Jaroslaw, a young philologist, finds out that the academic world is ruled by cowardly conformists. His colleagues are slaves to the dumb, dishonest deputy rector who only cares about his own interests. Jakub, a diabolic professor, makes use of his intellect to manipulate others. He tries to introduce his younger colleague to the secret rules of academic careers. He ruthlessly uproots Jaroslaw's youthful idealism by showing that academic success is often available to those cynical and ruthless rather than those with a true talent. The film is a classic of "moral unrest" cinema. The academic world is a metaphor of the state system where compromise is a necessity that pays off. To compromise, to trade off interests is part of the "life game" played in Poland that time. The director seems to ask: will straightforwardness and honesty always have to lose in the individual's confrontation with society?
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