Sunday, 27 April 2014

Pod Mocnym Aniołem – film review

If you have ever wondered what amount of filth a director can squeeze into a single film and your supposition was ‘finite’, watching the most recent Wojtek Smarzowski’s film (literally titled ‘Under the strong angel’; the title should tell you nothing) should put you straight. And if watch the fifth consecutive film directed by the same guy and the filth is dosed up copiously, it simply bores you stiff. Mr Smarzowski’s first film, ‘Wesele’, was a wry and brilliant depiction of shortcomings of parochial, provincial Poland. “Dom zły’ niftily took viewers back to the dark side of Poland in late 1970s and during the martial law. I found ‘Róża’ tedious and gave up on watching it around the middle. In ‘Drogówka’ the director and screenwriter (both roles fulfilled by Mr Smarzowski in the flesh) went over the top and the newest film, which premiered early this year, is another example of overkill, suggesting it is time to draw a line.

Having read the first reviews, I resolved not to bother to watch it in the cinema and put back the moment I familiarise with the film until it is available online. Watching such abhorrent film at home gives a tremendous comfort of being able to pause or stop playing or omitting some scenes if in need and an even bigger comfort of not having to observe reactions of audience, spanning from hissing in disgust to outbursts of uncontrollable chuckling.

Mr Smarzowski’s films are featured with unique naturalistic style, something I have grown fed up with. How many times can you watch crass intercourses (easily recognisable, as the couple always make characteristic moves and moan)? What is the pleasure in seeing inebriated folks urinating, defecating or throwing up uncontrollably and then still wearing grimy clothes? Is it necessary to watch several similar scenes in which delirium-stricken alcohol addicts quiver? Too much off-putting form, too little substance, plausibly intended to leave the viewers shell-shocked…

Denying the film the substance is unfair, although at times a viewer can wonder whether the film has a coherent plot. The plot, at times moving on without rhyme or reason and its patchiness reflects perception of reality by a compulsive drinker. The world is seen with eyes of people whose lives have been ruined by alcohol and the picture is dejecting.

For the sake of fairness, it has to be underlined not only craving for alcohol can make people stoop very low. Each and every compulsion: drugs, gambling, shopping, computer games and all other, can be turn an addict’s and their relatives’ lives upside down. Each spoils relationships, deprives of money, destroys careers and reputation. So why alcohol?

Because it has always been a part of Polish identity. Tipples have been with Poles when they were happy and when they were sad, in moments of glory and in moments of despair, Alcoholic drinks have come in useful in celebrating successes and in drowning sorrows. Teetotallers as a matter of principle were dubious, accused of being sneaks. Alcohol has added courage and has helped break the ice; helped to hit it off and let go inhibitions. This appeal made it indispensable for addicts…

Some of the guests of film’s premiere in January 2014 declared they feel like not reaching out for alcohol any more. I find such reactions excessive. Alcohol, as many other stuff, if used in small amounts and infrequently, does little harm. As long as you do not sit behind the wheel when intoxicated, can control what you do and remember what you have done (and do not regret doing it) and your body does not signal you have drunk too much, everything is in the proper order.

Oddly enough, Mr Smarzowski’s films, despite oozing with muck, are generally praised and receive favourable reviews and good publicity. The chap beyond all doubt is gifted and has guts to tackle gruelling topics in his films, but if all of them have so akin murky setting and in form are akin to one another, at some stage one can be sick of it… Despite the general dislike for recent creations of the uncanny director, I cannot pledge not to watch his next film. No matter how repugnant it is, I will probably not resist the temptation to see it out of sheer curiosity. But for heaven’s sake, may the next film contain more substance and diminish in form…

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