Considered one of the best Polish films of the last decade, Marcin Krzyształowicz' motion picture is a WWII drama of betrayal and retribution shot on a surprisingly small budget.
They are walking through the forest barefoot, talking about football, listing the names of all the players they know. The viewer cannot see the face of one of the two men. Once they come to a stop, someone shoots. The barefooted man falls to the ground; the other one, who we come to know as Wydra, Corporal of the Home Army, remains unscatched. Marcin Dorociński, who received much praise for his role from overseas reviewers, plays a Polish partisan who acts as an executioner of informants. He must carry out a death sentence on Kondolewicz (Maciej Stuhr), the owner of a local mill who reports to the Gestapo. The man turns out to be a an old friend from before the war.
Bartosz Staszczyszyn notes that what is particularly valuable in Krzyształowicz' work is that there is no clear division between good and evil characters in the film, they are all mysterious. Wydra does not resemble a noble fighter, he is ruthless and brutal, ready to do anything to accomplish his mission. Kondolewicz on the other hand, is not a simple traitor either, he puts his interests above loyalty and patriotism but he does so for his wife. "Krzystalowicz's script is at its strongest when examining the relationship between Wydra and Henryk, especially when the latter realizes what's afoot -- both in terms of his imminent fate, and also regarding his wife's long-dormant feelings for Wydra", Neil Young writes for Hollywood Reporter.
When telling Wydra and Kondolewicz' story, the director intertwines it with several other plots: Kondolewicz' wife who is Wydra's old flame and still has feelings for him, the story of the young nurse Pestka and Corporal Wydra's dark past, thus creating a cut-up, flashback structure. Young calls the structure 'over-ambitious, confusing, whose disorienting choppiness afflicts certain scenes'.
The film's main setting is the forest, a symbolic space, which gives shelter and food but also constitutes a trap - soon a Nazi Manhunt is to take place here. Although the action of the film evidently takes place around the time of the end of WWII, the exact year isn't clear. In Staszczyszyn's view, Krzyształowicz' movie is not a heroic tale or a deconstructed patriotic myth, the Polish soldiers pictured in the shots are called by the Germans "Polnische Banditen", they do not have emblems of the Home Army (Armia Krajowa) on their uniforms, nor Polish flags or characteristic metal eagles, he considerds the film a morality play about universal values, a story about evil that lurks in the human.
Krzysztalowicz debuted in Poland in 2001 with the country's first erotic Western movie - Eucalyptus. In 2003 he made End of Holidays and later shot mostly TV series. Young goes on to comment his attempt to break from linear structures and simple shots, 'Krzystalowicz's direction veers towards TV-movie functionality and isn't immune to cliché". He also notes, "On the plus side, veteran sound-designer Piotr Domaradzki unobtrusively adds to the downbeat mood. Flocks of transiting geese honk happily overhead, counterpointing the tough, Defiance-like conditions endured by the forest-dwelling partisans as they cope with a harsh world of unremitting, sometimes stomach-churning brutality'.
Reviewers notice Arkadiusz Tomiak's cinematography which 'favors foggy-dusty backlighting for interiors', 'in his lens, the forest turns into a deadly trap inhabited by animal-like phantoms supended between life and death'. They also praise Dorocinski's 'convincingly dour central performance', Young adds that 'Krzystalowicz can't quite craft a robust narrative framework worthy of Dorociński's quietly tragic, hard-bitten intensity'.
The film won the Silver Lion prize at Poland's national film festival at Gdynia back in May 2012. Marcin Dorocinski recently starred in Wojciech Smarzowski's war drama Rose and comparisons of the two films divide critics. Some consider that in Manhunt Dorocinski outdid himself compared to his role in Rose, while Young calls Rose far superior and much more conventional.
Manhunt comes to Polish cinemas October 19th 2012. The film was also featured at the World Film Festival Montreal 2012 and the Off Plus Camera Festival 2012 in Kraków in April 2012 (where it won Best Film).
- April 2013, winner of the main competition at the 6th edition of the Wisła Festival of Polish films in Moscow
- April 2013, winner of the main competition of the International Festival of Independent Cinema Off Plus Camera
- 2013, nine Polish Eagle awards from the Polish Film Academy
- November 2012, Special Jury Award for exceptional artisitc value at the Polish Film Festival in America.
- 2012, Silver Lions at the Gdynia Film Festival and Award for Best Editing
- Manhunt / Obława, Poland 2012. Written & directed by Marcin Krzyształowicz, director of photography: Arkadiusz Tomiak, music score: Michał Woźniak, production design: Grzegorz Skawiński, costume design: Magdalena Jadwiga Rutkiewicz-Luterek, edited by Wojciech Mrówczyński, Adam Kwiatek, sound: Piotr Domaradzki, Barbara Domaradzka, production manager Mariusz Mielczarek producers Krzysztof Grędziński, Małgorzata Jurczak produced by Skorpion Arte co-produced by Telekomunikacja Polska, Krakowskie Biuro Festiwalowe, Studio Produkcyjne Orka, Non Stop Film Service co-financed by Polish Film Institute, Krakow Regional Film Fund distributed by Kino Świat. Cast: Marcin Dorociński (Corporal "Wydra"), Maciej Stuhr (Henryk Kondolewicz), Sonia Bohosiewicz (Hanna Kondolewiczowa), Weronika Rosati ("Pestka"), Andrzej Zieliński (lieutenant "Mak"), Bartosz Żukowski (Waniek), Alan Andersz ("Rudzielec"), Andrzej Mastalerz (chef), Grzegorz Wojdon ("Szumlas"), Jacek Strama ("Ludwina"), Jerzy Nowak ("Stary Wiarus"), Anna Guzik (interpreter). Colour, 96'
Sources: based on an article by Bartosz Staszczyczyn for culture.pl, Neil Young for Hollywood Reporter, PISF, karnet Krakow
Author: Marta Jazowska