Alla polacca, movie theme from “The Contract”
The peak of reductionism for Zanussi: Kilar’s two themes, composed for The Contract, are heard only at the beginning and at the end of the film – which, however, seems to be strengthening their effect. On the other hand, the film contains much diegetic music characterizing the protagonists and awkward situations in which they become entangled. The Contract is a story of nonconformism and hypocrisy, irreconcilable contradictions between avowed values and various determinants in life, characteristic especially of the intractable relations under the communist regime.
The action of the film unfolds over two days. Piotr (Krzysztof Kolberger), son of a wealthy, well-known cardiologist, gets married in a civil ceremony then decides on a church wedding – which, however, is broken off by the bride. A family dinner in a restaurant with chic aspirations is accompanied by an off-key violinist. An element of folk kitsch appears with the highlanders’ band at the airport, where Piotr’s father, Adam (Tadeusz Łomnicki), picks up his brother's widow, a former ballet dancer from France (Leslie Caron). She takes her reception party to the opera, where dancers struggle with kitschy choreography to Debussy’s music.
At home, father and son show off in front of their rich relative, ineptly playing a Schubert sonata for violin and piano; an old servant’s criticism of their attempt is at once spiteful and spot-on. This is nothing in comparison with the off-key singing of an elderly soprano performing a hymn to the Holy Virgin. These musical dissonances accentuate the grotesque nature of events and the artificiality of relations between the protagonists. They bring themselves to act naturally only during the wedding reception, which is accompanied by dance music played from a tape deck (and composed, according to the credits, by Józef Skrzek and Sławomir Łosowski). Just as uniting is a melody from Swan Lake crooned during a sleigh ride by drunken guests.
As for The Contract's original music, the main theme is heard twice: at the beginning of the film and during the sleigh ride, one of the final scenes. It is almost a gallop in triple metre (an association with the horses appearing in the late scene, perhaps?). In the second appearance, the instrumentation features three trumpets, accompanied by strings playing broken chords, the rhythm emphasized by timpani and snare drums. The melody gradually disappears until what is remains is just rhythm with string dyads. The trumpets eventually return with a motif based on an ascending fourth.
The second theme is heard only once, towards the end of the film, right after final appearance of the first. The two themes contrast vividly in tempo, expression and instrumentation. The doctor’s wife (Maja Komorowska) and her daugther-in-law take a walk in the wintery woods, talking about the absurdity of life based on a lie. We hear a stately largo, broken chords of piano with pedal, and gongs added to the percussion. Halfway through the theme is a loud entry of the first violin with a motif based on a second interval played in the upper register. This is when we are confronted with the moving, even metaphysical climax of the film: the women come across a majestic deer. A magnificent scene, made even more eloquent by its musical setting.