Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Forest, 4 AM (orig. Las, 4 rano) [2016]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing listing* (G. Kłos) review* (A. Siennica) review* (M. Radomski) review* (K. Polaski) review* (Ł. Adamski) review*

The Forest, 4 AM (orig. Las, 4 rano) [2016] [IMDb] []* (directed and cowritten by Jan Jakub Kolski [IMDb] []* along with Krzysztof Majchrzak [IMDb] []*) is a tiny if thematically consequential independent production which played recently at the 2016 Polish Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Forst (played by Krzysztof Majchrzak [IMDb] []*) begins the story as some sort of a contemporary Polish corporate exec, an executive already on the edge, and 5-10 minutes into the story he has a breakdown.  What happened?  It's not clear initially (it becomes clearer as the tale progresses).  That he had a breakdown is clear, however.

What does he do?  Well he abandons his old life, truly everything, finds a hut in a forest, near some random two-lane highway outside some provincial town somewhere in the Polish hinterlands, and sets out to live there collecting herbs and mushrooms and trapping rabbits and beavers for food.  Wow.

There in his self-imposed exile he begins to rebuild (or just live) anew.  It's a (very) simple life.  He collects / chops wood for heat, scavenges plants and traps small game for food.  Initially, he sleeps on a bed covered by a worn blanket.  Eventually, even the bed / blanket seems too luxurious for himself.  So he digs a hole in the middle of the hut, and sleeps in side it burying all but his face itself in soil / leaves.   It's as if he buries himself each night.  But it does, strangely enough, "keep him warm."

Who would do that?  An American Film-goer could think of Robin Williams in his role in The Fisher King [1991].  But Forst has not simply "gone crazy" here.  Instead, he seems to have gone back to living in a Polish / Slavic "back to nature" / "survivalist mode."

The director breaks up Forst's story into three parts, each beginning with a citation from the Biblical Book of Job.  So in this regard, we are reminded, "early and often (enough)", that Forst's self-imposed exile was the result of some kind of crisis or tragedy.  However, WHERE he goes (to the Forest) and HOW he lives there really goes back even further to pre-Christian times.  Indeed, he lives there, in the forest, will remind a lot of viewers of Central European fairy tales.

For OUT THERE "in the forest" / "off the beaten path" (symbolized by the random 2-lane highway) / "outside of town" ... it turns out that there's still life, though somewhat strange, quite literally _marginal_ life:

Among the oddities are that along the random two lane highway "outside of town" walk prostitutes during the day and into the evening.  Now this may surprise some North American Readers but it's actually fairly common in Europe.  I saw this a lot in Italy, when I was studying (in the seminary ;-) there.  Yes, larger cities may have their "red light districts" but when you get into "the Provinces," illegal action (again _marginal_ "action") takes place literally at (or beyond) "the edge of town."

Indeed, I thought it was an interesting insight in a recent updated version of (Little) Red Riding Hood [2011] that "Grandma" -- who lived "in the forest, outside of town" -- was portrayed as being, well, "kinda strange."  YES "normal people" would "live in town."  Odd-balls, "witches", etc would live ... "outside..."

 Forst, comes to befriend one of these older / aging prostitutes, one whose name was Nata (played in the film by Olga Bołądź [IMDb] []*) walking the "two lane" "outside of town" by his neck of the forest.  Why aging?  Well ... if these Prostitutes were younger, their pimps would probably put them in a more attractive place to make their / them money.  Indeed, the 40 something Nata is knocked-off by her pimp Boris (note the Russian name, Poles and Russians really don't like each other ... played by in the film Michał Kowalski [IMDb] []*) so that he could literally put-up a younger model there in her place.

It's when 40-something aging Prostitute (though as always, with a heart-of-gold) is killed that 12-13 year-old now orphaned Jadzia (basically "Little Red Riding Hood" played by Maria Blandzi [IMDb] []*) comes looking for her and finds ... the Ogre / Shrek-like Forst in the forest instead (Forst, having been a platonic, if mixed-up friend of Nata, her mother).   And together Forst and Jadzia make a life of it for a while, he basically adopting her as his own.  Yes, he was a gentleman.  He was a gentleman with her mother, now with her as well.  Sleeping as he does "in his hole," he leaves his more comfortable bed / blanket for her.  And also she honestly "had nobody."

Among the little adventures that they have together ... is that one Spring they collect wild goose / duck eggs laid in by the birds (in the early Spring) in the brush surrounding a nearby pond and decorate them as Easter Eggs (a possible pre-Christian origin for the Easter Egg tradition).

Eventually though Jadzia grows tired of Forst (and they begin argue with greater frequency).  Essentially, she grows-up ... and eventually she goes on her way.  But somehow, having taken care of Jadzia, out there, in the forest, gives Forst some peace.   And we're told, just as at the end of the Book of Job, that (somehow) his crisis was now over.

All in all, while I would certainly _not_ encourage a 50 year-old (!) to live with / take care of a 12-13 year old daughter of a stranger (there are / should be government agencies today to regulate that sort of thing), the film here tells an ancient and partly Biblical story in a quite modern way.  As such, I found it quite interesting.

Good / quite interesting job!

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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