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Family Life

Zycie rodzinne

Directed by Krzysztof Zanussi
Poland, 1971
  • Polish
  • English, German
The Films of Krzysztof Zanussi


This intense chamber drama centers on an ambitious young industrial designer who is summoned home to help his father and sister. Both the aristocratic family he fled in shame and scorn, and their dilapidated country estate, bathed in an oppressively nostalgic light, prove ultimately inescapable.

Our take

Next in our retrospective devoted to one of the great Polish directors, Krzysztof Zanussi, is his second feature film, a competitor in the 1971 Cannes Film Festival. In it, a member of Poland’s new generation returns home to confront—and throw off—the shackles of his (and his country’s) past.

Family Life Directed by Krzysztof Zanussi

What are people saying?

  • Andrew's rating of the film Family Life

    Through supremely subtle delivery if dialogue, vividly convincing character acting and careful plot structuring, Zanuzzi powerfully evokes the national drama of a self-willed modernism haunted by the irrepressible persistence of a once grand past. Remarkable how much dramatic energy can be conveyed in skilfully used dialogue. The final scene is a magnificently rendered moment of anagnorisis and a powerful climax.

  • LibertyCapz's rating of the film Family Life

    Zanussi returns with another quite intimate realistic drama. A young man, estranged from his family, finally returns home after he receives news of his father's deteriorating health. This film really made me think of the biblical story of Lot's wife, who was turned to a pillar of salt when she looked back at the burning city of Sodom. Whether or not this parallel was deliberate or not is uncertain to me though.

  • josé neves's rating of the film Family Life

    PC. A camera job that prints a gigantic leap from the previous film to this: starting from a fractional variant of the kammerspeil, in which between the space of a dilapidated mansion (or a company's office, as the beginning) and the movements of the actors, flows a camera in permanent travellings with zooms that both densify and distort the feel of a psychodrama in theatrical retraction. Zanussi becomes a composer.

  • Wee Hunk's rating of the film Family Life

    I expected it to say "Based on a play by Tennessee Williams". Such a strange departure from his previous film.

  • Bilouaustria's rating of the film Family Life

    Who knows what Visconti (decadent bourgeoisie) or Bergman (family hatred) could have done with this material but what Zanussi achieves is already impressive. The script is clever, the cinematography and camera work elegant. Whoever you want to be, wherever you are, you simply don´t escape your family (and you can almost watch "Family life" as a horror film). It is where you´re from, who you are. Perverse melancholy.

  • Jasmin Konjic's rating of the film Family Life

    Very mixed about this one. Lots of great things going for it, but the acting was weak and Zanussi didn't manage to make it filmic throughout, despite all of the awesome camerawork. Memorable though, definitely. The story, the house, the production design and costumes... It's like they're from a great movie that's hiding beneath this one.

  • aurkihnowe's rating of the film Family Life

    a decent filmic chamber drama...with a sociological funnybone (politics = sociology)....can i say these first two films in MUBI's Zanussi retrospective kinda went in one mind's eye and out the other? It's not that they're bad movies, it's just that they don't jibe with my tastes so much...still, I'll keep watching, cuz i liked the final scene here....

  • Richard Bolisay's rating of the film Family Life

    Grateful for this introduction to Zanussi's oeuvre. Amazed by how the theatre mixes beautifully with cinematic language (beautiful camera work, mad music, superb production design). Everyone in the cast brings so much emotion to their roles. There is unmistakable depth in their domestic life that mirrors the political strife of its time.

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