Review: Panic Attack
by Ola Salwa
- The directorial debut by Poland’s Pawel Maslona is a hilarious black comedy with intertwining plotlines, proving that the more really is the merrier
Pawel Maslona’s first full-length film was eagerly awaited by both critics and his peers. The 34-year-old filmmaker previously directed a successful short film, Magma, and co-wrote Demon [+see also:
film profile] with the late Marcin Wrona. Panic Attack [+see also:
interview: Pawel Maslona
film profile], a crazy and classy dark comedy, has now exceeded all expectations.
Here, the audience is introduced to an array of characters that are facing either a major crisis or a life-changing moment. There is a heavily pregnant bride, who is obsessed with having the perfect wedding and the perfect birth; a successful writer in her early forties, who hears her biological clock ticking just a little bit too loud; a gamer who played the wrong person; a married couple sat on a plane next to an annoying man; a bunch of pre-teens experimenting with weed; and a girl who stars in live porn videos. The characters are lively and funny, and are just a tad on the annoying side, but most importantly, they are relatable, which is a big win by Maślona and his co-writers, actors Bartłomiej Kotschedoff and Aleksandra Pisula (who, incidentally, play siblings in the film: the gamer and the porn star).
The writing trio is superb at observing and mocking first-world problems, and they do it with more sympathy than vitriol. The jokes and storylines in Panic Attack have only little or no reference to Polish politics or culture, which makes the humour translatable and enjoyable, a rare feature of a local comedy. Maślona’s opus is often compared to Damián Szifron’s anthology film Wild Tales [+see also:
film profile],but the Polish movie is more realistic and has a different structure; however, both directors successfully paint a picture of the wants and needs of their respective societies. The stories in Panic Attack intertwine, but unlike in other films, such as the Christmas classic Love Actually [+see also:
film profile], to name just the first title that springs to mind, the tales do not unfold in parallel. It is only during the end credits that the audience can join all the dots and see how the characters are connected to each other, which lends the film another entertaining and cerebral level.
Maślona is a very meticulous helmer, who excels in staging scenes and directing the ensemble cast (Magdalena Popławska, who plays a writer, won an acting award at the Polish Film Festival in September 2017), altering the tempo and mood so that it fits each tale perfectly. The film is also another triumph by one of Poland’s top editors, Agnieszka Glińska (Communion [+see also:
film profile], The Here After [+see also:
interview: Magnus von Horn
film profile], 11 Minutes [+see also:
Q&A: Jerzy Skolimowski
There is just one piece of bad news for the director, though: after displaying so much versatility, talent and humour here, the expectations for his sophomore film are as a result now even higher.
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