Review: ‘Spam’

Tyro writer-helmer Radoslaw Hendel finds plenty of dramatic grist for the mill in the story of a borderline autistic genius who is first nurtured and then persecuted in "Spam." Ultimately, pic does not seem completely realized, since both the Good Samaritan gestures and the eventual acts of hatred feel sudden and contrived to fit an overall Christian metaphorical schema.

Tyro writer-helmer Radoslaw Hendel finds plenty of dramatic grist for the mill in the story of a borderline autistic genius who is first nurtured and then persecuted in “Spam.” Ultimately, pic does not seem completely realized, since both the Good Samaritan gestures and the eventual acts of hatred feel sudden and contrived to fit an overall Christian metaphorical schema. Outside of some fest sojourns, fable will be limited to Polish auds.

An undisclosed incident lands a comatose young man with no identity papers in the hospital, where he’s given extra attention by resident nurse Hania (Ewa Pajak). Gradually, he comes to and reveals that his name is Albert (Mariusz Ostrowski), but he remains painfully shy and non-verbal, and it is perhaps his sheer vulnerability that prompts Hania to take him home. She also notes his physical resemblance to her son, who died in a suspicious accident.

The ways in which Albert adjusts to his new life offer thesp Ostrowski some interesting choices for dramatizing what amounts to a newly formed personality, and, between Hania’s care and neighbor Monika’s (Katarzyna Cynke) attention, Albert appears to have luckily fallen into the hands of two maternal angels.

Hendel, however, shows his seriousness as a filmmaker by drawing on themes previously explored by Krzysztof Kieslowski and Robert Bresson as he turns his initially happy fable into a dark look at how seemingly blessed innocents can be victimized by cruel hypocrites.

This turn rests partly on the discovery that Albert is a numbers genius. Soon, poor Albert becomes a magnet for thugs. Following its leisurely opening act, however, pic ‘s later clashes come on suddenly and arbitrarily, greatly lessening what could have been a powerful viewing experience.

Filmmaking package is loose, agile and intimately scaled, with Tomasz Glinski’s thoughtful score as a fine support.

Spam

Poland

Production

A Polish Television production. Produced by Wojciech Rabiej. Directed, written by Radoslaw Hendel.

Crew

Camera (color), Adam Bajerski; editor, Agnieszka Glinska; music, Tomasz Glinski; production designer, Ireneusz Chojnacki. Reviewed on videocassette, Los Angeles, May 27, 2005. (In Polish Film Festival , Los Angeles.) Running time: 83 MIN.

With

Mariusz Ostrowski, Ewa Pajak, Katarzyna Cynke, Jerzy Karaszkiewicz , Maria Skorodzien, Michal Rolnicki, Jan Peszek.
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