Jacek Bromski presents a simple and unpretentious story and then has great fun playing around with conventions - not just comedic ones, strongly supported by the actors, many of whom come from the Białystok Puppet Theatre.
This is the filmmakers' third visit to Królowy Most, a little town in the Podlasie region where people live among unspoiled nature, profess the simplest of moral codes - to live in harmony with God, and have a soft pronunciation associated with Poland's historical eastern borderlands (but also with Sylwester Chęciński's memorable Sami swoi
/ Our Folks film triptych). Nobody is ever in a hurry, everyone has time for other people. The enchanting Królowy Most really exists, it's not far from Białystok. Whether it's really governed by an equilibrium of body and spirit, law and custom, nature and culture, will remain the director's secret. On screen, it appears as a model of harmony and co-existence of different religions and nationalities, an idyllic and friendly place where travellers from a different world are welcome. But woe betide the person who tries to disrupt the town's peace - they will be ruthlessly driven out. If, on the other hand, they accept the local rules, they are safe - they will settle in quickly and be absorbed by the local community.
Jacek Bromski's first visit to Królowy Most was recorded on camera in 1998. The film U Pana Boga za piecem (In Heaven as It Is on Earth) was a story about provincial Poland 10 years after the political transformation of 1989 - not a theme from mainstream Polish cinema. In those days, nobody else covered such issues, filmmakers were focused on adaptations of school required reading or looking for ways to tweak Hollywood patterns so they'd work in Polish reality. There was a marked lack of voices asking if we were prepared for what was about to happen - integration with Europe within the EU. Bromski's film, based on a screenplay by Tadeusz Chmielewski (hiding behind the pen-name Zofia Miller), answered this question with shrewdness, prudence, and humour. It showed a locality seemingly backward, seemingly very distant from the problems of the world and Poland, but actually very much in the current of what is the most important - faith, hope, and love. After all, does anything else really matter? - Bromski asked, suggesting that in the everyday rush which has become a sign of our times, we all too often forget this important triad. Visit number two, U Pana Boga w ogródku (God's Little Garden, 2007) based on the director's own screenplay, seemed primarily to be a test of Jacek Bromski's aptitude for comedy, as a filmmaker skilled at merging genres but above all a smart observer of the surrounding reality, also gifted with an unusual sensitivity to audience expectations. It was also an assessment of the durability - and scope - of the ongoing changes: the residents of Królowy Most experience them at every step, but they don't give in - they remain themselves in the most positive sense of the expression. Furthermore, in confrontation with the outside world such an attitude, though it seems backward from afar, from close up becomes proof of maturity - also in social terms.
The third film, U Pana Boga za miedzą / God's Little Village, is exactly about such social maturity. The situation in the town is the same: the residents benefit from the changes, but seem to display moderation in their drive towards the big world. To the extent that an attempt to conduct an American-style election in Królowy Most is a disaster: an overly aggressive election campaign ends in the candidate's defeat because his rival resorts to similar tactics. The political game turns into a personal argument involving legally and morally questionable methods. The town needs a manager - or rather a sheriff who will take control and end the chaos. A sheriff does appear, though from the least probable direction. All this is thanks to the local parish priest who rules people's hearts and minds in Królowy Most and resolves all of his parishioners' most difficult moral problems.
Jacek Bromski presents a simple and unpretentious story and then has great fun playing around with conventions - not just comedic ones, strongly supported by the actors, many of whom come from the Białystok Puppet Theatre. The most interesting thing, though, seems to be the simple metaphor contained in this story. If we assume that Królowy Most and the issues its residents find important embodies Poland and the processes occurring here, we will notice that many of Bromski's observations are true not just at the provincial level.
- U Pana Boga za miedzą / God's Little Village, Poland 2009. Screenplay and director: Jacek Bromski, cinematography: Ryszard Lenczewski, music: Ludek Drizhal, set design: Magda Widelska-Władyka, costumes: Małgorzata Obłoza, sound: Jan Freda, editing: Wojciech Mrówczyński. Cast: Krzysztof Dzierma (Father Antoni), Andrzej Zaborski (Henryk, the police chief), Wojciech Solarz (Marian Cielęcki, the police chief's son-in-law), Emilian Kamiński (Jerzy Bocian), Małgorzata Sadowska (Halinka, his wife), Grzegorz Heronimski (the American), Agnieszka Kotlarska (Marina Chmiel), Ryszard Doliński (Śliwiak), and others. Production: Studio Filmowe Oko - TVP S.A. - WFDiF - Vision. Co-financed by: Polish Film Institute. Distribution: Vision. Length: 110 min. Released on 19 June 2009.
Author: Konrad J. Zarębski, June 2009.