Break­ing rules and codes

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE

11 MIN­UTES ★★★ Di­rected by Jerzy Skolimowski. Star­ring Richard Dormer, Wo­j­ciech Mecwal­dowski, Paulina Chapko, An­drzej Chyra, Dawid Ogrod­nik, Agata Buzek. 15A cert, lim­ited release, 82 min

Here’s a tip for as­pir­ing film-makers. What­ever else you do with your ex­per­i­men­tal film, make sure to leave the au­di­ence with a fi­nal star­tling im­age. That will do much to erase mem­o­ries of any ear­lier com­pro­mises or con­fu­sions.

The lat­est film from Jerzy Skolimowski, Pol­ish di­rec­tor of clas­sics such as Deep End and The Shout, has at­tempted a sort of con­tem­po­rary La Ronde. The film seems to think that it all takes place dur­ing the same 11 min­utes in and around a square in War­saw. Oc­ca­sion­ally we half hear di­a­logue in the back­ground that is later clar­i­fied in scenes fo­cus­ing on the speaker. Mys­ter­ies con­cern­ing mo­ti­va­tion are teased out as we walk through sto­ries con­nected by nar­ra­tive strands of var­i­ous thick­ness.

In fact, the film (co-pro­duced by the Ir­ish Film Board) ap­pears to break its own rules on var­i­ous oc­ca­sions. This is worth com­ment­ing on. If your main sell­ing point is a for­mal in­no­va­tion, then you had bet­ter stay true to your own con­ven­tions.

A big­ger prob­lem still is the slip­per­i­ness of the sto­ry­telling. Skolimowski leaves us con­fused as to some of the re­la­tion­ships and much of the story. We can, how­ever, say a few things for cer­tain. Our own Richard Dormer plays an un­trust­wor­thy film-di­rec­tor who has in­vited an ac­tress (Paulina Chapko) to his ho­tel room for an au­di­tion. You can guess where that leads. Else­where in the vicin­ity, a courier just about fails to be caught in fla­grante delicto by his lover’s hus­band. A hot dog ven­dor, the courier’s fa­ther, is re­vealed to have been re­cently re­leased from prison. A plane lands nois­ily. A bird flies into a win­dow and breaks it.

Making some use of found footage, Skolimowski films it all with great in­ven­tion (if no pret­ti­ness) and draws fu­ri­ous per­for­mances from a com­mit­ted cast. De­spite that fine end­ing, we are, how­ever, left feel­ing that the ex­per­i­ment has not quite come off. Seek out Michael Haneke’s Code Un­known for a more con­vinc­ing vari­a­tion on the theme.

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