Impreza - Das Fest: The perilously banal advancement of the intransigent right
by Giorgia Del Don
- Alexandra Wesolowski opens the doors to his Polish family with both incredulity and acrimony
Impreza – Das Fest, the debut documentary by Polish filmmaker Alexandra Wesolowski in Germany (his previous film First Class Asylum was shot with Niklas J. Hoffmann and Nina Wesemann) is in competition at Zurich Film Festival (Focus Switzerland, Germany, Austria) and confronts us with a hard-core hyper-hermetic society that is ready to do (almost) anything to protect its identity (whatever that may be).
The case presented by Alexandra Wesolowski in Impreza - Das Fest is unfortunately not anecdotal. On the contrary, the dogmas that he points out are sadly attributable to many regional communities that have turned in on themselves.
Wesolowski’s reflections begin with preparations for a party to celebrate the golden wedding anniversary of his uncle Danuta and aunt Maciej who live in Warsaw. On a more general level, the film’s most interesting component is the dynamic at the heart of a familial harmony with an authoritarian flavour.
Like Christian in Festen or Pasolini's miserable visitor in Teorema, the director detonates a hyper-conservative discourse that floats around a family like a seductive poison. Europe, the issue of abortion, or the closure of Poland’s borders in the face of immigration, each of these "sensitive" topics pushes the director further and further away from a familial logic that could be defined as sectarian.
Endless discussions that oppose two irreconcilable mentalities, filmed discreetly from the threshold of a door left ajar, while the people concerned are too busy offloading their violent diatribe to notice, all the while clashing with the protective and reassuring decor of Danuta and Maciejs' bourgeois house.
The audience, wrapped in a visually reassuring atmosphere with pastel tones and whispered words (those that are permitted), is both cradled and intoxicated before being brutally awakened by the director's interventions, forcing the audience to focus on the dangers that can lie dormant within a family setting.
If the endless discussions turn into a deafening noise that progressively loses its meaning, it’s the close-ups on silent objects that furnish the auntie and uncles' house and the impassive and ruby faces of Alexandra's cousins (which are reminiscent of the Lisbon sisters in The Virgin Suicides) that give us more clues about the present situation. Porcelain dolls skilfully programmed to perpetuate a well-oiled tradition that leaves no room for feelings, however, their cousins may accept them despite being assigned the role of silent witnesses, thus taking advantage of a very comfortable situation.
A one-sided and severe point of view adopted by many. A refusal to look at the surrounding and irritating world that throws disturbing shadows on one’s well-being. It’s in this way that the director's interest in the details, on the stuff that’s normally out of shot (a family photograph, a porcelain animal, dust floating in the backlight), is full of meaning, a discrete but powerful weapon used to turn against the conservative right.
Impreza - Das Fest hits thenail on the head in a discreet but resolute manner. A beautiful lesson in elegance. The film was produced by the outfits Dreifilm and Hochschule für Fernsehen und Film (HFF) München.
(Translated from Italian)
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