Hardkor Disko (13th Kinoteka Polish Film Festival) Review
A young man, Marcin (Marcin Kowalczyk) calls on the Warsaw home of the Wróblewski family. The parents – Olek (Janusz Chabior), an architect, and Pola (Agnieszka Wosińska), a theatre designer – are not in, but their daughter Ola (Jasmina Polak) is just leaving for a night out. Marcin follows her, warns off the boy who is after her by smashing his face into a nightclub lavatory mirror. Over the course of the evening, Marcin and Ola become close, and she takes him home with him and they sleep together. In the morning, Marcin is welcomed by Olek and Pola. But his intentions are not apparent to them, and are actively dangerous...
Hardkor Disko is a debut feature for Krzysztof Skonieczny, who had previously made videos and commercials, and has clearly gained a lot of assurance as a filmmaker as a result. (He has also worked as an actor, and has a small role in the present film.) You can see the influences on Hardkor Disko: for one, Skonieczny and his co-writer Robert Bolesto, drop Jim Jarmusch's name a couple of times, and Skonieczny shares a penchant for letting scenes play out in extensive, sometimes single, takes. Also Jarmuschian is the division of the film into shorter units, three sections named "Father's Day", "Mother's Day" and "Children's Day", depending on which of the Wróblewskis Marcin is concentrating on in the second two thirds of the film, the first two introduced by similar high-angled shots of a car driving along a country road. There's less of Jarmusch's quirky character comedy here, though: Hardkor Disko is much darker. The film's premise harks back to Theorem (not to mention Funny Games and a lot of entries in the home-invasion horror subgenre) , with an outsider inveigling himself into a family and (metaphorically or literally) seducing all its members. And a murder sequence, played out in two lengthy takes, is very reminiscent of Kieślowski's A Short Film About Killing, not least in the location and the method of the killing.
There's no overt explanation for this, and we are left to ascertain clues from Marcin's often blank face and aloof manner. However, over breakfast, Olek – someone who set out to do great things but has settled for less, given that it still pays well – says that for young people, their mantra is "be intense or be nothing". So maybe Marcin is simply doing just that? At the beginning, we see him wander round an abandoned theme park, with plastic dinosaurs turned over on his side. So is Marcin doing his bit to clear away people who have become dinosaurs? And not without judging their shortcomings: Olek as a sell-out, Pola as a vain woman given to making eyes at her own daughter's boyfriend. Or maybe something has already been lost by the time we reach Ola's age. This is also hinted at by the fact that the main title, end title and section headings are written in a child's drawing book with suitably childish handwriting. The film begins with video footage of a young girl – Ola, we are led to assume, though that isn't spelled out – talking and playing to camera. Were we innocent then, and lose that as we age? Or as this is a clearly well-heeled family, is it simply a case that if we can have pretty much what we want, and money will pay for it, then nothing really matters much any more?
Hardkor Disko will take some unpicking as to what it means, but there's no doubt that as a piece of filmmaking it's highly impressive. The use of long takes is mentioned above, shot in Scope by Kacper Fertacz (only his second feature, after Sophie Seeks 7, shown in last year's Kinoteka Festival), and the principal cast of four are up to the demands this filmmaking style makes on them. Production design is also spot-on, and the use of music doesn't always live up to the film's title. Do pay attention to the song lyrics.
Hardkor Disko is showing on 11 April at the ICA, London, as part of the New Polish Cinema strand of the 13th Kinoteka Polish Film Festival. A UK commercial release is to be advised.