Breaking rules and codes
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.