The Feature Film Competition of the 13th Wisla Festival included 9 new excellent Polish films – films from award-winning directors around the world that were highly appreciated in previous editions of the festival, as well as remarkable debuts.
In the Main Competition we will show the best Polish film of the last year, nominated for an Oscar – The Body of Christ by Jan Komasa. Based on real events, the story of 20-year-old Daniel, who during his stay in an educational colony undergoes a spiritual change and secretly dreams of becoming a priest. His role is beautifully played by Bartosz Belenya, who is considered one of the best actors of the young generation. The Body of Christ is an extremely original project in Polish and European cinema – a daring production that touches on taboos, social division and the complex spirituality of youth.
Dirty political games, moral relativism, and a system that lived at the expense of the weakest – Agnieszka Holland touches on all these important topics in her international film, Mr. Jones, with the skill of a seasoned reporter. The cracks of the Soviet Union fascinate her like a surgeon. She cuts, listens, peeps. The director does this through the eyes of Gareth Jones, played by James Norton. We meet Gareth when he comes to the very heart of the Soviet system – Moscow. The young reporter is interested in interclass relations, as well as in how Soviet ideas of economic development are being implemented. It turns out that under the loud promises and manifestos there is a personal drama of many Ukrainians who become victims of the decaying system. Despite the fact that the film sometimes seems publicistic, the director knows very well where to spice it up with elements of a horror film, and where to add a drop of action.
The next competition picture is a stunning black and white film by Marcin Krzysztalovich, “Pan T.”, with the wonderful role of Pavel Vilchak. Seriousness and absurdity are mixed here with the vivisection of socialist realism and order in post-war Poland. The story of an unemployed writer who clashes with different social strata in Warsaw, from the bottom to the intelligentsia and the political leadership, is kept in black and white colors, although to a greater extent it is a fun satire. The director moves in this era with a nostalgia worthy of a literary critic, but it is up to the viewer to decide with whom to associate the fate of Pan T. from the title of the film. In the communist system, he could be anyone and nobody. Marcin Krzysztalowicz creates the reality that we know from Polish post-war literature, synthesizing in one character the qualities that determined the writers of that time.
In the competition section we will show the “Monument” of Yagoda Shelts. The director decides to strengthen his position as an observer of the disintegration of humanity by presenting the heroes of his film in an atypical setting. A group of students find themselves in a hotel run by an oppressive leader, who from the very beginning gives a name to each gender. So, all the guys become Pavla, and the girls become Ani. Is it a matter of dehumanization here, or, on the contrary, is it about putting faceless characters in a new form? The reproachful gaze of the despot pierces the bodies of the heroes, who are subjected to ever new tests, but the elements of a horror film about teenagers are only an addition to psychoanalysis. This small-budget intimate film proves that the filmmaker is deeply drawn to issues of identity, belonging, gender, and social boundaries. “Monument” makes viewers look at themselves through the prism of the characters, while Yagoda Szeltz calls to do this with the help of shock therapy.
The End of a Sweet Day by Jacek Bortsuch transports us to the picturesque Tuscan landscapes. Maria Linde – into whom Christina Janda easily and first-class reincarnates – is a Polish Nobel laureate, created especially for this novel. Thanks to the painting, we can plunge into the warmth of picturesque Italy, which the operator shows with great tenderness, like the face of the main character. There is room for art, love and passion for a lover much younger than her. Unfortunately, the main character is increasingly moving away both from her own family and from her Polish identity. Fortunately, we have before us not a bitter story about how time slips away, but a brave voice, stigmatizing ossified conventions.
Among the debuts we will show the wonderful drama “Supernova” by Bartosz Kruhlik. The director starts with the details, then moves on to the panorama of the whole society. In a world where people are equal and more equal, and the truth must be made public as soon as possible, otherwise it will mutate, we are looking closely at the three main characters who are in the thick of things. The creation of a nervous, dense atmosphere, as well as public comments, make Krukhlik’s film one of the most interesting debuts in recent years. The director was fluent in the language of the film, and the entourage of famous theatrical actors helped create a cramped but not simplistic set. A perfect example of how minimalism is better than nervous waving and obsessive journalism.
“Iron Bridge” is a half-length debut of Monika Yordan-Mlodzyanovskaya. A dramatic story about three characters entangled in a love relationship. Katzper, who works as a foreman in a mine, has an affair with the wife of his best friend Oscar, also a miner. Katzper assigns Oscar to work in deep and dangerous coal seams so that he has more time for secret meetings with his beloved Magda. One of their rendezvous is interrupted by an accident: Oscar was cut off in a collapsed section of a mine. Lovers join the rescue mission, stricken with guilt. The love they feel won’t help much, as there are too many questions and unresolved decisions in the air.
The next great debut will be the film “Everything for My Mother” by Malgorzata Imelska. A sensitive documentary filmmaker, filming a feature film for the first time, decided to describe two layers of a woman’s existence. This story, inspired by real events, in a universal way tells about two worlds in which we sometimes live at the same time. In one we have before us – little Olya and her idyllic life, and in the second – a correctional institution for women. The viewer composes Olya’s life from increasingly realistic scraps, and her obsession with finding her own mother leads to a painful confrontation with the past. The director brought her empathy from the school of documentary films. The footage, shot by Tomasz Naumyuk, depicts the clash of idyll with brutal frankness, while Zofia Domalik’s muted, low-key acting allows him to enter Olya’s situation. Great, thought-provoking, intimate, but at the same time brutal film, in which there was also a place for hope.
The competition section is closed by the touching drama “Rotten Ears” by Pyotr Dylevsky. The director talks about a relationship that is filled with fear and doubt. Mazhena and Janek visit the lake house to see a specialist in non-traditional therapy for couples. They clearly need help – routine has entered their sex life, and the gap between them, it would seem, only widens. On the spot, it turns out that introspection will be deeper than it seemed before, and this leads to several drastic changes in the plot. In the script by Dylewski and Zelmer, sparks fly from unspoken emotions and misunderstandings, exactly as it actually happens in painful relationships. This kind of cinema usually leads the viewer through the build-up of tensions to catharsis and climax, and if we are looking for them, this film will definitely not disappoint us.
Fans of documentary films will traditionally be offered the documentary Poland block, which consists of 5 beautiful films:
“On Animals and People” by Lukasz Chaika, “Blue Ugly” by Cesarius Grzesiuk, “The Last Mountain” by Dariusz Załuski, “Compulsory Program” by Eva Kochanska and “Symphony of the Ursus Factory” by Jasmina Vujczyk. “About Animals and People” directed by Lukasz Chaika tells about the times of the German occupation on the territory of the Polish zoo, where Jews were hiding. Teresa abińska, many years after these events, thanks to the work of the film crew, returns to the past, getting to know her parents again. In the archival materials we see the image of a married couple who, despite history and the wave of violence, dedicated their lives to saving the innocent. The story goes back to pre-war times, when the abiński family, living in a mansion on the territory of the zoo, still led an idyllic life, which was soon destined to end. However, the German bombs that killed most of the animals were only the beginning of the apocalyptic end. The real test for the heart of Anthony, the elder of the abiński family, was the realization that they could help those who no longer have the strength to scream or run. Meanwhile, a little girl runs carelessly around the zoo, whose relatives are trying to protect three worlds: animals, oppressed and, above all, their souls.
“Blue Outrages” is a kind of tribute to the fans of the team from Chorzów, given by its longtime fan – director Caesar Grzesiuk. Grzesiuk does not hide his love for the club, conducting interviews in front of the camera with other loyal fans of Rukh, including director Kazimierz Kuts and writer Wojciech Kuczok. He asks not so much about their favorite team, but about the essence and meaning of its support by the fans in general. The film was shot over 11 years, during which time the director penetrated into the environment of the fans, in particular, the ultras group and “Psycho-Fans”. On the screen, we will also see the dark side of the fans, or rather what is under the cover of their activities – drug trafficking, robbery and theft.
Documentaries dedicated to the conquest of the heights could become a separate genre of cinema, because they combine not only the best features of the popular science genre, but also the action movie. This is the impression one gets when watching The Last Mountain by Dariusz Załuski, a pure-blooded thriller that tells about the strength of the human spirit and determination that goes beyond common sense. This is the story of the Polish national expedition to K2, which took place at the turn of 2017 and 2018, whose goal was to conquer the second highest peak in the world. At Załuski, the mountains are depicted as a separate character – this is a mythical, almost divine power that invites, and sometimes leaves forever in its sleepy embrace. The language of cinema honors this power, dangerously approaching its mouth, because this is a recording composed of materials from those who have repeatedly tried to curb this power with different results.
“Compulsory Program” by Eva Kokhanskaya is the story of 10-year-old Yulia, daughter of migrants from Ukraine, who is engaged in figure skating. The heroine does not have much time left to achieve success in sports and meet the expectations of the family. After Euromaidan, the Polnyuk family moved from Ukraine to Poland. They start a completely new life in Warsaw without knowledge of the language, good job and money. This year Julia has a chance to take part in the Polish Figure Skating Championship. This could bring her fame and success, and who knows, even help the whole family to acquire Polish citizenship. However, will Julia be able to spread her wings, carrying such a burden on her shoulders?
“Symphony of the Ursus Factory” is the film of the five-year creative and research work of Yasmina Vuychik, in which former employees of the Ursus factory took part. This documentary has a special social value – it provides a collective voice for the local community, which was deprived of it after the closure of the factory. The director uses not only oral interviews, but also body memory, since the former factory workers invited to participate in the film had to reproduce the gestures, actions and sounds associated with their daily work.
During the festival, there will also be a special screening of the documentary film “Ingarden” by Wojciech Szulczyński, dedicated to the Polish philosopher, the creator of the “second phenomenological school” – Roman Ingarden. He studied aesthetics, ontology, the theory of knowledge, ethics and the theory of man. Ingarden received the greatest recognition for the creation of a specific theory of aesthetics and a detailed analysis of the way of existence and construction of a work of art.