People of the Empty Spaces

Exploration of a “social problem”: Warsaw’s disaffected, alienated, bored youth. Original title: Ludzie z pustego obszaru


Marred by a stale voice-over but rescued by excellent cinematography / editing, Karabasz’ early effort is at once startlingly good and genuinely groan-worthy. Certainly, the way the camera follows its youthful stragglers is energetic (a late scene in which we attend a jivin’ house-party is a gem) and the way the film is cut always effective and sometimes ambitious (the build-up to a grim shot of a girl’s dead body found in the Vistula heeding neither geography nor chronology, but mood); at the same time, however, the narrator keeps repeating such banalities! This tension between words and images may be intentional, of course, but I doubt it. Most likely, it’s context—historical and personal—that makes my interpretation clash with the narrator’s slogans. Where he sees boredom and lack of initiative (caused by a failure of ideology, is the suggestion), I see a good time: loitering around football stadiums, playing cards, shooting the breeze over cigarettes and pumpkin seeds—seems like the good life to me. Or maybe I just have a high tolerance for being bored and doing nothing, a deep wish to be left alone. But what is it that these “people of the empty spaces” want? I say: nothing: no help, no interference. Then again, perhaps that’s exactly what makes them so dangerous. Every ideology wants believers and needs enemies (revolution craves counter-revolution); what it can’t stomach is the person who shrugs his shoulders and says, “who cares?”

People of the Empty Spaces seep through banal sentences.

Kazimierz Karabasz & Władysław Ślesicki, 1957


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