Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Courage (orig. Wymyk) [2011]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13/R)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
FilmWeb.pl* listing

Courage (orig. Wymyk) [IMDb][FW.pl]*(2011) is a feature length drama that's played at the 24th Polish Film Festival in America/Chicago (Nov 2-18, 2012) that's actually a very simple but IMHO very Polish parable about courage (and its opposite, cowardice). Uncompromising courage was a hallmark of Polish character through-out the most of the 20th century.  It sustained the country in face of often horrific suffering during both the Nazi and Communist eras.  But it's now been a full generation since the end of the Communist era.  Hence this film is a post-Communist re-visitation of the theme.

The story is of two brothers, Alfred (played by Robert Więckiewicz [IMDb][FW.pl]*) and Jerzy (played by Łukasz Simlat [IMDb][FW.pl]*).

Jerzy had spent some time in the United States, returning to Poland with his two small children Piotrek (played by Aleksander Stefanski [IMDb][FW.pl]*) and Natalka (played by Weronika Kosobudzka [IMDb][FW.pl]*) after his wife died.  Alfred, in the meantime stayed in Poland, childless, with his wife Viola (played by Gabriela Muskała [IMDb][FW.pl]*) running the family business (which appeared always to have been an electronics business but had morphed at some point into a small cable TV / internet provider) for Jerzy and their parents Stefan (played by Marian Dziędziel [IMDb][FW.pl]*) and Anna (played by Anna Tomaszewska [IMDb][FW.pl]*).

It's clear from the onset that Alfred has some resentment toward his brother Jerzy the "big shot" who had come back from the United States.  He had held the family business together and yet now, after years being away, Jerzy was starting to assert himself in their family partnership.  Worse, dad Stepan, seemed to respect Jerzy more than Alfred.  Perhaps "distance had grown the heart fonder" for this son who had been away.  Perhaps it was that Stepan had respected Jerzy's willingness to risk going to America.  Perhaps it was that Jerzy had produced grandchildren.  Perhaps it was simply that Stepan (and Anna) had felt sorry for Jerzy for having lost his wife.  IN ANY CASE, it was clear that Stepan wanted the "American" Jerzy to have more of a voice in their business than when he had been away and Alfred who had stayed back in Poland the whole time resented this.

However, things come to a sudden and critical turn one morning when Alfred and Jerzy found themselves heading on a train to the center of town (to deal with some tax issues).  They already had some trouble getting to the train station as Alfred's own "show-off" muscle car broke down before they got to the station.  So they had to run to make the train.  Inside the train however, an incident develops.  A young woman is harassed on the train by a group of hooligans.  Jerzy (understand that he's in his late 30s or 40s) wants to get-up and do something.  Alfred (who actually appears to be in better shape) tries to convince him to let it go.  Jerzy can not and tries to stop the hooligans.  And ... the rest of the movie unfolds.

It's really hard go on at this point SPOILING it a bit.  But I suppose one could say that, all things considered, things were easier for Jerzy.  He had made a decision, after all.  Things were much more complicated for Alfred, however, on account of his hesitation.

The question the film leaves the viewer is: Can one's life come to be defined by a single situation that one found oneself facing?  And if that's the case, what would one prefer to do?  Be brave and quite possibly lose or be cautious and ... and have to face the consequences of one's "inaction" as well?

Again, this would seem to be a _very_ Polish question ;-)

* At the time of the writing of this review, machine translation of the text on filmweb.pl links given above appears to work best using the Chrome browser rather than Firefox or MS Explorer.

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