After a four-year gap Juliusz Machulski returned to filmmaking with a 'timeless comedy' - a film that brings together romance and fantasy while being set at the end of the year 1999, when fear of the 2K computer problem pervaded the world, and so dealing with very real interpersonal relations, individual behaviours and historical facts.
In short, Ile waży koń trojański? (How Much Does the Trojan Horse Weigh?) is a tale of emotions. The forty-year-old Zosia and her second husband, Kuba, raise Zosia's daughter from her first marriage. Zosia is a happy, fulfilled woman with a loving partner and a daughter who loves the stepfather. Still, something is lacking: Zosia is tormented by the question why she could not have met Kuba earlier. Then one day she wakes up at the side of Darek, her first husband, a dozen or so years earlier. This is a unique opportunity: to get divorced sooner and find - and marry - Kuba. But then if she fulfils her plan, her beloved daughter Florka will not be born and the happiness will not be the same. And so Zosia will need to manage things so as to part with Darek when she is already with his child (even though yet unborn), and this will take a good deal of maneuvering.
Machulski is too experienced a director to miss a chance to show off his comic flair. His heroine moves cleverly towards her goal, supporting on the way her girlfriends who had helped her during her marriage to Darek. The plot construction and dialogues of Ile waży koń trojański? represent a gold standard of the sentimental aspect of a romantic comedy - with one difference, though: the film's humour is brilliantly intelligent, a thing which is rare in this genre. But Machulski's picture has another layer: a social, if not a historical, one, showing Poland of a dozen years before 1999, with its Soviet-patterned, ideologically and economically flawed system. Zosia's first husband, Darek, proves a petty slick operator who has ensconced himself comfortably within the system's crevices. Shrewd, resourceful and devoid of any class whatsoever, he stays in stark contrast with his rival, Kuba, a talented filmmaker who scores his first successes which are, however, consumed by his wife. In the course of a dozen years Darek will not change at all while Kuba will flourish. As for Zosia, her pursuit of happiness will make her mature, though not at once.
As almost everything has changed over the last twenty years, it is a real challenge to make a film which is set in communist Poland, yet Machulski has succeeded in reviving the spirit of those times. He has been greatly helped by the superb cast, including Ilona Ostrowska as Zosia, the excellent-as-usual Robert Więckiewicz as Darek and the debutant Maciej Marczewski as Kuba the filmmaker. Asked if Ile waży koń trojański? is an autobiographical film, Machulski answers:
"All filmmakers draw on their own lives. It is no secret that I have my Zosia, too. She is my wife, Ewa. The screenplay, however, is about somebody else: it is a story of a beautiful woman who is trampled by males, the owners of the globe, who take her inborn goodness for weakness of character. There are many such women, especially in Poland. After all, it was them who carried our statehood and national spirit over the centuries. Our men fought and died while women had to go on to raise the next generations. I think that this is a very topical film. My intention was to show that we are surrounded by beautiful and resourceful women. Which is not to say that this film could not have been set in New York or Paris. After all, people everywhere think that since life is so good, why could it not be better - except that moving fifteen years back in time in New York or Paris would not change anything, whereas almost everything has changed here in that period. Few countries and few generations had a chance to pass from one system to another in a lifetime and without bloodshed. Although relatively little time has lapsed, a new generation has matured, one that does not know the former system and has to learn it all from scratch." ("Kino" 12/2008)
And all the better if, by the way, they learn a few things about emotions.
- Ile waży koń trojański? / How Much Does the Trojan Horse Weigh?, Poland 2008. Written and directed by Juliusz Machulski. Photography: Witold Adamek. Music: Jacek Królik. Design: Joanna Macha. Costume: Ewa Machulska. Sound: Marek Wronko. Starring: Ilona Ostrowska (Zosia), Maciej Marczewski (Kuba), Robert Więckiewicz (Darek), Danuta Szaflarska (grandma), Sylwia Dziorek (Florka), Maja Ostaszewska (Lidka), Katarzyna Kwiatkowska (Marta). Producer: Studio Filmowe Zebra - Monolith Films - Telekomunikacja Polska S.A. - Wytwórnia Filmów Dokumentalnych i Fabularnych; co-financed by the Polish Film Institute. Distribution: Monolith Films. Duration: 118 min. Released on 26th December 2008.
Author: Konrad J. Zarębski, October 2008