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Amok: Fame at the cost of your life

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- Kasia Adamik’s latest film gives us a diagnosis of civilisation, of the contemporary affliction that is our obsession with being noticed

Amok: Fame at the cost of your life
Mateusz Kosciukiewicz in Amok

Released in Polish theatres today by Kino Swiat, Amok [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, the latest film by Kasia Adamik (who rose to prominence at Sundance in 2002 with Bark, won the Golden Frog at Camerimage in 2008 with The OFFsiders, and co-directed Janosik. A True Story [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
 and Spoor [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Agnieszka Holland
interview: Zofia Wichlacz
film profile
]
with Agnieszka Holland) does not just give us a diagnosis of a killer, contrary to what we might think at first glance, but of civilisation as a whole, and its contemporary affliction of our obsession with being noticed.

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The plot is based on true events. In November 2000, a brutal murder took place in Wroclaw. A body was found by two fishermen one month later, floating in the waters of the River Oder. The investigation hit a dead end and was abandoned after a year. And just five years later, the police uncovered a new lead in the book Amok, which most notably contained a detailed description of a murder closely resembling that which was committed in Wrocław. The author of the book (played in the film by Mateusz Kosciukiewicz) was arrested and sentenced to 25 years in prison at the end of an investigation characterised by a lack of evidence and a reliance on clues from the book, the precise links with reality of which were only known by one person: the author himself. 

The case of the murder of Wroclaw was reported on extensively by the Polish and foreign media (BBC, The Guardian, Spiegel, El Pais, etc.), following the publication of an article by David Grann in the New Yorker on how Alexandros Avranas was shooting True Crime [+see also:
film review
film profile
]
(starring Jim Carrey and Charlotte Gainsbourg, among others).

But what compelled Kasia Adamik to focus on this affair was neither a press article nor the book, but a screenplay written by Richard Karpala, with its great visual strength and subtle character development. The director really has brought the best out of it, with the acute psychological portrayals in the film being sufficiently detailed that the viewer doesn’t feel like they’re entering a game, but participating in something truly authentic. 

Who was the killer? Why did they do it? Adamik doesn’t give us the answer. In actual fact, her exploration seems to go further, as suggested by a statement made by the suspect in the film: "before I got divorced, my wife said I’d gone mad, that I was completely obsessed by this affair. I want her to read my book, to read what they say about it in the papers, to listen to what they say about it on television." It’s not so much the subject matter that concerns the protagonist, but the issue of fame and visibility in the public arena. And this is where the value of the director’s vision lies, as she manages to distance herself from a specific case to try to identify the weaknesses of human nature, to demonstrate the syndrome afflicting a contemporary society drowning in the Internet, in which the number of followers you have is a measure of your success and the blue “like” button synonymous with happiness. 

Alongside Mateusz Kosciukiewicz, the cast features Lukasz Simlat (United States of Love [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Tomasz Wasilewski
film profile
]
, These Daughters of Mine [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
), Miroslaw Haniszewski (I’m a Killer [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Maciej Pieprzyca
interview: Renata Czarnkowska-Listos a…
film profile
]
) and Zofia Wichlacz (Afterimage [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Zofia Wichlacz
film profile
]
, Spoor [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Agnieszka Holland
interview: Zofia Wichlacz
film profile
]
; the European Film Promotion’s Shooting Star of 2017 – see interview).

Amok was produced by K&K Selekt Film and co-produced by TVN, Kino Świat and Studio Produkcyjne Orka on a budget of €2.8 million including €465,000 in support from the Polish Film Institute. International sales are being handled by Agent E One Entertainment.

(Translated from French)

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