The Evil, the Ocean of Stupidity and a Drop of Hope

in 28th Warsaw International Film Festival

by Andrzej Fogler

The Warsaw Grand Prix went to the Belgian-French-Luxembourgian film ”Tango libre”, directed by Frédéric Fonteyne. It is the well-told story of a thirty-year-old woman who seems to get on very well with men, especially with those in jail. It is seen from the perspective of a shy, average man who is in love with her. This man meets her at dance classes and they learn how to dance the tango. Such a dance demands the woman’s subordination to her male partner. But when the tango becomes “libre”, free, it is a completely different kind of dancing… Most of the jail scenes were shot in Poland.

Happily Poland had much more to offer here than just the walls of a prison. First of all, Andrzej Jakimowski was awarded as the best director for his interesting film ”Imagine”. His film was also named the audience choice. Imagine is the touching story of a blind instructor who teaches a group of visually impaired patients how to spatially orientate themselves by using their imagination rather than sensory perception.

The critics making up the FIPRESCI jury awarded Russian film ”The Daughter” (”Doch”) by Aleksandr Kasatkin and Natalya Nazarova. This is a murky picture of boring existence in a small town, full of acts of extreme despair and pathetic attempts to make everything more attractive by drinking to excess and provoking conflicts. The only person who wants to cure this ugly world is an evidently sick man who simply starts killing drunk teenage girls, thinking that in this way he can separate his daughter from the mob. There is also a priest torn between the necessity of keeping the murderer’s confession secret and the natural need to stop the dangerous criminal. Joining this gallery of ambiguous characters is a young and ambitious public prosecutor who brutally lynches the mentally diseased murderer of his sister.

But there is a pure dewdrop in this gutter: two young, innocent people of great value, a couple of teenagers who may stay together and live their life without the piteous false support of nicotine and alcohol.

The problem of people addicted to alcohol and smoking is enriched by adding gambling and drug addicts in an interesting Czech film ”Flower Buds” (”Poupata”) by Zdenek Jiráský. It’s set in just another small town and boring life without prospects. Most people surrender and accept the misery there, but others try to do something sensible to change their quality of life. Jiráský uses this background to portray the disintegration of a particular family caused mostly by the irresponsibility of a gambling father.

The award for the best debut went to Hungary for Sára Cserhalmi’s film ”Dear Betrayed Friends” (”Drága besúgott barátaim”). The young filmmaker shows the very prickly problem of collaboration with the secret police in an era of totalitarianism in Eastern Europe. Years ago, a certain man was forced to inform on his friends to a police agent. Fast-forward to current times, and one of these friends finds out, and writes about the whole thing in the paper. Rejected and molested by the media, the past informer asks a provocative question: is a blackmailed person who was forced to write reports on his friends worse than someone who does the same thing of his own free will? We watch a miserable, old and very seriously ill man and a group of his former friends – victims who appear to live in comfort, but we know that the reality is different… A little manipulation? In the end, however, the real evil of those days is revealed: a prosperous former secret police officer, a man with no scruples, who now has fun playing his sick games with all the others.

The jury of the Free Spirit Competition awarded black comedy ”Modest Reception” (”Paziraie sadeh”), by Mani Haghighi from Iran. Here a couple of rich people are having fun playing idiotic and amoral games with only one purpose: to humiliate as many poor people as possible. And another story, this time from the Colombian jungle, was awarded by the ecumenical jury. Spanish-French-Colombian production ”Operation E” (”Operación E”), by Miguel Courtois Paternina, involves cocaine, terrorism, political rivalry and a poor farmer who only wants some safety for his family – another fight for a drop of something good in the cruel world.

Evil has always attracted the cinema. But what seems to be quite new on such a large scale is the fascination of many more filmmakers than ever with something very close to evil. Albert Einstein once said that there are two things completely unlimited and infinite: the universe and people’s stupidity. It looks as if more and more filmmakers today are concentrating on this second thing…

Edited by Carmen Gray