Future Frames Review: Sweet Home Czyzewo
by Laurence Boyce
- Jakub Radej’s film, screened at EFP’s Future Frames as part of Karlovy Vary 2018, is a dark examination of what it’s truly like to return home
“Home is where the heart is” as the old saying goes. Of course it doesn’t go on to say what is going to be done with said heart when it is in said home. One would hope that is nurtured and cared for. But, as Jakub Radej’s Sweet Home Czyzewo shows, it can also be broken and stomped on if one doesn’t know what to expect.
After a few years working in America, Marcin (Adam Bobik) returns to the small Polish town that he called home. Initially he finds a warm welcome from the friends he hasn’t seen for many years, but tragic events show that his home is not the same place that he left. Visiting a party with the aim of reconnecting with his old flame, Marcin soon realises that, while he has moved on, so has the town he left behind. Marcin is soon faced with a stark choice. Can he stay in a place that he no longer recognises or does he re-embrace the role of a small town boy.
From the outset Radej undercuts Marcin’s outsider swagger and verve as he heads ever closer to Czyzewo. The blue skies that fill the screen as his plane lands give way to an atmosphere of headache grey and enclosed spaces. As he meets up with former colleagues and acquaintances there’s a sense of pervading claustrophobia as Marcin constantly seems at odds with his surroundings. One moment set in the back of a car seems him not only physically trapped but also, with the dawning realisation that things have changed immeasurably since his absence, entombed by the weight of his own expectations. His outsider status is not because he’s gone off into the world and done something different and exciting. It’s because he doesn’t belong any more. If he wants to truly go back home then he has to regress.
The end scenes of the film hint at a physically tragic end for Marcin. But then it seems to segue into something worse as Marcin seems to blithely accept that fate that Czyzewo has decreed for him. There’s something almost Lynchian about the undercurrents of the film with the outward respectability of small town life stripped away to reveal the dark beating heart of insularity and a small minded mentality. It’s also hard not to see this as a metaphor for the state of current day Poland as a whole.
With a documentary background, Radej films with quite a raw and urgent style but there are abstract flourishes – such as long and still shots of Marcin in the distance – that add to the air of being an outsider.
Adam Bobik gives a fine performance in the lead role as he goes from confident returnee to man beaten down circumstances. Crucially there is a slight arrogance to his performance – while Czyzewo may not be the most welcoming, Marcin’s self-belief that everything will be the same to suit his desires belies a certain amount of self-delusion.
The film is due to screen as part of EFP’s Future Frames at Karlovy Vary and, with Radej winning plaudits for his previous work as a documentarist, further work in the realms of fiction will be most welcome.
For more information on Sweet Home Czyzewo click here.
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