Polish director Robert Gliński has spent 35 years making films about socio-political themes in Poland and Germany (Nazi occupation, the collapse of communism, and working-class problems under capitalism), many of which were period pieces or coming-of-age dramas. In 2014, Gliński succeeded to merge his two approaches in adapting Stones for the Rampart, Aleksander Kamiński’s well-known novel about a group of scouts during the Nazi occupation of Warsaw. With his latest film, Be Prepared, the director once again tells a coming of age story, this time focusing on the rise of nationalism.
Gliński’s twelfth feature tells us a story about a group of present-day Polish boy scouts spending their summer camping in a local forest, learning the basic skills of surviving in nature, responsibility, friendship and also about important figures in Polish history. Every year, the camp also welcomes new recruits from less wealthy families outside of Poland: for the latest edition, they end up getting a group of young Nazi hooligans from Ukraine. The peaceful camp suddenly becomes torture for its more virtuous residents, when Polish scout Tomek (Maciej Musialowski) dies under suspicious circumstances. As one of only three people who know of Tomek’s death, senior scout Jacek (Mateusz Wieclawek) must investigate the murder on his own.
Gliński has made a teenage horror-cum-mystery movie with a deeper message, but his good intent has gone wrong in every possible way. Be Prepared combines hand-held footage in black-and-white, as if shot by the scouts themselves, with a more conventional storytelling perspective. The found footage scenes try to get us closer to the characters, bringing horror vibes into the movie. In their imitation of such footage (irrational, shaky camera), these scenes are more irritating than useful in any way.
But the in-film amateur footage is not the only thing that is black and white. Be Prepared is filled with characters that are either good or bad, which in the end doesn't really matter because they are all built on a bunch of stereotypes. Focusing on senior scout Jacek who desperately wants to be authority in the camp, other characters are ignored. Piotr (Michal Wlodarczyk), leader of the hooligans in the camp, appears to be malevolent just for the sake of it, so we never actually get any deeper psychological insight as to what is happening within him. The camp leader is there only to tell scouts (and us, the viewers) the camp rules and there is also a young on-site nurse, Ewa (Magdalena Wieczorek), who serves more as a sexual object than a fully developed character. Other scouts and other hooligans (and some illegal fishermen who are also around) pop up from time to time just to remind us why Jacek, Ewa and Piotr are in the forest.
Maybe the biggest disappointment in the film is the revelation of who killed Tomek (and others, at later points), mostly because the murderer doesn't really get much screen time. The killer is a secondary character that has no real motivation for his deeds, but that doesn't make any difference for Gliński because the whole film is just a stage to say a few thoughts about the rise of right wing politics in the world. Be Prepared takes 90 minutes to express, through dialogue in its final moments, a thought that our biggest enemies don't come from the outside, but rather from within.
FIPRESCI Young Critics Warsaw Project
Călin Boto is a Romanian emergent film critic and the editor-in-chief of Film Menu, a film magazine edited by students of the Film University in National University of Film and Drama in Bucharest (UNATC). He has written articles for several cultural publications such as Dilema Veche,Dissolved Magazine, SUB25 and he coordinates Film Menu’s weekly cineclub. At the moment he’s working on a bachelor's degree on the films and film criticism of Jonas Mekas.
Barbara Majsa was born and raised in Hungary, but currently resides in Sweden and attends Stockholm University for Cinema Studies. She has worked as a journalist since 2009, and has covered several film festivals. Barbara is the managing editor at Cinema Scandinavia, where she interviews film-makers and focuses her work on artistic and cultural products that reflect upon society - films concerning social, societal, economic and political issues.
Yulia Kuzischina is a film journalist, based in Moscow. She studied visual culture at Higher School of Economics and later started to write for two film-related websites, RussoRosso and Kinomania.ru. Currently she also works at a film sales company Ant!pode Sales & Distribution. Her main field of interest is Eastern European cinema.
Tomáš Hudák is a programmer and a film critic based in Bratislava, Slovakia. Programming at independent cultural centre A4 – Space for contemporary culture, which focus on challenging and experimental art, is his main occupation throughout a year. He is also associated with IFF Cinematik in Pieštany, Bratislava IFF, and Film Festival 4 Elements in Banská Štiavnica. Regularly writing for film magazine Kinečko, his texts also appeared in other publications such as Senses of Cinema, Tess Magazine etc. In past, he worked as a film archivist at Slovak Film Institute and his archival research resulted in two papers on local film history.
Daria Badior is a film critic and a Culture Editor of LB.ua, one of Ukraine’s biggest online newspapers. Focuses on writing about contemporary Ukrainian cinema. Also she co-curates a project on LB.ua named Short-list about young Ukrainian filmmakers. Since 2017 takes part in selecting films for Kyiv Film Critics Week, a new film festival held at the end of October. A member of FIPRESCI.
Łukasz Mańkowski Half of the Asian Cinema focused blog ‘Referat Filmowy’, Japanese Studies and Film Theory graduate from Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, specializing in Asian Film. Occasionally photographer, translator and theatre-film journalist who simply loves ramen. Previously member of 5 Flavours Film Festival People’s Jury, FEFF Udine Student Campus and EIFF Student Critics Competition.
TUTORS of FIPRESCI Young Critics Warsaw Project
Yoana Pavlova is a Bulgarian writer, researcher, and programmer currently based in Paris.Her field of work includes cinema, VR, digital culture, and the New East. She is the foundingeditor of Festivalists.com (a playform for experimental media criticism), with bylines fornumerous print and online publications in Bulgarian, English, and French. Contributor to thefollowing books: Cinemas of Paris (2016, St Andrews Film Studies), Eastern Promises (2014,Festival Internacional de Cine de Donostia – San Sebastián), The Bulgarian Nouvelle Vague(2012, Edno).
Tommaso Tocci is based in Italy, where he works as a film critic and translator covering filmfestivals across Europe for international publications. He has also worked for BerlinaleTalents and for the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and he currently serves as Co-Programmer for the Saas-Fee Film Festival in Switzerland.