DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
FOUR NIGHTS WITH ANNA (CZTERY NOCE Z ANNA) (director/writer: Jerzy Skolimowski; screenwriter: Ewa Piaskowska; cinematographer: Adam Sikora; editor: Cezary Grzesiuk; music: Michal Lorenc; cast: Artur Steranko (Leon Okrasa), Kinga Preis (Anna), Barbara Kołodziejska (Grandma), Jerzy Fedorowicz (Head Doctor), Redbad Klynstra (Judge), Artur Steranko (Leon); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Paulo Branco/Jerzy Skolimowski; Kino-PAL DVD-Region 2; 2008-Poland-in Polish with English subtitles)

 
"A brooding tale about an inarticulate misfit in modern-day rural Poland."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

A brooding tale about an inarticulate misfit in modern-day rural Poland, who is facing solitude and a pained existence. It's a slow-moving, highly stylized and depressing pic, that seems best for those with a taste for long pauses of silence. This is the first film in seventeen years for the feisty poet-cum-amateur boxer, the 70-year-old Polish auteur Jerzy Skolimowski ("Rysopsis"/"Walkover"/"Bariera"). It's an uncompromising sinister political and social conscious drama, that offers little emotional payback. The bleak character study of a traumatized sympathetic helpless lost soul living a dreary life and unable to deal with oppressive authority figures and the coldness of his surroundings, is not everyone's idea of an entertaining film. The hapless character is someone most viewers would not notice in their real world, but in this pic the story is told from his POV and all eyes are on him.

The 40-year-old socially awkward gentle Leon Okrasa (Artur Steranko) is a stoker in his waterlogged rural village's hospital crematory, and lives in a dilapidated cottage caring for his ailing elderly grandma (Barbara Kołodziejska). A few years back, in 2003, Leon stood frozen as he witnessed the brutal rape of Anna P. (Kinga Preis) at the Old Kolkhoz shack, returning from fishing in a nearby stream, and after reporting the incident by phone is accused of the crime and convicted on circumstantial evidence. That injustice tells you all you want to know about where we are going with this Kafka-like story.

The film veers back and forth in time with flashbacks. It follows Anna, now a 30-year-old nurse and working in the same hospital as Leon. The unhappy chubby nurse lives in a hostel for nurses, while Leon, released from prison (where he was raped), is her next door neighbor dwelling in his deceased grandma's cottage. Obsessed with Anna, the only shining light in his drab existence, Leon sneaks into Anna's room, through the window, for four straight nights and laces her sugar with crushed sleeping pills. The creepy Leon then lingers lovingly by her bedside--even painting her toenails, sewing loose buttons on her garments and dropping off a diamond ring. The clumsy freakish Leon is caught leaving Anna's dorm room and is again sent to prison, saying only at his trial that his voyeurism was an act of love.

Skolimowski's outcry is against those who commit brutalities and remain free, while the vulnerable, the mentally challenged and powerless are blinded and handicapped by life's enormity and become the victims of the brutes who always hold power.

It's an unpleasant Eastern European arthouse film with a heavy dose of despair, but it's well-produced, excellently acted and Steranko is a compelling figure as the sad-sack who plays the role straight while searching for laughs and to be seen as a real person.

REVIEWED ON 3/24/2011       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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