×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

33 Scenes From Life

Rising helmer Malgoska Szumowska continues to mine semiautobiographical material with "33 Scenes From Life," but the results develop across emotional arcs in less than satisfactory ways.

With:
With: Julia Jentsch, Peter Gantzler, Maciej Stuhr, Malgorzata Hajewska, Andrzej Hudziak, Isa Kuna, Roman Gancarczyk, Rafal Mackowiak, Dorota Segda, Renata Dancewicz, Piotr Adamczyk, Adam Woronowicz, Slawomir Zapala. (Polish dialogue)

Rising helmer Malgoska Szumowska (“Stranger”) continues to mine semiautobiographical material with “33 Scenes From Life,” but the results develop across emotional arcs in less than satisfactory ways. Focusing on a woman whose life crumbles when her mother is hospitalized, the pic impresses on several levels, but tends to treat well-established absurdist elements as if they’re new discoveries, and is at times overly voyeuristic. Still, partisans — including the Locarno jury, which awarded it their Special Jury Prize — will guarantee fest play along with possible Euro arthouse exposure.

Szumowska herself experienced something similar to her protag’s grief when both her parents died within a year, but she’s quick to establish the differences between this fictional family and her own. Julia (German star Julia Jentsch) comes from a close-knit family of intellectuals that includes film-director father Jurek (Andrzej Hudziak) and novelist mother Barbara (Malgorzata Hajewska). Szumowska expertly captures the sense of ease and underlying tension that accompany family gatherings.

Julia’s career as an artist is on the rise, and she’s outwardly happy with composer hubby Piotr (Maciej Stuhr), though he’s often away. When Mom is diagnosed with cancer (a theme also explored, presciently, in the helmer’s debut, “Happy Man”), the entire family comes together, including marginalized sister Kaska (Isa Kuna), but as Barbara sinks into dementia, everyone falls apart. Scenes capturing the hospital-bedside awkwardness of loved ones are well played, as are the moments of jocularity within such a stressful environment.

Julia’s attempts at integrating the cancer into her art fall flat, and Piotr’s absence forms a vacuum (but never gets its proper due onscreen). A clumsy, drunken pass at family friend and fellow artist Adrian (Danish thesp Peter Gantzler, “Italian for Beginners”) goes nowhere; meanwhile, her dad Jurek also needs hospitalization after turning to the bottle in spectacular fashion.

As her world collapses around her, Julia acts out in increasingly evident ways, including sudden outbursts of laughter. Anyone who’s been through such trauma won’t be nearly as surprised by this as Szumowska appears to be, though she throws in an overt father fixation to deepen the characterization. The helmer also indulges in extended closeup scenes of Barbara dying.

While working these scenes out on film undoubtedly helped Szumowska through a shattering period, it’s purely a matter of life experience whether they’ll also prove affecting to an audience. Unquestionably, the early scenes work best, with their implicit understanding of the coddling effects of being a favored child in a sharp-witted family.

Expert dubbing means viewers will barely notice that Jentsch and Gantzler aren’t speaking Polish. Jentsch adds to her growing reputation as an actress of depth, with genuine star presence. Displaying a sensual, feral quality, she’s also a generous performer, quietly subsuming herself into the strong ensemble.

Szumowska’s regular d.p. Michal Englert is a master of smooth, sophisticated lensing: Early, optimistic scenes are shot with a warm, golden light, in distinct contrast to the penumbral interiors of the hospital. Piotr’s melodic yet dissonant compositions are nicely incorporated into the soundtrack.

33 Scenes From Life

Germany-Poland

Production: A Pandora Film Produktion (Germany)/STI Studio Filmowe, Shot Szumowski (Poland) production, in association with ZDF/ARTE. (International sales: Trust Nordisk, Hvidovre, Denmark.) Produced by Raimond Goebel, Karl Baumgartner. Coproduced by Teresa Dworzecka, Malgoska Szumowska. Directed, written by Malgoska Szumowska.

Crew: Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Michal Englert; editor, Jacek Drosio; music, Pawel Mykietyn; production designer, Anna Niemira; costume designers, Julia Jarza-Brataniec, Katarzyna Lewinska; sound (Dolby SRD), Michal Dominowski; line producer, Miroslaw Warchol; associate producer, Mikael Olsen; casting, Malgorzata Adamska. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (International Competition), Aug. 9, 2008. (Also in Toronto Film Festival -- Contemporary World Cinema.) Running time: 95 MIN.

With: With: Julia Jentsch, Peter Gantzler, Maciej Stuhr, Malgorzata Hajewska, Andrzej Hudziak, Isa Kuna, Roman Gancarczyk, Rafal Mackowiak, Dorota Segda, Renata Dancewicz, Piotr Adamczyk, Adam Woronowicz, Slawomir Zapala. (Polish dialogue)

More Film

  • Viacom Networks

    Federico Cuervo to Head New Management Structure at Viacom International Studios

    Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN) –Americas has announced a new management structure for its fast-expanding Viacom International Studios (VIS) which will see Federico Cuervo filling the role of senior vice president-head of VIS, reporting to Darío Turovelzky, newly named SVP of global contents at VIMN Americas. Turovelzky remains co-chief of VIMN. Under the new structure, [...]

  • Berlin: Edko Films Picks up Zhang

    Berlin: Edko Films Picks up Zhang Yimou’s ‘One Second’

    Hong Kong studio Edko Films has picked up international rights to “One Second,” the newest movie by top Chinese director Zhang Yimou. The film will have its world premiere in competition in Berlin, it was announced this week. “One Second” is pitched as Zhang’s personal love letter to cinema, and as a return to his [...]

  • Sygeplejeskolen sc 205

    Claudia Boderke, Lars Mering Talk SF Studios ‘The New Nurses,’

    The inevitable comparison for SF Studios’ “The New Nurses,” at least from a Danish broadcast perspective, is “Something’s Rockin,’” another 2018 TV 2 Charlie show which was retro but forward-looking. “Something’s Rockin’” described the birth of an independent radio with culture in Denmark. Produced by SF Studios’ Senia Dremstrup (“Norskov”),  “The New Nurses” talks cleverly [...]

  • Robert Redford

    Robert Redford to Receive Honorary Cesar Award

    Legendary American actor and director Robert Redford is set to receive an honorary Cesar award, France’s equivalent of the Oscars, at the 44th annual César ceremony, which will take place on Feb. 22 in Paris. “An iconic actor, an exceptional director, a passionate producer, founder and president of Sundance, the most revered festival of independent [...]

  • Goteborg: Co-writer Hakan Lindhe on Viaplay’s

    Co-Writer Hakan Lindhe on Politics, Image in Viaplay’s ‘The Inner Circle’

    David Ehrling, Sweden’s Minister for Enterprise, who is tipped to be its next Prime Minister, spends a lot of the time in Sweden’s “The Inner Circle” not preparing his speeches, or in impassioned discussion of key political issues, but staring into the mirror, rain checking on his strong-jawed image. He spends much of his enterprise, [...]

  • 'Invisibles' Director Louis-Julien Petit On His

    'Invisibles' Director Louis-Julien Petit on his Socially-Minded Smash

    PARIS —  Far from a dumping ground, the months of January and February have become synonymous in France with the kinds of highly polished crowd-pleasing comedies that dominate the annual box-office. This year is no exception, only nestled among the likely blockbusters “Serial Bad Weddings 2” and “City Hunter” is Louis-Julien Petit’s socially minded dramedy [...]

  • "The Continent," directed by Chinese racer

    Alibaba Pictures Buys Into Chinese Director Han Han's Film Studio

    Alibaba Pictures confirmed that it has invested an undisclosed amount in Chinese celebrity blogger-turned-film director Han Han’s Shanghai Tingdong Film. Han’s upcoming “Pegasus” is one of the most anticipated films of the year in China. Alibaba Pictures, part of e-commerce giant Alibaba, is now the second-largest stakeholder in Tingdong. It has a 13.1% stake, according to Chinese [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content