October 9, 2008
Four Nights with Anna, 2008
Recalling Krzysztof Kieslowski's A Short Film About Love and Patrice Laconte's Monsieur Hire in its dark, brooding tale of voyeurism, unrequited obsession, and ache of desire, Jerzy Skolimowski's Four Nights with Anna may be seen as a modern day evolution of the cinema of moral concern, where the traumas (and transgressions) of history are intertwined within the moral fabric of contemporary life. Composed of temporally ambiguous, interweaving episodes from past and present (or perhaps, future), the film is shot from the perspective of Leon Okrasa (Artur Steranko), an attendant who works in the dank, grimy crematorium of the local hospital, alternately spending his time struggling to retain his employment after a patient accuses him of theft, caring for his ailing, elderly grandmother (Barbara Kołodziejska) (often crushing medication into a more palatable form in order to help her sleep), and watching a nurse, Anna (Kinga Preis) through the window of her room in the nurses' dormitory. But the object of his desire would still prove to be too distant, and soon, Okrasa begins to break into Anna's apartment at night through an opening in the window to be closer to her, washing her dishes, sewing loose buttons, covering her with a blanket, and leaving tokens of affection for her, embarking on a familiar, if disturbing routine to fill the void in his life. Skolimowski shoots primarily in cold tones, contrasting palettes, and darkness that reflect the myopia and moral ambiguity that underlies Okrasa's obsession. Using a fragmented, asequential structure that reflects the characters' fractured lives, Skolimowski illustrates the impossibility of reconciliation and closure in the wake of unreconciled trauma and complicit silence.