GoCritic! Review: Panic Attack
- Marija Jeremić reviews one of the more hyped and publicized films of this year's Karlovy Vary Competition
Married couple Andrzej (Artur Żmijewski) and Elżbieta (Dorota Segda) board a plane with Andrzej’s boss (Andrzej Konopka). The boss asks them to switch their seats with him. They do. When the stranger now sitting next to Elżbieta (played by Nicolas Bro) dies during turbulence, the boss asks Andrzej not to tell anybody so as not to make it difficult for him. What should Andrzej and Elżbieta do?
‘The film is not about a panic attack, it is a panic attack,’ Polish director Paweł Maślona tells the audience after the world premiere of his feature debut, Panic Attack [+see also:
interview: Pawel Maslona
film profile], at the 53rd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. The film’s script, a black comedy with multiple narrative lines, is the result of a four-year collective effort byMaślona and two of the main actors, Aleksandra Pisula, who plays Kama, an online sex worker with very annoying friends, and Bartlomiej Kotschedoff, or Miłosz, an addicted gamer who is still living with his overly pet-friendly mother.
It is not until the end of the film that we finally get a glimpse into the chronological order of events: a wedding between Wiktoria (Julia Wyszyńska) and her perpetually absent husband (Grzegorz Damięcki); a fancy dinner with a neurotic fiction writer Monika (Magdalena Popławska); a first attempt at smoking weed; death, birth, suicide… The film is a jumbled up version of a sequence of events that are not necessarily causally connected.
Other films with multi-narrative plots that Maślona listed as influences were Robert Altman’s Short Cuts (1993), Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994), Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia (1999). Like in Maślona's compatriot Jerzy Skolimowski’s 11 Minutes [+see also:
Q&A: Jerzy Skolimowski
film profile] (2015), Panic Attack’s various plots merge into a collective ending, which is not always the case in such films. There is a point to be made here: that there is and there is not something uniting the stories of Panic Attack. In other words, the multiple stories do not have to be united to form a whole. In Maślona’s words, the ending of Panic Attack is ‘dramatic, and a little bit metaphoric.’
Panic Attack is the second film in which Magdalena Popławska appeared at this year’s KVIFF, the first being Ewa Bukowska’s 53 Wars [+see also:
interview: Ewa Bukowska
film profile]. The main drawback of Panic Attack is, perhaps, its misuse of Popławska’s talents on a shallow and predictable character. However, this small fault does not significantly influence the overall impression of the film.
In short, Panic Attack is an excellent debut. The slightly chaotic structure of the film is mirroring the nihilistic nuances of life itself. As for his future projects, Maślona revealed during the discussion that his next film will be an adaption of the novel "Lovetown" by Polish author Michał Witkowski. It should be even darker and funnier than Panic Attack; Maślona called it ‘a gay Trainspotting.’
This article was written as part of GoCritic! training programme.
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