20 April 2004 | rsoonsa
EXCESSIVE EFFORT MUST BE EXPENDED IN ORDER TO UNDERSTAND IT.
Director Jerzy Skolimowski has become the foremost cinematic chronicler of the politics of exile for expatriates from Poland, chiefly those living in England, and this author of the screenplay for Roman Polanski's marvelous KNIFE IN THE WATER has additionally developed a highly kinetic directoral style that visually dashes every which way. In this feature, Skolimowski exploits a favourite gambit, unresolved blending of fantasy with reality, while also fashioning a strongly political theme, to demonstrate how an encounter with vendibility can convert idealism into hypocrisy and dispassion. Michael York portrays Alex Rodak, a theatre director exiled in London, with his wife and two sons, where he hopes to emulate the aesthetic and commercial success that he attained upon the Continent, notably in France, despite financial deficiencies that are growing apace. He is relying upon a benefit show, that he will be staging in a West End theatre, to create a large base of support for a dissident Polish subculture opposed to a repressive Warsaw regime that has become reliant upon imposition of martial law, but his increasing need for funding generates strain between Alex and his family, in particular with his oldest son Adam, played by Michael Lyndon. Respective cultural and identity crises plaguing Alex and Adam have become correlative, since the younger Rodak resents his father's dependence upon capital in order to stage what is planned as an abstract drama because Adam believes that Poland would welcome more a diaspora of patriots. Sadly, the time in which this review may be read is about equal to the amount of comprehensible narrative offered in this production, due to an extraordinary engulfment of meaning by Skolimowski who tenders a perpetual gathering of imagery, certainly never dull in itself but having an exhaustive effect upon a viewer by reason of an unduly complex structure whereby it becomes virtually impossible to fathom precisely what might be occurring. No character as presented displays virtue, with but Jane Asher's role with her single scene seeming to be clearly defined, probably as a result of its linear nature; first-class work with the camera by Mike Fash in addition to creative editing and sound design by Barrie Vince are insufficient to offset a nearly complete reliance upon form over substance.