Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Aftermath (Poklosie)

I've always had a particular affinity for the Poles. Maybe becaue it seems like whenever there's a war in Europe, the Germans go through Poland, slaughtering as they go, and then when they're beaten back by the Russians, the Russians go back through Poland and they slaughter everyone they can.

Maybe it's because of Lech Walesa. Amazing guy.

Or maybe it's just all the Polock jokes from when I was a kid. They seemed like an affable bunch, if not too bright. (There isn't really a noticable Polish community here so to me "Polock" jokes could've been about Martians.)

Aftermath is a completely different take on how things went down in Poland in WWII, even though it takes place in modern times (ca. 2000). This is actually a great film, in the sense that it tackles a serious subject head on, but never forgets to be a movie. So interleaved in the tidbits about Polish history is a thriller, mystery, suspense and even ghost story.

The setup is that a Frank, a Polish man living in America has returned to Poland (after decades) to talk to his brother Joe. Seems his sister-in-law and her children showed up in Chicago after leaving Joe, who has been acting erratically. Frank wants to find out why.

Frank learns that the village blames Joe for pulling up the stones that make the roads to and from the village. Joe doesn't really want to talk about it. He's not exactly friendly with Frank, who didn't show up for their parents' funerals, and has been completely out of contact in America.

When Frank does find out the mystery of the stones, the story doesn't end there. More questions are raised. The people in the village get angrier and angrier. Only the village priest stands between Joe and Frank, and angry villagers (you don't get a lot of angry villagers these days), and he's frankly not looking too healthy.

Ultimately, you end up with an indictment of Poles (at least these Poles) that I have never seen portrayed anywhere, and which is apparently based on true events. Enough so to get the movie banned in parts of Poland.

Also, writer/director Wladislaw Pasikowski unflinchingly tells us that, not only did it happen, nothing's really changed since WWII. That's unfortunate, if true, and very chilling in the context of the film.

I'm not revealing much because it really does work as a mystery and a thriller, and possibly the best mystery/thriller we saw this year (2013). It's a shame no one will see it outside of film festivals and limited art house runs.

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