EtherAs he approaches his 80th birthday, distinguished Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Zanussi
shows little sign of letting up. Although his reputation in wider cinephile culture has diminished somewhat since a remarkably febrile period in the 1970s and 80s (several films from which were seen in last year’s retrospective on Mubi
), Zanussi remains an ambassador for his nation’s cinema internationally, in an esteemed triumvirate alongside dearly departed colleagues Krzysztof Kieslowśki and Andrzej Wajda
.Zanussi’s latest film, pre-First World War drama Ether, premiered at the Rome Film Festival in October and continues the director’s recent interest in examining the structures of power and our relationship to religion. In something of a warping of the stereotypical “Zanussoid” protagonists for which he originally became famous—young, scientifically-inclined men searching for meaning, often in a hostile world—Ether follows a doctor using morally questionable means to pursue his studies into the oppressive potential of the eponymous chemical.