Released on Blu-ray & DVD on March 13th, 2017 by U.K.-based distributor extraordinaire Arrow Films, Walerian Borowczyk's only feature film made in his native Poland has been given a rather dazzling packaging that should more than please pretty much any fan of the director of The Beast, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll, and Miss Osbourne. An adaptation of Stefan Zeromski's classic melodrama that was banned by the Catholic Church, Story of Sin tells the story of the life of a beautiful, young and pious woman whose life is thrown into chaos when her parents takes in a dashingly handsome lodger. Having embarked on a torrid affair, the lodger goes off to Rome to seek a divorce from his estranged wife. Unable to live apart from her beloved, our hero leaves home only to fall prey to the infatuations and lusts of a band of noble admirers, unsavoury criminals and utopian do-gooders.
This special edition includes a wealth of high quality extras, typical of Arrow releases, including:
• 2K restoration from the original film negative
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
• New subtitle translation
• Audio Commentary by Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger
• New 2K restorations from the original negatives of Borowczyk’s ground-breaking Polish shorts: Once Upon a Time (co-directed by Jan Lenica), Dom (co-directed by Lenica) and The School, with optional audio commentaries by art historian Szymon Bojko (Once Upon a Time), composer Wlodzimierz Kotonsk (Dom) and Daniel Bird (The School)
• New introduction by poster designer Andrzej Klimowski
• The First Sinner, a new interview with Story of Sin lead actor Grazyna Dlugolecka
• The Music Box, film critic and documentarian David Thompson on the use of classic music in Borowczyk’s films
• Stories of Sin, a video essay by Daniel Bird (co-founder Friends of Walerian Borowczyk) concerning the director’s obsessions
• Miscellaneous, a video essay on Borowczyk and Lenica’s contributions to newsreels and documentaries on art history
• Street Art, a short news reel documentary about poster art co-written by Borowczyk
• Tools of the Trade, an interview with Juliusz Zamecznik, son of photographer and graphic artist Wojciech Zamecznik
• Poster Girl, an interview with poster artist, illustrator and print maker Teresa Byszewska, who appears (briefly) in Dom
• 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.
Despite the film's potentially challenging subject matter, the truth is that Story of Sin is a fairly restrained film and infinitely more interesting than the film that nearly destroyed Borowczyk's career, The Beast. Nominated for the Palme D'Or, Story of Sin tells the story of Eva (Grazyna Dlugolecka), whose love for Lukasz (Jerzy Zelnik) is constantly thwarted by the fates and society and lead to her own downfall. Borowczyk, rather wisely, makes the film less about the potentially controversial subject matter and far more about Eva's rise and fall. Interestingly, after making The Beast the same year he made this film, Borowczyk's career would largely be reduced to rubble and he would eventually direct the far more exploitative fifth film in the Emanuelle series.
Far deeper than one might expect, there's an element of satire often missed in Story of Sin. While the film isn't necessarily as engaging as one might hope, it's a film that appropriately is receiving the top notch treatment from Arrow Films and has such an incredibly wealth of extras that you can't help but gain new appreciation for it. For information on the film, visit the Arrow Films website linked to in the credits.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic