Friday, November 1, 2013

MOVIE REVIEW Aftermath (Pokłosie)
Brothers Of History, Family Of Fate

Maciej Stuhr as Jozek and Ireneusz Czop as Franek in Wladyslaw Pasikowski's thriller "Aftermath".  Menemsha Films


Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Friday, November 1, 2013

The elegiac music at the start of Wladyslaw Pasikowski's powerful fact-based thriller "Aftermath" (Pokłosie) leads Polish native Franek (Ireneusz Czop) back to his native land.  It's a solemn homecoming and we sense it before we truly understand just how painful it will be.  Franek's younger brother Jozek (Maciej Stuhr) doesn't fully embrace him even though Franek has been away for 20 years, nestled safely in Chicago.  Jozek's wife and kids mysteriously arrive at Franek's Windy City doorstep, prompting Franek's sudden return to Poland.  He wants answers.

Secrets are unearthed, among them the discovery of Jewish landowners' bodies being dug up from graves and their headstones used as paving for a church in a Polish town.  Jozek is compelled to restore the headstones to their rightful place.  He doesn't know why.  "It's the right thing to do," he says.  Franek, an anti-Jewish racist, is puzzled.  "What's it to you?  These Yids are not even your people."  "Aftermath" shows us fertile and unsettling terrain, and the brothers, who already have a tense relationship, will experience an alarming truth that will rock you.  A film that gives rise to unyielding anger within, "Aftermath" shakes you to your very core, and grips you long after it ends.  It has a shattering resonance that leaves you breathless.

Mr. Pasikowski's stunning, impressive film is an archeological dig into very sensitive history amid many Poles who prefer to let the past be the past.  Franek mentions to Jozek that in America people say that Polish people gave up Jewish people to the Germans during World War Two, which, by the way, is true.  Such is the volatile tenor of the history around this subject in Poland that Mr. Stuhr received death threats there for his portrayal of Jozek in "Aftermath".  The threat is proof that this very recent history in Poland and exposing of it is taboo and still met with lots of resistance.

Despite the uncomfortable state of being between Jozek and Franek their relationship evolves, becoming more tender as both become committed to preserving the legacy and dignity of Jewish people who were murdered and whose land in Poland was forcibly taken from them.  "Aftermath" develops with questions, suspicions and forbidden explorations, proceeding as a mystery thriller, where every turn promises something intriguing, startling and compelling.  I was rapt with attention.  A powder-keg of a film, "Aftermath" is arresting, edifying viewing.

This indispensible lesson about Polish-Jewish history is required viewing.  Films like these are absolutely necessary so that we don't ever forget history, anyone's history, or, heaven forbid, repeat it.  "Aftermath" says that history is not only important but that history is part of the present.  When watching "Aftermath" you feel a duty to remember what you've seen, for you feel it so deeply.  You need not be well-versed in Eastern European history or Jewish history to appreciate and be enriched by a sensitive, perceptive portrait of two brothers in a Polish town torn asunder by vitriol, racial hate and secrecy.  The invective flows as villagers challenge Jozek and Franek, who increasingly find themselves as exiles in their own backyard, exposed to violence.

"Aftermath" grabs your collar and holds uncomfortable chapters of Poland's recent past right up to your face, forcing you to reckon with them.  We watch the brothers Jozek and Franek struggle to do the same.  "Aftermath" observes a divide between native land and America for any immigrant, specifically in the idea that escaping to America allows you to disappear from your heritage to form a new one, or, worse yet, forget the old.  "They don't bother you too much," says brother Franek, of he and fellow compatriots who strip asbestos back in Chicago.  After Franek returns to Poland though, his conscience will be bothered forever.

"Aftermath", which opened exclusively in New York City today at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and Cinema Village, is not rated by the Motion Picture Association Of America but contains disturbing scenes.  The film is in the Polish language with English subtitles.  The film's running time is one hour and 44 minutes.  The film opens in Los Angeles at The Royal, Town Center and Playhouse 7 on November 15.

COPYRIGHT 2013.  POPCORNREEL.COM.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.                Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW