kadr z filmu, źródło: materiały prasowe
Warsaw, 1952. Thirty-year-old Sabina works in the poetry section of a state-run publishing house. Both her mother and her grandmother pressure the young woman to find a husband. Unfortunately, her suitors either turn out to be married - like the poet from the Kolumb generation [born ca. 1920, growing up during World War II and active in the resistance, participants in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising] who doesn't want any compromise with the communist reality - or Sabina simply doesn't find them likable.
The mysterious and chivalrous Bronisław appears unexpectedly, saving her from a mugging one evening. Despite his ignorance, which could be explained by his rural background and war-time experience, Sabina succumbs to his charm. Her mother also likes the young man and leaves the couple alone in the house. Bronisław takes advantage of this opportunity and initiates intercourse, and then reveals the true purpose of his interest. He is an employee of the secret police who offers a promise of marriage in exchange for regular reports on the publishing house's director. When Sabina tries to refuse, he insinuates that her family is under close surveillance by the secret police. Paralysed with fear, Sabina ends up killing her lover, and her mother and brother help her dispose of the body. Soon afterwards, it turns out she is expecting a baby...
If one had to specify what genre Rewers / Reverse belongs to, it's closest to dark comedy. The grotesque aspect of the story told on screen shows almost all the cruelty of Stalinist times - including their numerous paradoxes. Here is a publishing house reminiscent of the real-life Czytelnik, its director who exploits his power but is aware of the destruction the communist system can cause, Sabina's brother - a painter with a war-time resistance past who now paints in conformity with the officially promoted socio-realist style. The screenplay by Andrzej Bart paints a warped but also shockingly true world. This warping seems to be the social norm - all the characters seek their little niche: Sabina has found it as a poetry editor, but she has to pay for her peaceful life by taking part in rather humiliating parades, her brother locks himself away in his studio, paying for his peaceful life not only with portraits of communist officials but also with alcoholism, the mother is from a generation who are frightened, susceptible to the threat of Stalinist terror, which actually doesn't bypass anyone, regardless of their social standing. Only the grandmother - as an old woman on the brink of the grave - doesn't have to pretend anything and looks at everything realistically. How do you oppose omnipresent evil that slides into your peaceful, bourgeois (in the best sense of the word) home? The story of Sabina, who decides to give birth to Bronisław's son, is the best answer. Despite a physical resemblance to his father, he will be different from him in every other way; furthermore, he will never know who the man really was.
The perspective Bart and Lankosz propose seems to be a very fresh approach to Poland during Stalinism.
" 'Rewers' / 'Reverse' smashes a kind of armour in our perception of history", wrote Tadeusz Sobolewski from Gdynia ("Gazeta Wyborcza", 16 September 2009). "As the plot develops, Lankosz and Bart - the director and scriptwriter - play an increasingly bold game with the audience, turning clichés backwards, moving from romance to horror, from horror to farce. The story goes this way and that way - always differently than we expect, up to the paradox of the finale, which includes some pathos of martyrdom, winks at the viewer, evokes a smile we needn't be ashamed of. Life has two sides. Perhaps the devil plays some kind of positive role in history, too, and we can burn a candle-end in his honour? ... A lively film, appealing to the audience's intelligence, bringing a new tone to Polish cinema, breaking some kind of window".
But is it really a new tone? There are echoes of Andrzej Munk's Zezowate szczęście / Bad Luck in Reverse, and even of the Polish School developed by filmmakers affiliated to the Kadr Film Studio headed by Jerzy Kawalerowicz [1930-2007]. For the past year, the current Kadr Studio has been run by Jerzy Kapuściński - Reverse is the first project produced under his management, and actually the first after a 14-year break in the studio's feature film activity. This is a dividing line in Kadr's history, but also a defining moment in Polish cinema, which is not only turning towards history but also looking for a new, distanced approach free of Aesopian language, and new means of expression. This is another asset of Reverse -
"With his prize-worthy black-and-white photography, Marcin Koszałka carries on a perfidious, ambiguous game", writes Tadeusz Sobolewski. "On the one hand, this photography is a reference to the cinema of those times, and on the other it has a contemporary polish. It helps us see that to people in any period, whether the Nazi occupation or Stalinist times, the world seems a normal place and you have to live in it, move around according to specific rules, taking devious routes and bypassing the law".
The acting of the entire cast deserves special attention - with Agata Buzek, Krystyna Janda, Anna Polony, and Marcin Dorociński: expressive, mature, meticulous - modern despite the costumes and, especially in Buzek's case, the special make-up.
Reverse was a great winner of the Gdynia festival. It won not only the Golden Lions for best film, but also the awards for best actress - Agata Buzek, best cinematography - Marcin Koszałka, best music - Włodzimierz Pawlik, best supporting actor - Marcin Dorociński, best make-up - Mirosława Wojtczak, Ludmiła Krawczyk and Waldemar Pokromski. The film received the journalists' award, the audience award, and the awards of the Association of Art House Cinemas, the Polish Federation of Film Discussion Clubs, and the Association of Foreign Organizers of Polish Film Festivals. It was also chosen as Poland's official Academy Award entry for the foreign language film section.
- Rewers / Reverse, Poland 2009. Director: Borys Lankosz. Screenplay: Andrzej Bart. Cinematography: Marcin Koszałka. Music: Włodzimierz Pawlik. Set design: Magdalena Dipont, Robert Czesak. Costumes: Magdalena Biedrzycka. Editing: Wojciech Anuszczyk. Sound: Maria Chilarecka, Aleksander Musiałowski. Cast: Agata Buzek (Sabina), Krystyna Janda (mother), Anna Polony (grandmother), Marcin Dorociński (Bronisław), Adam Woronowicz (Józef), Bronisław Wrocławski (director Barski), Łukasz Konopka (Arkadiusz), Błażej Wójcik (Marcel), Jerzy Bończak (official 1), Jacek Poniedziałek (official 2). Production: Kadr Film Studio, Syrena Films, Documentary and Feature Film Studio (WFDiF). Co-financed by: Polish Film Institute. Distribution: Syrena Films. Length: 88 min. Released on 13 November 2009.
Author: Konrad J. Zarębski, October 2009.
- 2009 - Golden Lions for best film, awards for best actress in the leading role for Agata Buzek, best cinematography for Marcin Koszałka, best music for Włodzimierz Pawlik, best supporting actor for Marcin Dorociński, best make-up, the journalists' award, the audience award, and the awards of the Association of Art House Cinemas, the Polish Federation of Film Discussion Clubs, and the Association of Foreign Organizers of Polish Film Festivals - at the 34th Polish Film Festival in Gdynia.