Matriarchy in the East
While the title may be misleading, Magnesium (Magnezja, 2020), directed by Maciej Bochniak, is rather about an unavoidable malign magnetism to gold and power, set around 1920, where contracts are usually sealed in blood – this is the far far east, after all. Bochniak follows more than one trail – the gargantuan ascension of a matriarchy of drug dealing at the border between the Polish and the Soviets, led by Rose Levenfish (Maja Ostaszewska), at times trying to push boundaries with the sly, toothless soviets. Nearby, in a shredded city, the “local mutants”, two inseparable brothers, Albert (Dawid Ogrodnik) and Albin (Mateusz Kosciukiewicz) bear their disease with dignity; their worst nightmare is that they will be separated by death, their sweetest dream is getting baptised and leaving the city for good.
There’s no such thing as a protagonist in this tragicomedy, but an organism that serves as a whole: everyone is callous, emotionless and, up to a point, extremely cynical. As Rose Levenfish’s domain gets even bigger, cracks are starting to appear and everyone wants to steal from them. They aren’t a strong matriarchy, after all – by the end of the night, stiff bodies will fill the cursed borderlands, but not before they’ll confess their darkest secrets.
Bochniak takes inspiration from American westerns; his golden-colored, exoticised, crowdpleasing feature, with triumphalist score and Hollywoodian-style fights covers most of the clichés of the genre, but adds some outrageous representations. In this congested western, one of the Levenfish sisters is actually played by a man (Borys Szyc) in prosthetic breasts; she is the lesser sister just because she is considered ugly.
Moreover, all the scenes of intercourse are gratuitious, included just for the sake of showing how soviets rape women, how one of the inseparable brothers can have sex with a woman while the other is present. The denouement of this charade is evidently ridiculous and disrespectful even by caricature standards.
© FIPRESCI 2020
Edited by Amber Wilkinson
The Warsaw Critics Project 2020
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Matriarchy in the East