21 February 2007

Love Stories (Historie Milosne)

I have a strange sort of weakness for Jerzy Stuhr. He strikes me as this sort of peevish, pretentious guy who desperately wants to be profound and interesting but doesn't quite manage. You can't really like him, but you sort of enjoy him nonetheless. This movie is kind of like that too. It really wants to be a thought provoking allegory about love, but it ends up being rather tendentious and droning, yet somehow kind of enjoyable. It's clearly an ego trip - Stuhr not only wrote and directed it, but also stars in all 4 leads. It doesn't really add anything to the film to have all 4 leads played by the same person. In the end, it just shows you that Stuhr isn't as good an actor as he'd like to be. I suppose one could claim that the 4 leads are MEANT to be variations of some universal everyman, but really, they're just 4 variations of Jerzy Stuhr. It's kind of fun to watch him attempt to play 4 different people - the 4 different ways he walks in the opening are pretty impressive - but after awhile they all kind of meld into one.

The film chronicles 4 love stories - a priest who is reunited with his daughter, a college professor and his student, a military man and his former fling, and a convict and his wife. Each of them is called upon to make certain decisions, to decide whether or not they are willing to sacrifice their careers for love. But the film doesn't really pose these questions in a provocative way. It just kind of shows you 4 stories. You don't really care about the characters or what they're going to do, for some reason. Maybe because everyone speaks in such slow, measured ways. Maybe because they're sort of lofty types who wear their motivations on their sleeves. There's no ambiguity, no real character development. The college student, for instance. She loves her professor. That's all she really cares about. And you know, that's just not very interesting. The one real shining star in terms of interest is the wife of the convict, played by the always delightful Kasia Figura. My god, what a woman. But she, too, is basically programmed to behave in certain ways in certain situations - there's not much to it.

The film attempts to unite the 4 stories by introducing a sort of St-Peter-at-the-gate type character and spinning off into the mystical, bringing in a Final Judgement kind of motif. the interrogations are interesting, actually, because it's the one moment that any of the characters seem to have any depth. The symbolism is really clunky and largely incoherent - what's the deal with the Examiner's leaky pen? Who cares? The Judgement bit, however, is just annoying. It's an attempt to neatly wrap up the various stories and it's obnoxious.

So why do I say that the movie is enjoyable? Hard to say. The more I think about it, the more I think it was basically crap. If you wanna watch a good movie with Kasia Figura and Jerzy Stuhr, watch Kiler. Because that's a solidly fantastic movie.

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