6.4/10
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4 user 9 critic

Pornografia (2003)

Two intellectuals, a writer and a director, begin to play a mysterious psychological game in a peaceful countryside manor house during the Nazi occupation.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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...
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Hipolit
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Maria, Hipolit's Wife
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Waclaw Paszkowski
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Siemian
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Amelia, Waclaw's Mother
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Anna Baniowska ...
Servant Weronika
Kazimierz Mazur ...
Jan Urbanski ...
Skuziak, Amelia's Killer
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Sitting Room Landlady
Henryk Niebudek ...
German Soldier Hans
...
German Soldier
Jerzy Chojnowski ...
Gustaw
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Storyline

Witold narrates a story. In Warsaw, in 1943, he meets the cultivated Fryderyk at a salon and they become friends. He takes Fryderyk with him to the country estate of Hipolit, Maria, and Henia, their teen daughter. Hipolit aids local resistance fighters. Fryderyk embarks on a game to engineer the cuckolding of Waclaw, Henia's fiancé, by Karol, a youth in the household who's Henia's long-time friend. War intrudes on the country idyll when a murder happens during dinner at the estate and when the local guerrilla commander seems to lose his grip. Rumors that the war may end soon don't halt deadly turns. What is Fryderyk's nature, and what has shaped it? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Drama | Romance | War

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Release Date:

17 October 2003 (Poland)  »

Also Known As:

Pornografija  »

Filming Locations:

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Box Office

Budget:

PLN 9,000,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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User Reviews

 
Ravishing attention to nuance; pity about the tone.
1 June 2004 | by (New York) – See all my reviews

Recently, I saw the film Pornografia at the Walter Reade Theater. This offering by Polish director Jan Kolski is an adaptation of Wiltold Gombrowicz's difficult novel, in which minute sensory information is invested with meaning and sutured into intricate causal patterns that reflect the protagonist's paranoia.

So much of the narrative takes place in the main character's head that I'd thought the story impossibly non-cinematic. Yet Kolski manages to bring in several levels of nuance and rarefied metaphor. What's more, said nuances become sensual and aesthetic.

Unfortunately, what Kolski leaves out of the film is the tone of the book, which reads like Beckett's version of Dangerous Liaisons. The film feels too elegiac, too post-tragic, even overtly moralistic -- it's as if the director were trying to correct Gombrowicz's narrator's amoral tone. This change creates unintentional ambiguities, flaws that don't exist in the book: for example, it is unclear why the two main characters turn against one of younger characters in the story. In the film, the main characters seem too ethical, too sensitive, to behave as they do. In the novel, their cynicism and casual sadism are everywhere apparent.

In the theater, I perceived a number of Polish members of the audience to be weeping at key moments; it occurred to me that the loss of a son or daughter was so commonplace in that country at one time that the film might have had an indigenous impact -- one that a third- or second-generation American would miss without clarification. Thus I'm not ready to dismiss the film as unclear or sentimental without knowing more.

(For the record, neither the novel nor the film resembles Schindler's List; neither are about a concentration camp. And even if they were, Spielberg's melodrama is not the gold standard to which other holocaust films should be compared. Far earlier and better specimens exist, such as those by Louis Malle, Alain Resnais and Claude Lanzmann.)


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