Kinoteka Polish Film Festival: Iron Bridge Review
Kacper (Bartłomiej Topa) is a foreman in a copper mine. His best friend Oskar (Łukasz Simlat) is also a miner, and unknown to him Kacper has been having an affair with Oskar’s wife Magda (Julia Kijowska). So that he and Magda can spend time together, Kacper assigns Oskar to the deepest and most dangerous parts of the mine. Unexpectedly, there is an explosion and Oskar is buried alive, which kick-starts a rescue mission, though the presence of methane in the mine hampers their attempts. Kacper and Magda involve themselves with the mission, with Kacper suggesting drilling boreholes in an effort to free Oskar. But is their involvement really to save Oskar’s life, but to deal with their own guilt?
Iron Bridge (Żelazny most) is the debut feature film from writer-director Monika Jordan-Młodzianowska, following a short film from 2011, Wielkanoc (Easter). Other than that, she had previously worked as a casting director. She comes from a mining town in the West of Poland, so there’s no doubt of the authenticity of her film’s setting.
The film begins in medias res, which may not be to its advantage. At the beginning, Kacper and Magda’s affair has been going on for some time, and the mining accident has just happened. So there’s a lot of back story to fill in, which is done by a series of brief flashbacks during the film. But that isn’t quite a solid enough foundation for the story, the emphasis of which is on the couple’s current turmoil, about how they have deceived his friend and her husband, and if Kacper has effectively sent him to his death.
Iron Bridge is a slow-burning drama with many scenes – not just those in the mine – given a shadowy lighting scheme by cinematographer Piotr Kukla. Everything is tamped down, more claustrophobic in feel above ground and in houses than underground in the dark. Perhaps too much so, as while carefully directed and is well acted, it never quite comes to life.
Iron Bridge played as the opening night film of the 18th Kinoteka Polish Film Festival. For further details about the festival go here.