Friday, February 25, 2011

Film Review with Robert Mann - Smoke

Smoke ***½

The product of Polish filmmaker Grzegorz Cisiecki, Smoke – or to quote its original Polish title, Dym – is the latest short film I have been sent for review and it also probably one of the strangest. The synopsis for this film reads “the story of the person who becomes the captive of surrealistic madness” and surreal this film certainly is.

With no dialogue whatsoever – the language barrier poses no problems for anyone here – the task of telling the story – written by Cisiecki himself – is placed entirely on the visuals. What exactly that story is though is unclear and is most definitely open to interpretation. You may have a hard time figuring out what is actually going on but this is rather in keeping with the film’s surreal tone and, at only 7 minutes 13 seconds long, it is easy to overlook any shortcomings the film may have in terms of plot and just take in the visuals, which mostly prove quite excellent. 

While a few shots do slightly fall victim to the limitations of the camera equipment utilised by the filmmakers in the making of the film, the overall look of the film perfectly puts across the surrealness that they are going for, the photography by Dawid Rymar and the editing by Cisiecki and Cecylja Pacura being excellent, the lighting being perfect and the visuals generally being out of kilter enough to create an unsettling feel without what is happening necessarily being too far out there to seem completely implausible. 

The blending of seemingly normal shots with twisted imagery – some shots here truly are weird, in a good way that is – and wider shots with extreme close-ups works perfectly to create a sense of unease and shows terrific proficiency on the part of both the cinematographer and the editors. The atmosphere created by these visuals is superb and the feel is enhanced no end by the evocative use of sound and a breathtaking original music score by Aleksandr Porach and Rashid Brocca, both of which prove equally haunting and chilling. 

With no lines of dialogue to speak you might expect that the acting wouldn’t be that great but the actors – Marta Szumiel, Grzegorz Golaszewski, Oriana Soika, Bartlomej Nowosielski, Katarzyna Dalek, Hubert Jarczak, Malgorzata Kocik, Mark Malak and Krzysztof Wach – simply put across everything through facial expressions rather than words, the protagonist, portrayed by Golaszewski, looking appropriately lost and unsettled in his surreal experiences and putting across a convincing sense of emotional fragility while other characters portray silent but not obvious menace and put across a generally weird and unsettling vibe quite ably. 

With surrealness being visible in every single aspect of the film, this really is a film that should make quite an impression on anyone looking for a film that doesn’t conform to the norm and seeks to do something truly different. Breathtakingly surreal and visually stunning, Smoke is a very atmospheric and intriguing film that will keep you thinking after its short running time has come to an end, and that is always a good thing.

Smoke can be viewed in full on YouTube.

It can also be viewed on Vimeo.

Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)

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