SINGAPORE – Hey you! Are you disrespectful and powerless? Do you feel oppressed? Why do some people have it all – money, relationships, careers – while struggling?
This week’s films could give you answers. The team of director Jan Komasa and screenwriter Mateusz Pacewicz comes from Poland, who look into the hearts of society’s second evaluators, the would-be and the losers.
Two of her most recent projects – a drama and a thriller – showcase her ability to create young male characters who are too creepy to like. Then, before you know it, they’ve snuck under your skin and got a little heroic.
In the psychological thriller The Hater (R21, 136 minutes, Netflix, 4 stars) Maciej Musialowski is Tomasz or “Tomek” for his friends. The law student is the classic floating or in the chat forum the “beta orbiter”, a demasculinizing term that becomes more and more relevant in the course of history.
The boy from the provinces becomes a dreary satellite of the sparkling Krasucki family. He is particularly interested in the beautiful daughter Gabi (Vanessa Aleksander). The liberal elites and members of the “wakeful rich” pity Tomek, but scornful of him. They gladly accept his job when he is recruited for their cause, but shudder at the thought of seeing him as an equal.
What happens next is a gripping tale of vengeance set in the culture of the right, afflicting gambling communities whining about masculinity trampled by feminists and a proud white race being wiped out by non-white immigrants .
With Tomek’s malicious eyes, we see a Europe torn apart by carefully written social media smears made viral by bot farms in India created to arm Reddit, 4Chan and Facebook conspiracy theorists.
Komasa and Pacewicz create an ironic desolation that often feels like they’re nervous for their own sake. However, by never losing sight of Tomek’s hunger and humanity, this tragedy feels grounded in the truth.
In the drama Corpus Christi (R21, 115 minutes, opening September 3rd in selected cinemas by Golden Village and The Projector, 4 stars), Komasa and Pacewicz take another estranged young man and weave his story into that of Polish Catholic culture.
Daniel, played by Bartosz Bielenia, is smart, violent, and possibly psychopathic. The inmate of a juvenile detention center has a revelation. In Catholic usage he heard the call.
However, his criminal past excludes him from the seminar. Then an opening presents itself and the naturally born trickster reaches for it. The street punk is now a village priest, a powerful figure who hears confessions and comforts the dying.
Poland’s entry into the Best International Feature category at this year’s Academy Awards, which made it onto the final shortlist, features a portrait of a spiritual forger who never takes the obvious shots.
In the tradition of comic book satire, one might expect the Conman to expose the Church’s weaknesses and the gullibility of the local yokels. There are a few of them, but this film, released as part of the Polish Film Festival hosted by The Projector in September, avoids the smug perspective that religion is a scam.
Daniel gets what he wants – a pulpit from which he can burst his radical view of the catechism – but is faced with the grim reality of the village priest’s life, an existence marked by drudgery, depression and, worst of all, loneliness can.
An instinctive creature in the hands of Komasa and Pacewicz, Daniel can be frustratingly contradicting as such – animalistic yet godly, violent yet empathetic – but the Bogan’s journey to becoming the false clergyman is never uninteresting.
Other films that opened but were not reviewed this week include Disney-era fantasy drama Mulan (PG13, 115 minutes, opening September 4), a live-action version of the popular 1998 cartoon. It plays Liu Yifei, Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee, Yoson An, Gong Li and Jet Li and is featured in the Straits Times this week after the review embargo is lifted.
Another film from Mulan. PHOTO: THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY
The Chinese romantic fantasy Love You Forever (PG, 115 minutes, opens September 3 in the Golden Village cinemas) tells the story of childhood loved ones, Lin Ge (Lee Hongchi) and Qiu Qian (Li Yitong), their love cannot be conquered by death.