Featuring a slew of top Polish stars speaking in verse, vet helmer Filip Bajon’s “War of Love” is a slyly farcical adaptation of a 19th-century social comedy by Aleksander Fredro. Bajon gives the proceedings a 21st-century spin by intermittently cutting to the intrigues of the contempo film cast playing the parts. Having sold nearly 500,000 ducats in 10 days since its Oct. 8 domestic release, the pic is being presented at various locations Stateside through local Polish arts organizations, with Polish-Americans as the target audience.
The main action takes place in 1825, in several comfortably appointed manor homes and the surrounding countryside in southern Poland, where beautiful cousins Klara (fiery Marta Zmuda Trzebiatowska) and Aniela (camera-friendly Anna Cieslak) vow to never marry, despite their parents’ intent to betroth them to oafish Albin (Borys Szyc) and conceited Gustaw (Maciej Stuhr), respectively. Much as in Shakespearean comedies, the lovely ladies are led to renege on their oath through the machinations of a clever suitor.
The contempo frame, which becomes clear only gradually through the appearance of anachronisms such as cell phones, dressing-room trailers and late model cars, involves a spat between the actors playing Radost (Robert Wieckiewicz) and his paramour (Edyta Olszowka), over the latter’s attraction to Zmuda Trzebiatowska.
Having to make do with simple prose subtitles in English, non-Polish-speaking audiences won’t fully appreciate the verbal humor and dense characterizations playwright Fredro was known for. Likewise, the visual humor, which plays on familiarity with the actors and their past roles, will also be lost on many.
Best known for dramas such as “Aria for an Athlete” (1979) and “Poznan ’56” (1996), Bajon keeps the comic action broad but pacey. Thesps, who appear to be relishing their roles, remain in attractive period dress throughout.
Witold Stok’s golden-hued lensing leads the solid craft credits, while composer Michal Lorenc sparks laughs with some musical jokes.