The teenage girl, Ewa is first seen confessing and warned about having any impure thoughts or feelings. Her family has boarders and one day a young man, Lukasz moves in and they fall in love. He is trying to get a divorce but is denied by local church people. They live together after he is wounded in a duel, and then he takes off for Rome to get a divorce. She has a child and drowns it. She hears that he has been imprisoned in Rome so she goes there only to find out that he has been released. In her wanderings through France and Germany she finds out that her lover has married a rich woman and gone back to Poland. She gets involved with two con men who use her to trap Lukasz. They make her invite Lukasz so that they can rob him. When they are making love, she tries to kill Lukasz by injecting drug but he does not die. She runs off and sinks into prostitution back in the old country. She is helped by an utopian rich man but the con men reappear, trying to use her as a lead to Lukasz. …
User Reviews: Anyone who thinks of Walerian Borowzyk as a purveyor of upmarket smut for the wet raincoat brigade (Immoral Tales, The Beast, La Marge) is in for a shock if they see Story of Sin. A tragic 19th century romance, based on a Polish literary classic, it’s in the grand ‘woman destroys herself for love’ tradition of Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Anna Karenina or Madame Bovary…although our heroine Ewa (Grazyna Dlugolecka) has a more eventful life than all three of those ladies combined! The sheltered daughter of an impoverished and decaying noble family, she moves from illicit passion with a married man to infanticide, prostitution and murder.
Yet if the details of Ewa’s story are sensational, Borowczyk’s handling of them never is. The sex and nudity are brief and oblique – all the more powerful for being conveyed in sharp flashes of visual poetry. At their first meeting, Lukasz (Jerzy Zelnik) glimpses Ewa’s corset as it hangs, discarded, on a bedpost. In one night-time encounter, the couple make love in a horsedrawn cab, lit by bursts of lightning from an oncoming storm. In the most famous image, Ewa lies alone on her bed – her naked body strewn with rose petals from a bouquet Lukasz has sent in secret. Reminders, if any are needed, that Borowczyk has the most ravishing erotic eye this side of von Sternberg.
For both these directors, the censorship imposed by a Puritanical regime – the Production Code in 30s Hollywood, Communism and the Catholic Church in 70s Poland – forced overt sexuality off the screen and into the (well-trained) imagination of the audience. Rather than focus on boobs, bums and ‘money shots,’ Borowczyk suffuses his whole screen with stifled eroticism and tragic passion. Most likely his masterwork, Story of Sin not only evokes memories of Sternberg and Ophuls, but can sit comfortably on the classics shelf beside them.
And nary a masturbating nun or ejaculating monster in sight…