aka Eddie : Poland 2002 : Piotr TRZASKALSKI : 100 mins

Middle-aged Edi (Henryk Golebiewski) is one of capitalism’s casualties – in a post-communist Poland blighted by unemployment and polarised between haves and have-nots, he makes a meagre living by rescuing some of the consumer goods discarded by his more affluent fellow-citizens. A well-educated man fallen on hard times, Edi’s brains land him the thankless job of tutoring the adolescent sister of the two brutal ‘brothers’ who control the local criminal underworld. When the girl becomes pregnant, she covers up the father’s real identity by accusing Edi of rape – and the hot-headed brothers exact a terrible revenge. Though innocent, Edi makes no attempt to defend himself and even agrees to the brothers’ demand that he care for the baby, taking it away to his family in the sticks. But Edi’s rural interlude proves all too short-lived.

With his first film, Trzaskalski pulls off one of the trickiest of all cinematic genres: the socially-conscious tear-jerker. His efforts are massively helped by contributions co-writer Wojciech Lepianka, score-composer Wojciech Lemanski, and veteran cinematographer Krzystof Ptak who shows that Digital Video can, in the right hands, be just as beautiful and expressive as old-school celluloid. But most of all the film belongs to Golebiewski – this is one of those ‘where-on-earth-did-they-find-him‘ performances, it’s very hard to believe that this wizened, goblin-faced man really isn’t a rag-and-bone man eking out a living in a grim, dog-eat-dog modern-day Poland.

Edi takes its time to establish its characters within vividly realised environments – the feral city and the seductively lyrical countryside – so that when the rather melodramatic story kicks in we’re aware that what might seem to be implausible developments are in fact elements in a careful and complex character study. As Golebiewski’s powerfully persuasive performance takes centre stage, the plot moves inexorably towards Edi’s climactic moral decision – a soberingly dignified act of unexpectedly moving self-sacrifice and redemption.

1st March, 2003
(seen 6th February, CinemaxX Berlin – Berlin Film Festival : Forum)

For all the reviews from the Berlin Film Festival click here.

by Neil Young