A film well worth seeing, experiencing, piecing together. I offer some of the pieces, without yet being able to offer the "together." I just returned from a showing at the Cleveland International Film Festival, and was disturbed enough by the low aggregate scores on IMDb.com to attempt a review.
Venice is the Lost Paradise of Atlantis, the city of which young Marek dreams in 1939 as he trains to be a Defender of the Polish homeland. He writes his hopes for the future on a piece of paper that he inserts in the wishing wall of the Catholic church next to the boys' dormitory that houses him as the film begins. Meanwhile, father and mother abandon him to the decaying family estate that serves as a refuge for aunts, cousins, where he continues his refrain of "I don't want to be here." A flooded cellar provides a temporary fantasy escape to a paper Venice; steps beyond its confines introduce him to the world of brutality and horror from Nazi invaders and the intimations that Soviet liberators offer a threat of their own.
There is much beauty yet in the women and girls surrounding him, in the remnants of a cultured world in architecture and music. Many scenes are in sunlit nature or golden haze. Marek seems too young to make sense of the world of adults or of the budding sexuality of his more precocious female playmates, yet adult life choices confront him in the most importunate ways.
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