AFTERMATH (Poklosie) 2012
Little do I know about Polish cinema or Polish history, but where film is involved an intriguing premise is enough to get me excited – Aftermath does just that.
Introduced by the Raindance Polish strand hosts as a controversial film that got a lot of press, it was even banned for a time ( one of the actors received threats!). So you can imagine that those of us in the audience were excited to see what this, otherwise under-represented, country had to offer to the world of cinema.
The film begins twenty-years since Franciszek Kalina (Ireneusz Czop) left his native home in Poland for a better life in America. Having missed his parents funerals in that time, Franciszek is ready to return and make peace with his estranged younger brother Jozef (Maciej Stuhr). Unfortunately for him he is welcomed with unfounded contempt and soon discovers that Jozef is also at odds with the locals, after discovering that their town was the site of a Jewish massacre. The brothers find themselves on a dangerous escapade to find out why the townspeople are so afraid of them literally digging up the past, but their discovery leads them a little too close to home and pushes the brother’s already fractured relationship to breaking point.
In Aftermath you’ll recognise a story of human struggle and be provoked into a frank discussion on human cruelty and prejudices rooted in the past played out in two hours of aesthetically gratifying and conceptually imposing film.
I’ve seen films about the holocaust, I know Poland’s alliance with Germany during the war is a grave mark against the country’s history; I’ve just never seen a story about Jewish genocide amongst people who weren’t directly part of the regime.
[The story] is one of the most painful chapters in Poland’s history,” he told reporters. “We already have a huge number of movies on the horrors committed by the Germans and the Soviets, and I think it’s time to show the terrible things we did ourselves.
– Aftermath director Wladyslaw Pasikowski.
Written and directed by Wladyslaw Pasikowski, the story is based on the Jewabne massacre (1941) during which many of the town’s Jewish residents were thought to be killed by German soldiers; the conclusion is terrifying.
Czop, as the stoic older brother who has had the privilege of seeing more of the world and adopting it’s increasingly pessimistic view of his people, is perfectly matched with Stuhr who plays the stubborn, weary brother that got left behind. Both are exceptional as they bicker their way through discovering the truth about their community. Stuhr is perhaps the one with the best character arc – from the beginning his heart is in the right place but unlike his brother, this is the world he knows and loves.
The supporting cast look authentic in their land that time forgot costumes and fully adopting the antagonising stares and mob mentality approach. The raging fires and brutal fist fights the protagonists endure is gut wrenching, even in a world where we are increasingly becoming senseless to violence; the messy confrontations look real and serve as a further reminder to how far people will go to preserve something out of fear of retribution.
What I like or rather what I appreciate, is that most of the cast are over the age of thirty and are largely unknown Polish actors. The older generation are not treated with the flighty paintbrush they’re usually portrayed with in film. This is a film that takes itself very seriously and wants nothing to distract from its macabre story. These things happened, and some of the people present may look harmless today.
It’s not so much a story of morality, but more of an open admission to the part that many, outside of the well documented Nazi regime, played in the unlawful treatment of Jewish people during the war. If you question whether or not this film was still relevant today after countless Holocaust stories been told before – you miss the point entirely.
This film has put Polish cinema firmly on the map. Looking forward to seeing more.
Official selection for:
All photos sourced from:
http://www.Raindancefestival.org | http://www.filmneweurope.com/