After a warm reception for The Gambler, Ignas Jonynas´ second distinctive feature film Invisible brings to the screen another morality-like drama flirting with the thriller genre. A puzzle-style narration generating some intense performances, experimenting with various artistic disciplines and some strong framing manage to keep the viewer engaged. The film, however, fails to stick the landing in the final act.
In the opening scenes, the audience is presented with storylines seemingly unconnected to each other. Jonas, a man with an unknown past, longs for success with his unique dance performances, failing until he decides to pretend to be blind. The ruse makes him an attractive commodity for the producers of a TV talent show. He has several flashbacks to the past, but the causality stays unclear until the conclusion. Vytas, meanwhile, also with an unknown past, is released from jail and starts a new life.
The step-by-step revelation of how the stories are related is visually and formally stimulative. The short, intense dance numbers combine with the impressive direction, often framing characters from the back or the front of cars. The theatrical staging of Jonynas can be quite obvious in some scenes, but he deserves credit for playing around with intermediality. The combination of dance, theatre play and short videos makes the middle section more visually forceful than merely spectacular.
The connection between the two men turns out to be a romantic dispute which accidentally claimed the life of a woman in the past. While Jonas kept his freedom and seemed able to overcome the incident, even starting a new relationship with his dancing partner, Vytas was arrested and left only with his anger.
Everything that so far seemed sophisticated about the visual form and the narrative is just revealed as simplistic in light of the revelation. The screenplay just runs out of ideas, failing to fulfill the film‘s ambition to show the grip that media can have on people and on their personal struggles. However, the visuals are impressive enough to satisfy a wide audience.
After several impressive shorts, the director Matej Bobrik has the premiere of his feature-length documentary debut at Warsaw International Film Festival. Our Little Poland contains all basic features of his previous work, including the observation of a small community, often far from the centre of vivid social life and society, a humorous tone and forceful camera with contrasting tendencies. This time, he observes Japanese students of the Polish language and culture in Tokyo, who are preparing for a drama performance.
This mumblecore-inspired documentary concerns many social themes and combines them in a balanced and creative formal way. Young people's troubles make us smile sometimes, but their visions of the world are, in fact, a more serious theme. It's not just about cultural differences between Japanese and Polish culture, there are also more global issues, like the young female perspective of the future or living the life of your dreams instead of being one of the metro-travelling zombies from the corporations.
Making a play with the character of Nicolas Copernicus or the audiotapes listened to during lectures don't just play a background role in the documentary. They also have a symbolic significance, reflecting the themes the students are talking about their during lunch breaks. We can find contrasts between Tokyo and Poland in the way of living, there is also an impressive symbolic camera, that also finds contrasts - such as that between a passing metro and blossom trees swaying. But Our Little Poland shows, that our inner world does not depend on our nationality – as human beings, we cope with similar problems, especially when we are young.