11 Minutes: Skolimowski boldly tries his luck with a second youth
by Gonzalo Suárez
- VENICE 2015: The Polish master is back with a film that offers almost Hollywoodian entertainment, which is dividing opinions as much as Essential Killing did five years ago
Five years after he picked up two awards with Essential Killing [+see also:
interview: Jerzy Skolimowski
film profile], which ruffled feathers and garnered applause in equal measure, Jerzy Skolimowski is back in the competition for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival with a surprisingly youthful degree of pride for a 77-year-old filmmaker. Just from the title, 11 Minutes [+see also:
Q&A: Jerzy Skolimowski
film profile], we get a sense of the speed we will be travelling at during the 81-minute running time.
The more modern metropolitan area of Warsaw, the capital of the director’s home country, is the main setting where various stories intertwine: a troubled husband hurries to arrive at the hotel where his wife is receiving indecent proposals from a producer; a building maintenance man takes a break in a neighbour’s bedroom; a drug dealer speeds through the city streets on a motorbike to make a delivery and, later, meet up with a hot-dog seller with a murky past; a suicidal young woman meets her ex to get her dog back; in other areas of the city, an ambulance team overpowers an aggressive man on the stairs in order to reach a sick man and a woman whose waters have broken; and a teenager makes a failed robbery attempt…
The number of stories recounted is as high as the depth they attempt to go into is limited. The extremely low-flying plane, which drives the birds mad and deafens both the characters and the viewers, leaves no room for doubt: the point is to discover the way in which all of these apparently unconnected storylines come together in the final, revealing climax, which we edge towards as if expecting a catastrophe to happen. The path towards this conclusion is sketched out with a masterful stylistic finish. The soundtrack effectively contributes to the suspense, while the editing guides us down the route of the action-thriller, and Mikołaj Łebkowski shows off a broad range of skills with his cinematography: first-person shots from a dog’s perspective, distorting faces as if to reflect the taking of hallucinogens, a beautiful backlit slow-motion shot that shows how a bubble of foam bursts…
Along the way, Skolimowski seems to try to slip in some reflections on the continuous subjection of citizens to surveillance by cameras, judging by a prologue in which we see scenes shot with mobile phones, webcams and CCTV cameras, but he does not manage to convey a theory with any body or substance either on this subject or on the crises that the actions of his characters trigger. Perhaps these elements are actually nothing more than the channels of an exuberant and well-balanced screenplay, which was written by the director himself, along which this enthralling product of cinematic trickery advances – a movie that is as nihilistic as it is devilishly entertaining.
(Translated from Spanish)