An impressively stylized portrait of socialist Poland circa 1971, “Life Hurts” recounts the last years of Polish poet Rafal Wojaczek, a rebel who became a legend when he committed suicide at 26. Director Lech Majewski (who wrote “Basquiat” for Julian Schnabel and is a poet himself) captures the bleakness of an epoch without hope all too well, in an emotionally icy film that keeps a great distance from the viewer and occasionally becomes tedious. Its uncompromising harshness should find festival admirers.
Krzysztof Siwczyk’s charismatic perf explains the fascination Wojaczek exerted on disgruntled young Poles for decades to come. Drunk and unkempt, he stumbles around a depressingly empty Warsaw in a muddy suit, getting into fights , walking through windows and jumping out of third-story apartments. Women throw themselves at him (especially nurses, whom he trysts with on his regular hospital visits), but his only love is the poetry he recites, unbidden, to bureaucrats in restaurants. Pickled old poet Viktor (the sublime Andrzej Mastalerz), his only friend, sadly observes his self-destructive martyrdom and passage into myth. The minimalist poetry of Adam Sikora’s black-and-white camerawork stresses the moral void.