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30 August 2008

Life and Crime in Poland - Retrieval (Z Odzysku)

This 2006 movie written by Slawomir Fabicki, Denijal Hasanovic and Marek Pruchniewski and directed by Fabicki is a dark and depressing tale about 19-year-old Wojtek's (Antoni Pawlicki) attempt to rise out of poverty in a small Polish town. Working in a dangerous cement pit, Wojtek also boxes to earn extra money. The boss of a local disco (Jacek Braciak) offers him a safer job: working as a bouncer at his disco, but his boss also runs a loan shark business and his bouncers provide the muscle.

In love with an older woman, an illegal Ukrainian immigrant Katja (Natalya Vdovina) who has a son Andryi (Dimitri Melnichuk), Wojtek want to find a bigger better apartment. He does find a nice place, but slowly sheds his charm as he's forced to make hard decisions and hurt people in his new line of business. One way his boss teaches him heartlessness is a target practice exercise involving dogs. As Wojtek becomes increasingly alienated from his conscience and numbed to violence, his behavior changes. Eventually, Katja leaves him and finds refuge with Wojtek's family who also reject him.

This isn't, of course, a new story. Fabicki doesn't have the big budget of a Hollywood movie and his film isn't as slick or well filmed. The indoor lighting has a yellow or greenish cast at times and it doesn't seem intentional. Yet this is a reminder that poverty and desperation aren't an American problem nor is it a problem of the past. Here race isn't an issue with Latino or African American gangs and drug dealers.

Yet this movie portrays the gangster culture as not culturally entrenched as cool. Andryi becomes the target of derision and gets in a fight with when other neighborhood kids tell him Wojtek is a gangster. Perhaps America was there, once upon a time when gangsta-style wasn't fashionable or glamorous.

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