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itting an off-the-charts level of subversive allegory, Zulawski’s second feature is a blood-splattered rampage through a war-charred 1790s Poland that turns the historical epic inside out, and dances on its carcass. Immediately banned in the director’s Communist Poland for over a decade and a half, The Devil writhes with nonstop demonic energy as it follows an nobleman who, after escaping from prison, swandives into insanity and mass murder. Returning home to his once-rich family — one now reduced to savages — and manipulated by a black-cloaked Satanic stranger at the center of a web of political treachery, the nobleman eventually enacts a Hamlet-like pyrrhic revenge on just about everyone in sight. But The Devil’s most spectacularly intense violence is all emotional, with near-constant outbursts of grief, and desperation of a seizure-like intensity that is downright mesmerizing. — The Cinefamily

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