Traffic Department: Crushed by corruption
by Martin Kudláč
- The story composition and the rapid and rough editing and cinematography raise the film far above the average police and political thriller.
The Panorama section at this year´s Bratislava International Film Festival intended to showcase gems from world cinema. The Traffic Department [+see also:
interview: Wojtek Smarzowski
film profile] by Polish director Wojciech Smarzowski (interview) was one of those films which programmers considered important to screen. In 2010, IFF Bratislava presented a Polish film about two old friends, The Christening [+see also:
interview: Marcin Wrona
film profile] by Marcin Wrona. One of them had an almost idyllic life, however it soon transpired why with tragic consequences. Wrona described the shocking practices of the local underworld. Smarzowski builds an extension to Wrona´s story and pushes the envelope even further.
The beauty of the whole film lies in excellent timing and pacing. The first half plays as an ordinary day in the ranks of Warsaw´s traffic department, both in the office as well as in the field. The daily work routine is spiced by mutually intertwined back-stories of traffic officers. The portrayal of seven major characters serves as a brief yet cunningly precise and cynical analysis of Polish society and its socio-economical state. None of the officers represent a moral paragon, as even if they represent the law, every single one of them is too human with character flaws, vices and various peccadilloes.
Even though several minor arcs criss-cross throughout the film, the main storyline follows the protagonist Sgt. Krol accused of a murder that occurred during an exceptionally wild night. Krol, after being roofied, wakes up in his car under a bridge and cannot remember why. The string of clues gathered by a special investigative unit points at him as the prime suspect. The other half of the film operates the formula of run & hide while the protagonist struggles to recollect events of the incriminating night in order to redeem himself.
The Traffic Department is a truly unique and raw piece of cinema. Smarzowski subversively plays with genre conventions of cop drama while he constantly bludgeons sore spots of Polish society. The story composition and the rapid and rough editing and cinematography raise the film far above the average police and political thriller. The overall style leans towards a more naturalistic and explicit approach especially driven by a shaky and frenzied camera.
Smarzowski employs a lot of “authentic” shots taken mostly from mobile phones or CCTV to reinforce the naturalism. They can also easily be considered a leitmotif of the film, to render the idea of a tech-obsessive society as a narcissistic one, and depict another reality, similar to that of “big brother.” An impressive way to present double-layers of the world, the one subjectively perceived and another one, behind the curtains where all the strings are being pulled. The director drags viewers into the ruthless and outright rotten cesspool of corruption crawling into the higher political ranks, just like in the Swedish thriller Call Girl [+see also:
film profile]. Nevertheless, Smarzowski´s version tops Marcimain´s in terms of cynicism.
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