Premiering on American television on December 29, 1981, From a Far Country: Pope John Paul II was originally an Italian/British coproduction, made in cooperation with Film Polski. Actually, we see very little of the Pope -- in fact, John Paul II (played by Cezary Morawski) is not yet in his papal robes when we first meet him as a Polish youth of the 1930s named Karol Wojtyla. Director Krzysztof Zanussi adopts a liquid style that is part Ashes and Diamonds, part Citizen Kane. The maturation of Karol during the Nazi occupation is for the most part relayed through the reminiscences of his friends and family (played by an international cast). For its American TV showing, 40 of the film's original 140 minutes were trimmed. Through an unforeseeable coincidence, From a Far Country: Pope John Paul II was first telecast the same week in 1981 that a major political crisis broke out in Poland.