Review: ‘Savior’s Square’

'The Polar Express'

A contempo Polish family is rent asunder by crises in "Savior's Square."

A contempo Polish family is rent asunder by crises both financial and emotional in the ironically titled histrionic downer “Savior’s Square.” Contempo effort from Krzysztof Krauze and Joanna Kos-Krauze, husband-and-wife scripters of 2005 fest fave “My Nikifor,” won’t have nearly the penetration of that work, with regional theatrical play, tube sales and modest ancillary to be pic’s likely saviors.

In truth, “Savior’s Square” owes less to the finely drawn painter’s biopic “My Nikifor” than to Krauze’s acclaimed 1999 theatrical work “The Debt.” That confidently taut tale’s subject — young entrepreneurs going outside the law to better their stations — is here vaguely inverted, as a young family risks everything on a now-bankrupt housing scheme and faces recrimination, legal battles and physical deterioration.

Krauze regular Jowita Budnik plays Beata, a country girl now married to blue-collar city boy Bartek (Arkadiusz Janiczek). As they await completion of new digs in an apartment block outside town, they’re stuffed, along with their two young boys (Dawid and Natan Gudejko) and Bartek’s mom Teresa (Ewa Wencel), in a small flat at the titular Warsaw plaza.

Teresa is increasingly bitter and confrontational about the situation, with most of her undiluted venom reserved for Beata. Though the two form an uneasy alliance when Bartek leaves his wife for another woman, the pressures of losing their investment, on top of the separation, take an awful physical toll on the well-meaning Beata.

Pic’s complex emotional relationships would play easier if Bartek’s journey from struggling family man to feckless philanderer possessed more logic. And while it seems clear from “The Debt” that Krauze has an overarching interest in the effect of financial burden in the new economy on families, thematic linkage is largely avoided in favor of depicting the clan’s messy downward spiral.

Thesping by trio of adult leads is certainly intense, though unrelenting emotional energy drags the story into a melodramatic pit.

Tech package is glossy, with the bulk of Krauze’s regular crew in skilled form. Pic’s four prizes at the recent Polish Film Awards include film, direction, actress (Budnik) and supporting actress (Wencel).

Savior's Square

Poland

Production

A Studio Filmowe Zebra, TVP, Canal Plus Poland production. (International sales: TVP, Warsaw.) Produced by Juliusz Machulski. Directed by Krzysztof Krauze, Joanna Kos-Krauze. Screenplay, Krauze, Kos-Krauze, Jowita Budnik, Ewa Wencel, Arkadiusz Janiczek.

Crew

Camera (color), Wojciech Staron; editor, Krzysztof Szpetmanski; music, Pawel Szymanski; production designer, Monika Sajko-Gradowska; sound (Dolby Digital Surround EX), Nikodem Wolk-Laniewski. Reviewed at Karlovy Vary Film Festival (competing), July 3, 2007. Running time: 105 MIN.

With

Jowita Budnik, Arkadiusz Janiczek, Ewa Wencel, Dawid Gudejko, Natan Gudejko, Beata Fudalej, Zuzanna Lipiec, Krzysztof Bochenek.

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