his razor murder scene, the dwarf character (Marian Zdenicki) as a swipe at a critic who insulted Żuławski, and the purely financial reasons behind releasing the film in 1988.


This standard edition has dropped the hardbound slipcase of the limited edition and the included collector's booklet only includes the Philip Kemp essay "The Enigmas of Żuławski" covering both films and the way they inform the rest of Żuławski's filmography.


While this standard edition drops On the Silver Globe (released separately with its bonus disc), it allows fans to assess Zulawksi's first two features on their own before the epic that lead to Zulawski's second and longest exile.


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