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Miss Nobody

An intriguing theme doesn't get the performances or stylistic smarts it needs in "Miss Nobody," a long overdue return by veteran Andrzej Wajda to contempo material. Highly metaphysical story of a blank-page teen torn between two spiritual worlds has some atmospheric moments, but in its weaker sections comes close to a Polish version of "Heathers" crossed with "The Craft." This disappointing "Miss" doesn't look likely to hit many foreign arthouse trails. Based on Tomek Tryzna's 1994 novel, subtitled "A Mysterious Novel About Growing Up," the picture is essentially a coming-of-age yarn in elaborate dress. Marysia (Anna Wielgucka), a 15-year-old peasant girl who moves with her family to the big city, passes through various forms of temptation (denial of God, pursuit of materialism, proto-lesbian feelings) before facing the adult world on her own terms.

With:
Marysia Kawczak ..... Anna Wielgucka Kasia ..... Anna Mucha Ewa ..... Anna Powierza Marysia's Mother ..... Stanislawa Celinska Marysia's Father ..... Jan Janga Tomaszewski Ewa's Mother ..... Malgorzata Potocka Ewa's Father ..... Leszek Teleszynski Kasia's Mother ..... Malgorzata Pieczynska Teacher ..... Anna Romantowska Marysia's Brother ..... Adam Siemion

First friend in her new school is Kasia (Anna Mucha), a strong-willed outsider who dresses in flowery garments like some New Age hippie and takes the naive hick under her wing. Entranced by Kasia’s assurance, Marysia swallows her way-out theories whole and isn’t phased even when she discovers Kasia is actually the daughter of wealthy parents. Only when Kasia tells her she must renounce God to become a complete person does Marysia break off their friendship.

Next along is cynical, waspish classmate Ewa (Anna Powierza) who does a “Clueless”-style makeover of Marysia and then enters into elaborate games of psychological domination with an almost Sapphic edge. The kicker is that Marysia emerges the tougher of the two, revealing darker corners of her soul than she would care to admit. After rejecting Ewa too, Marysia makes a surprising discovery about her two classmates.

Wajda has traveled some of this ground before in his 1960 film “Innocent Sorcerers,” but in “Miss Nobody” the story is pitched at a more spiritual level, rather than being a portrait of a rootless, amoral generation. The main problem with the pic is that too many sequences, which may have worked on the printed page, misfire badly (and sometimes comically) onscreen: Kasia’s possession by a demon she calls Dgighi, her psyching-out of a teacher who has come to register a complaint to her parents, Marysia’s lecture to her mom while coolly smoking a cigarette, and Ewa’s sexually tinged mind games. And the device of Marysia speaking her innermost thoughts on camera is more often clumsy than not.

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The fault lies not only in Wajda’s direction, which isn’t stylized enough to make this kind of material work, but also in the main thesps’ inexperience. Wielgucka (who surprisingly got a special mention from the Berlin jury for her “promising” performance) has the right kind of bruised-angel looks but can’t carry the dramatic weight of the part. As the two other girls, Mucha and Powierza are barely adequate. The strong lineup of seasoned adult players is essentially a group of bystanders.

Technically, the film is fine, with atmospheric underscoring by Andrzej Korzynski and clean lensing by Krzysztof Ptak.

Miss Nobody

Polish

Production: A Studio Filmowe "Perspek-tywa"/Telewizja Polska production, in association with Bayerischer Rundfunk (Munich), WFDiF, Syrena Entertainment Group, Com Engineering. (International sales: Cine Electra, London.) Produced by Janusz Morgenstern. Directed by Andrzej Wajda. Screenplay, Radoslaw Piwowarski, from the 1994 novel by Tomek Tryzna.

Crew: Camera (color), Krzysztof Ptak; editor, Wanda Zeman; music, Andrzej Korzynski; art direction, Janusz Sosnowski; costume design, Malgorzata Stefaniak; sound (Dolby), Piotr Zawadzki, Nikodem Wolk-Laniewski, Jan Freda. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (competing), Feb. 23, 1997. Running time: 103 MIN.

With: Marysia Kawczak ..... Anna Wielgucka Kasia ..... Anna Mucha Ewa ..... Anna Powierza Marysia's Mother ..... Stanislawa Celinska Marysia's Father ..... Jan Janga Tomaszewski Ewa's Mother ..... Malgorzata Potocka Ewa's Father ..... Leszek Teleszynski Kasia's Mother ..... Malgorzata Pieczynska Teacher ..... Anna Romantowska Marysia's Brother ..... Adam Siemion

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