Barrier (Bariera) (14th Kinoteka Polish Film Festival) Review
At last year's Kinoteka Festival, Jerzy Skolimowski's second feature Walkover was shown in a new digital restoration as part of the Masterpieces of Polish Cinema strand. This year, he's one of three directors honoured with a retrospective, which includes Walkover, his debut feature Identification Marks: None, Hands Up! and some of his later films made outside his home country, Deep End, Moonlighting and The Shout. His newest film, 11 Minutes opened this year's Festival.
Barrier (Bariera) was Skolimowski's third feature, made in 1966. Identification Marks: None, Walkover and his fourth feature Hands Up! (which was banned and not seen until 1981) make a loose semi-autobiographical trilogy with Skolimowski himself playing the central character. In Barrier, the unnamed protagonist is played by Jan Nowicki, but the film has many similarities with the trilogy. Our protagonist is a disillusioned medical student who decides he needs a new path in life. But when he meets, and is attracted to, a young woman (Joanna Szczerbic) he is forced to reconsider his goals.
Skolimowski was still in his twenties when he made Barrier and it's a young man's film, energetic to a fault (and like his other films of the time, commendably brief), clearly influenced by the French New Wave, and animated by a surreal, quirky humour and full of striking imagery. Yet its underlying seriousness isn't hard to miss. The barrier of the title exists between generations, between classes, between the people and those governing them (in what was at the time a Communist country). Our protagonist is of a cynical generation born too late to have memories of the War, but, as is said, "romantic impulses do still assert themselves". So it's not all bleak and we are left with hope.
Barrier had a UK cinema release in 1967 but has not had a video or DVD release, nor any television showing I can trace.
Barrier shows on 9 April at 4.00pm at the Barbican Cinema 2, London, as part of the 14th Kinoteka Polish Film Festival in its Jerzy Skolimowski retrospective. The screening will be introduced by Skolimowski.