11 MINUTES @ BFI #LFF

fot. Robert Jaworski tel. +48 501 37 22 40

11-minutes-03 11-minutes-01Director Jerzy Skolimowski Screenwriter Jerzy Skolimowski Starring Richard Dormer, Paulina Chapko, Wojciech Mecwaldowski Country Of Origin Poland-Ireland Running Time 81 mins

Category: Official Competition

Life in 11 minutes. Exploring the uncanny, coincidental nature of life by watching a bunch of strangers in the same 11 minutes as their lives randomly intersect. Proving that any slice of time, anywhere in the world, is filled with more drama and unpredictability than we could possibly imagine or behold. A technically bold and action-packed undertaking. But what’s the point of it all? 

For all its grand cinematographic efforts, Skolimowski’s film proves that capturing the ‘nature of life’ is not enough. The promise of a high octane experience packed with all the urgency that the title 11 Minutes suggests falls flat even as the story’s hurtling through vibrant scenarios without stopping to catch its breath. It is a kinetic experience with honest performances that are carefully executed in their own segments, however there is no one resounding voice when they are all spliced together.

We open in a promisingly intimate scenario filmed on a smart phone between newlyweds as they teasingly roll around in bed together, she (Paulina Chapko) the blonde, sexy subject of his desire and he (Wojciech Mecwaldowski) sporting a fresh black eye from a scuffle with someone who tried to feel up his new wife. The scene opens up immediate questions we want answering, tantalising us with narrative hints of jealousy, panic, dodgy dealings and a complicated passion in just a few snippets of dialogue: in other words, the makings of an exciting opening to a thrilling film. However it really does all go down hill from there as Richard Dormer enters their story playing an American film director leering over the wife in a private audition in a hotel room as the husband desperately tries to get in.

This strand being the framework of the film, we cut between other characters in the Warsaw vicinity dealing with their own 11 minutes of examination (there is a distinctly meta feel from the outset, what with the self-surveillance opening). Other stories worth mentioning include a hotdog man chatting to nuns on the street who is, between sales, orchestrating a drug drop with a courier, who is himself balls-deep in another man’s wife, soon to be leaping onto his motorcycle to avoid being confronted by an early returning cuckolded husband. Then there is a young boy involved in a robbery filming a goodbye for his parents, a painter under a bridge, a woman in labour being rescued by paramedics who have to overcome the obstacle of a violent crazy man barring their way to her, and a dog being taken for a walk by its newly-single, morose owner.

Skolimowski would have been better to film all his chosen scenarios in 11 minute scenes and play them back to back in a realist way as opposed to this higgeldy-piggeldy wild goose chase back and forth through time that contributes nothing towards the overall desired feeling of urgency. This was the original temporal plan during writing, according to Skolimowski, however his scenes “evolved’ to transcend the self-imposed restriction and consequently, we lose the core meaning. The tension during the action sequences is present, but in a meaningless way.

Keeping out attention through bangs and flashes screams ‘Hollywood’ as opposed to ‘well thought-out story’, and thus the overall feeling we are left with is an uncomfortable, superficial one. Skolimowski proves here and has done many times before that he can coax a well timed performance out of his cast, but there is no getting over such a misguided narrative that ties itself into an embarrassingly confused knot until the desired urgency stops coming from the film’s stories altogether and starts coming from the audience who want it to quickly be over.

The Final Word: Skolimowski’s film proves that capturing the ‘nature of life’ is not enough.

11 MINUTES is screening at the BFI London Film Festival tonight (10th October).

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