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KARLOVY VARY 2022 Competition

Review: Fucking Bornholm

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- Anna Kazejak’s feature is another story about people dealing with mid-life crises, but it’s evil and cruel enough to make it a compelling, brand-new tale

Review: Fucking Bornholm
Maciej Stuhr and Agnieszka Grochowska in Fucking Bornholm

“What a marvellous holiday break, and what a great bunch of guys these people are,” one might say – sarcastically, obviously – after watching Fucking Bornholm [+see also:
trailer
interview: Anna Kazejak
film profile
]
, showcased in the Crystal Globe Competition of this year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Anna Kazejak (Ode to Joy, Flying Pigs) stages her latest outing on the Danish island of Bornholm. Here, two families who have known each other for years decide to spend a weekend camping together, as they’ve probably done too many times before. On one hand, we have the stubborn, self-centred Hubert Malecki (Maciej Stuhr), his apathetic, gloomy wife Maja (Agnieszka Grochowska), and their ten-ish-year-old sons, Eryk (Oliwier Grzegorzewski) and Wiktor (Marceli Sinora). On the other are divorced father Dawid (Grzegorz Damiecki), his son Kaj (Borys Bartlomiejczyk, about the same age as Eryk and Wiktor) and the man’s new love interest, Nina, a young psychology graduate (Jasmina Polak).

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In this movie, we will be dealing with a devastated bunch of forty-something Polish holidaymakers, who have lived existences filled with repression, frustrations and regrets and, above all, who seem not to be able to do one thing right to fix them. Even the younger Nina seems unable to escape this malaise, flitting between her attitude of explaining to others how the world works and her desire to be young, free and with no one too close to her. The kids are not indifferent to the adults’ discontent, and the movie clearly suggests this is being passed on to them. What triggers the film’s numerous conflicts is indeed an embarrassing, awful incident that happens between the kids, which unfolds as they decide to sleep together in a tent, not too far from their parents’ campers.

Kazejak’s direction – as well as her fine writing, in conjunction with Filip K Kasperaszek – is successful in depicting these characters that end up living the lives of others and playing the parts of normal people enjoying a short getaway, just as society would expect. In truth, however, there’s nothing really keeping them together. While there is a clear lack of love, affection and kindness, there is also an intense, shared desire to escape responsibilities and break the endless cycle of boredom and melancholy in which they are all trapped.

We don’t see many other people around, except for a mysterious Dane (Konrad Jalowiec, perhaps the most grounded character) and a pregnant Swedish woman (Nina Yndis), who manages to annoy the group with both reasonable and less reasonable requests from time to time. Somehow, she can be perceived as a presence who also subtly enjoys seeing them get into trouble with each other.

All in all, Kazejak crafts a solid feature. Even though its core theme – the mid-life crisis and the desire to “break free” from a life of duties and frustrations – is certainly not novel, the helmer manages to keep viewers hooked through a balanced mix of psychological drama and (very) bitter comedy, arousing our curiosity with the mystery behind the incident involving the kids in the first part and seeing how the adults will end up changing (or will they?) after this absurd weekend.

Luckily, Fucking Bornholm is evil and cruel enough to retain our attention. Besides, it’s certainly not lacking in elegant touches, such as Jerzy Rogiewicz’s saddening instrumental score and Jakub Stolecki’s cinematography depicting the island’s schizophrenic weather, which fits in well with the characters’ continuous mood swings.

Fucking Bornholm is a Polish production by Friends With Benefits Studio and TVN. Warsaw-based outfit Next Film is in charge of its national distribution.

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