Father, Son, and Complicated Social Relationships

in 60th Mannheim-Heidelberg International Film Festival

by Wassim Korbi

This session of the festival has witnessed an interest in youth cinema and enabled us to discover rising talents that will have an imprint on the future in regards to cinematic creativity. The most important aspects that can be noted are the intellectual characteristics and aesthetic profiles that characterized a lot of films within diverse experimental contexts. Besides these, also particularly conspicuous were films focusing on the tragic side of life and the complexity and interrelatedness of relationships.

While social relations characterized lots of films, with tragic aspects that underlined the darker side of life, other films dealt with romance, joy and hope. Among the films that came to attention was Fear of Falling, by the Polish director Bartosz Konopka. The film is about a young man, (Tomek Janicki), a television journalist who lives happily in Warsaw with his wife Ewa. However, his sick father who was absent for years asks him to come because his health has deteriorated; but seeing him reveals a tense relationship between them. Tomek tries to get him out of his situation but his attempts end up failing. Tomek is waiting impatiently for his first baby, while his father’s condition is getting better. What could be transpired from this film is that it attempts to deal with schizophrenia; mental disturbances and hallucinations related to reality and coupled with mixed thoughts. In the film, mental illness meets social disease which is reflected by an inability to communicate, and that made the hero confused because of the spiritual distance between him and his father in the maternal absence. The film is mainly based on the contrast. In terms of subject, there is a persisting between the happiness in the marital relationship between Tomek and Ewa, and the sadness and pain that appears in the non-communication with the sick father and his wife’s absence. And in terms of filming construction, what distinguishes this film is the fact that the plot was built from the beginning to strangely increase in intensity almost to the middle. And then it starts to detente through symbolic birth related to improvement in the father’s health situation, to end up with hope being depicted through the appearance of the father figure in a different way with his changing (cleaner) appearance and clothes. The film was full of earnings and implications, which reminds us of the Polish cinematic school.

The director adopted some technical methods that increased the beauty of the picture, as well as the distribution of notable scenes that served the psychological crisis of the characters and drew attention to the foreignness of the soul and situations of wandering, and it was also the same in depicting isolation and openness. Besides, the film was rich with meanings created by the technique, as well as reliance on ‘fields against fields’ that highlights the tense relationship, which is also the same case when illustrated by the adorably adopted montage. As for decoration, the snapshots of the room filled with remote control and the large number of television echoes, came on to increase the dissimulation of the meaning and the beauty of the picture and notion. Besides, the mirror represented a symbol of self-hatred and severe psychological contracts. This film was not only interested in the psychological contract, but also returned us through flashback technique to the nostalgia of memories which was retrieved in order to decrease the severe brutality played so ably by the father. The director Bartosz Konopka dealt with complicated social issues reflecting our real-life anxiety in the middle of many ramifications and contrasts created by life itself, but his attitude shows that the end of the film represents the infinite hope, so in this context he says “you chase the love of your father/son but it is never possible to fulfil. There are so many dualisms: past and present, good and evil, man and woman and many others in the same time. The art of life is how to balance them. My film deals with it”.

Fear of Falling is from a legacy of Polish youth cinema raised in prestigious cinematic schools, and many films projected at the 60th session of the Mannheim festival have dealt with various social issues, in a time surrounded by anxiety, and by asking questions that cinematographers are trying to answer for through their creativity in order to respond to the reality and expectations of the citizen.