A Warsaw prostitute gets a second chance at love and life in the countryside, but throws it tragically away, taking a young peasant boy with her. Original title: Cham
Uneven Franco-Polish melodrama. It begins well, with violence: our prostitute, Franka, gets harassed, beaten by her pimp; another woman comes to her rescue; together, they fight him off, flee into a building; pimp follows, the trio scamper up a long staircase; then, tragedy—a push sends the Samaritan-woman falling to her death. In the hospital, a doctor offers Franka a way out: a house servant job in the country, which she accepts. Removed from the ugliness and debauchery of the city, Franka meets and romances a handsome fisherman, Paul. They marry. Scenes of their budding romance are the film’s best. What follows is more familiar: Franka gets bored with her new rural existence, and relapses into past habits. First, she runs away, back to Warsaw, where she works a nightclub and is strong-armed into “keeping” [male] company she doesn’t want to keep. When she returns, she wants to poison herself; but Paul stops her. She starts to flirt. Finally, she is found out by the whole village while having a roll in the hay with another man. Paul whips her, but saves her from an angry mob. He takes her home and locks her up, tells her to make dinner. She makes soup—which she poisons! Paul has a few spoonfuls, falls ill. A bruhaha ensues, during which someone finds the poison and discovers the truth. Alone together, Paul tells Franka he forgives her (“like I would a bitch”). Franka, however, cannot forgive herself. The next morning, she drowns herself. Paul survives, and as he and the rest of the villagers stand on the banks of the river, he spots Franka’s white slip floating, sinking. Earlier, to get his attention, she’d thrown it purposefully into the water for him to save. Now, as those scenes play superimposed over shots of waves rolling over water, he mournfully remembers; he cannot save her again. It’s quite moving.
Jan Nowina-Przybylski, 1931