A Polish village with a dark secret sets the scene for a thriller based on true events, a film about dark days in Polish history. Aftermath presents the story of two brothers who, despite long-standing quarrels, try to get to the root of the village's conflict.
Maciej Stuhr in Władysław Pasikowski's "Aftermath", photo: Marcin Makowski / Apple Film Production / Monolith Film
Twenty years after leaving Poland, Franciszek (Ireneusz Czop), a worker from Chicago, comes back to his homeland for the first time. He is worried about his brother Józef (Maciej Stuhr), a farmer from a village in the Masurian Lake District who has been pushed aside by the other inhabitants and whose wife and kids have left for the U.S. When Franciszek arrives, he finds out that matzeivahs (Jewish gravestones) with which Józef reconstructed a Jewish cemetery in his fields have angered other villagers. As the brothers attempt to understand the conflict's causes, they discover aspects of their own family history.
According to the journalist Bartosz Staszczyszyn, writing for culture.pl, the director of Aftermath, Władysław Pasikowski, found the right balance in dealing with the topic of Jews murdered by Poles during the Second World War between an attractive form and exactness in relating historical facts. Staszczyszyn considers it an important motion picture with wide public appeal that can influence the way its audience views Polish history. Without stating it explicitly, Aftermath addresses the pogrom in the village of Jedwabne in July 1941. During the German occupation of Poland, at least 340 Polish Jews were massacred there by their Polish neighbors. The film, however, is not a reconstruction of those events and, according to Staszczyszyn, it's a story about "contemporary Poland and the current national consciousness".
The script was written with the help of experts including Barbara Engelking, an associate professor at the Polish Center for Holocaust Research at the Polish Academy of Sciences, and the historical consultant Krzysztof Persak. "When I read the script for the first time, I was very impressed at how all these situations are accurate," said Dr. Persak at a public discussion. "These characters and situations have their prototypes in reality."
It is not the first time the director Pasikowski has mixed cinema with historical issues. In the film Psy / Dogs, he portrayed Poland's difficult transition period at the end of the 1980s. War Demons According to Goi / Demony wojny wg Goi [editor’s translation] in 1998, though less successful, showed the cruelty of the Balkan wars earlier in that decade and smashed the stereotype of the good-natured Polish soldier.
The critic Staszczyszyn, in his review for culture.pl, praises Pasikowski for raising troubled issues of Polish anti-Semitism, but also writes that for viewers familiar with the Jedwabne pogrom, the film's plot may be predictable. This raises the issue of turning a true story into a thriller, even if the film includes brotherly conflict, old wounds and a private investigation, and the sense of a classic Western movie where two good guys fight evil in the world. "Pasikowski knows how to tell a story," Staszczyszyn writes, "he creates an appropriate rhythm, scales the suspense, knows where to accentuate the story while remembering about the length of the next sequences. He knows how to make use of close-ups to create an atmosphere rife with anxiety. He draws on effects from thrillers, horror and crime movies."
Staszczyszyn draws attention to Pasikowski's team, including Allan Starski, who won an Oscar for set design on Schindler's List. In Aftermath, Starski composes sets that unite different historical times, symbolising unhealed wounds and the past's hushed tragedies. Paweł Edelman's cinematography is also praised: "He knows when to go for tight, murky stills and when to let some air into the shot, in Aftermath the camera is alive - it adds dynamic to the sequences that require movement and focuses on details at other times. A good example is the scene of the fire where we see the Jewish tombstones standing in the middle of a burning field."
- Avner Shalev Yad Vashem Chairman’s Award from the Yad Vashem Visual Center at the Jerusalem Film Festival
- Jan Karski Eagle ( Orły ) Award
- Two Eagle Awards from the Polish Film Academy: Best Male Role for Maciej Stuhr and Best Set Design for Allan Starski
- Journalists' Award at the 37th Polish Film Festival in Gdynia
- Aftermath / Pokłosie, Poland, the Netherlands, Russia, Slovakia 2012. Directing and script: Władysław Pasikowski, cinematography: Paweł Edelman, music: Jan Duszyński, set design: Allan Starski, costumes: Małgorzata Braszka, editing: Jarosław Kamiński, sound: Jan Schermer, Bartosz Putkiewicz, Jan Freda. Cast: Ireneusz Czop (Franciszek Kalina), Maciej Stuhr (Józef Kalina), Jerzy Radziwiłowicz, Zuzana Fialová, Andrzej Mastalerz, Zbigniew Zamachowski, Danuta Szaflarska, Jerzy Szymkiewicz, Wojciech Walasik, Anita Poddębniak, Ryszard Ronczewski, Wojciech Zieliński, Radosław Hebal, Filip Pławiak, Lech Dyblik, Tomasz Przybysz, Krzysztof Ogonek, Elżbieta Romanowska, Jan Jurewicz, Marcin Tomczak, Jacek Zabłocki, Robert Matusiak. Production: Apple Film Production, Coproduction: Canal+ Polska. Distribution: Monolith Films. Running time: 107 min.
Sources: based on the article by Bartosz Staszczyszyn for culture.pl, Warsaw Film Festival 2012, Polish Center for Holocaust Research
Editor: Marta Jazowska