11 Minutes Review
Short snippets of footage recorded on different devices (camcorders, phones, a laptop) make up the intriguing opening of 11 Minutes (11 Minut, 2015), an effective method which not only introduces the film’s numerous characters, but that also draws us into the strange world that writer-director Jerzy Skolimowski has created. Taking place between 5pm and 5.11pm in Warsaw, his story weaves an intricate web among the characters, each seemingly destined to cross paths as time ticks on.
Is it fate? A coincidence? Or something else at work? Skolimowski racks up the mystery with a compelling story that keeps us guessing, right up until the final mysterious frame. His script is perfectly paced and never dull, even as it returns to the same minute in time to repeat the action from another character’s viewpoint. Deftly jumping between each at just the right moment, Skolimowski builds up a rich tapestry of individual stories, keeping each one interesting while still teasing that bigger narrative which ominously looms over them all.
Memorable performances from the vast ensemble cast also keep the seamless action ticking over, with particular standouts being Wojciech Mecwaldowski as a jealous husband, and Andrzej Chyra, who adds a touch of poignancy in his role as a hotdog vendor harbouring a secret. The brilliant portrayals help us perfectly understand each of the character’s backgrounds and personalities, despite only being seen briefly within the overall running time.
Through the use of bizarre and sinister imagery – a dead pixel on a screen, water running backwards – Skolimowski surrounds these characters with an air of menace in every frame, as the relentless ticks of a clock ring throughout. While some of these metaphors might be a little heavy-handed (with Skolimowski practically spelling out that it’s about TIME), in the moment they work, the symbolism lending itself well to the heightened drama of the film.
However where it actually fails is when Skolimowski finally reveals the event that links his vast patchwork of stories and characters. While the journey to get to the last second of those 11 minutes is a fun one, the cumulating event itself is wholly anticlimactic, with an ending that fails in both originality and, sadly, in any sort of fulfilment.
The introduction of an unexpected sci-fi element about halfway through seems to be Skolimowski’s way of breaking out of the mould, and while this is an intriguing addition, the director doesn’t seem confident in his choice and the idea is quickly abandoned. Had he stuck with it, 11 Minutes could have been a truly interesting and compelling film, rather than a collection of stories framed by a boring clichéd ending. It doesn’t offer anything different than what’s been done before – and better – in many other productions, such as Magnolia (1999), Crash (2004), and even Final Destination (2000).
11 Minutes might be warning us about the passage of time and how we are all susceptible to it, and unfortunately this message resonates perfectly after wasting 81 minutes watching it.