Squadron

The anti-war sentiments of the Polish-produced "Squadron" provide the lavish period costumer with a universal resonance and appeal. Yet the familiarity of the story and an ambivalent conclusion work against the material's commercialism. It should spark some critical interest, but international theatrical prospects are tepid.

The anti-war sentiments of the Polish-produced “Squadron” provide the lavish period costumer with a universal resonance and appeal. Yet the familiarity of the story and an ambivalent conclusion work against the material’s commercialism. It should spark some critical interest, but international theatrical prospects are tepid.

Set during an insurrection of Polish peasants in 1863, the tale focuses on Fydor (Radoslaw Pazura), a young officer in a regiment of Russian dragoons sent to quell the unrest. He initially confronts his commission with zeal, but the reality of the war zone turns his passion into confusion. The brutality of his fellow soldiers in quashing the rebellion appears hopelessly out of balance with the modest demands of the Poles.

It’s no coincidence that writer/director Julisuz Machulski slaps his film with a title that recalls “Platoon.” Though set a century apart, the themes and situations have strong parallels. The confrontation between military and native factions also echoes the more recent “Geronimo.”

“Squadron’s” vantage point is a little too cold and distant. Its protagonist is a cipher who’s troubled, though detached, as he witnesses racism, sadism and other horrors of war. His inability to take action or respond may ring true to life but produces a less than compelling emotional conclusion.

While Machulski leaves us short of a catharsis, he does engage the mind and provides a stunning pictorial display. The production values and period detail of the film are peerless. It is provocative, if unconsummated, material that’s too heavily weighted toward the cerebral.

Squadron

(POLISH)

Production: A Warsaw Film Studios production in association with Zebra Films, Arkadia, High Speed Films, AK Prods. Produced by Julisuz Machulski, Jacek Moczydlowski. Directed, written by Machulski, based on short stories by Stanislaw Rembek.

Crew: Camera (color), Witold Adamek; editor, Jadwiga Zajicek; music, Krzesimir Debski; production design, Dorota Ignaczak, Valentin Gidulianov; costume design, Magdalena Biernawska; sound, Nikodem Wolk-Laniewski. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 21, 1994. Running time: 101 MIN.

With: With: Radoslaw Pazura, Janusz Gajos, Sergei Szakurov, Jan Machulski, Katarzyna Lochowska, Bernard Pierre Donnadieu, Tomasz Stockinger, Jerzy Nowak.

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