Ambition and success
by Dorota Hartwich
- Jakimowski’s second feature has reaped a rich crop of international awards for its combination of quality auteur cinema and commercial success, brilliant dialogue and poetic magic
Andrzej Jakimowski has achieved what seems the most difficult feat for any artist who has enjoyed spectacular debut success: his second feature, Tricks [+see also:
interview: Andrzej Jakimowski
interview: Tomasz Gąssowski
film profile] has been received by audiences and international critics with at least as much enthusiasm as his multiple award-winning debut film Squint Your Eyes (2003). With these two titles, the director has garnered many prizes, including four Polish Eagles awarded by the Polish Film Academy in 2004, the IFF Grand Prize, the Sochi Golden Rose in 2004 and the San Francisco Sky Prize for his debut film. Tricks scooped the 2007 Golden Eagles Grand Prize at the Gdynia Polish Film Festival, Special Jury Prizes at Mannheim-Heidelberg and Sao Paulo and the Grand Prize at Tbilissi. Further honours include the Europa Cinemas Label for Best European Film, which was awarded at the Venice Film Festival after the title’s screening in the Venice Days section.
Jakimowski’s two films constitute a rare phenomenon in Poland – the perfect combination of auteur cinema (of a high artistic standard) and commercial success. Although the two titles are very different in terms of subject matter, their directorial style is the same: at once lyrical and simple, without a hint of pretension. Added to this accessible cinematic language and expression is the universal theme of the need for the other, the presence of and connection with those close to us.
The story of Tricks is told from the point of view of a child. The film centres on Stefek, a six-year-old boy and his 17-year-old sister Elka. Bored during the holidays, the little boy follows his sister around, as she works by evening in a bar and by day prepares for a job interview in a large international company.
One day, on a railway station platform, they notice their father who abandoned the family after Stefek’s birth. The little boy tests his fate: he sets in motion a chain of events which, he believes, will bring him closer to his father. But things go wrong. Without losing hope, Stefek uses all sorts of tricks, before finally trying out the riskiest of his schemes…
With the "capture" of the lost father told from the perspective of a child, the film could easily have lapsed into trite and banal sentimentality. However, thanks to the outstanding dialogue, detached humour and music (composed by Tomasz Gassowski) that wavers between nostalgic and grotesque, Tricks becomes a real and natural story, with a touch of poetic magic.
Of particular note are the performances of the actors, who are non-professionals as in Jakimowski’s debut film. Damian Ul as Stefek gives an extraordinarily natural and real performance, lauded by critics and audiences alike (he won Best Actor at the Tokyo Film Festival in 2007 and was nominated at the Polish Eagles in 2008). Praise has also been bestowed on the other cast members: Ewelina Walendziak (Elka) and Rafal Guzniczak-Sobczak (Jerzy), who appeared in Squint Your Eyes.
Jakimowski’s film would not possess such convincing charm without a little dose of visual seduction that is well suited to the atmosphere (which makes the viewer want to stay in his seat for a while after the film is over) and plays especially on the images bathed in perpetual sunlight, thanks to the skill of DoP Adam Bajerski (who collaborated with the director on Squint Your Eyes and is currently working on Krzysztof Zanussi’s forthcoming feature, Serce na dloni).
Added to this is the set design, which transforms the grey reality of the remote Polish provinces into a rather magical world, and, finally, the soundtrack, which calls to mind Italian films of the 1960s with their love stories and scooters.