Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Drunk, hopeless and compelling: A short guide to a collective suicide in a good style. Polish docs @ Open City Festival in London.

Watching Polish films with foreign public always makes me feel uneasy. I hate this weird fear of finding myself in the position of having to act as a translator of what might have been lost in (often beyond verbal) translation . I hate this terrible moment when somebody nods with politeness and I know that he/ she has no clue whatsoever of what I (or the film) are talking about.

Needless to say, the potential embarrassment is even bigger, when it’s about films that I have not seen. And that is the case with the Polish shorts we are bound to see. With bunch of friends, artsy London crowd and skeptical and slightly hangovered Tadek (this detail will prove important later on).

Just on a footnote, a night before five of my six friends leave the cinema during the Czech screening of the film called Cinema-therapy. Gunes, who almost made it till the end, told me later that she had stayed so long as did not want to leave me alone.

My slavic soul already cries.

Anyway, here we are, I take a deep breath ...

The first film, is called, The Forth Man and tells a story of a guy who works in a deep forest in Bieszczady (end of the world sort of place), works not really to make a living of his work, but to make a drinking.... (denaturat it was). Soon we realize that alcohol is important in forgetting and reliving what our character cannot deal with ... the story of the fourth man, his son .... (can’t say what happens cause this is a proper film review!) To this beautifully depressing setting arrives a black guy, a medicine student as we learn, who needs money to continue studies and .... obviously Bieszczady is the first to go ...

Tadek whispers to me, that if the next one will be about alcohol he will cut his vains...

The next one, Out of Reach tells a story of sisters from Ruda Slaska, abandoned by their mother at childhood and disenchanted by their ignorant father. In the desperate strive for warm and family they decide to find their mother hoping or wanting to hope that this time she will act like a proper mother ...

At which point I am searching in my bag for antidepressants ...

Third film, The Doghill, tells a story of shepherds in Tatry mountains, who, surrounded by nature in its full sexual exposure with constantly copulating sheeps, dogs and horny cows, talk about their women who remain down in the valley ... yet, there are some existential forces that prevent them from getting down to see their wives and overcome own loneliness .

At this point I promise to my friends (who are - surprisingly- still around) that the last film owill surely be joyful and fun. I completely do not believe in what I am saying.

Fourth film, Honeymoon starts at a marriage ceremony (this is a good sign, gloria, I think). The place looks doggy and the braid’s dress cheap, but there are some signs of happiness. The joy does not last long as we soon realize that we are in the prison and soon after the ceremony the happy couple splits, the wife, back to her cell, the husband back to the Polish ‘normal life’ which appears to be driving him inevitably to pathology with sea of hopelessness, bureaucracy and vodka around

All of the films are actually very good ones. It is just that they are terribly sad. Interesting also, how from London perspective they all look actually quite similar. There is this overriding sense of melancholy in them. Life is an existential struggle and hope does not come easy. And there are characters that live the life as it is, that face the conflicts, do bad things (mostly alcohol related) and struggle. And somehow the seem to be grand in their own humiliation. And the dark sense of humor that exposes the everlasting pessimism, where vodka is the only cure.

These are not the films to enjoy. They tell local and at times provincial stores. In a sense I cannot find many more examples that would be a harsher opposition to British popular culture with the ‘life can only get better’ taste. Even their poetics and style is damn difficult and demanding for the non Slavic public. Yet, they are surprisingly universal and compelling

We leave the cinema and 60 minutes after we still talk about images what we had seen. Gosh, Poles are painful! Sometimes one needs painful.