Venice – Siff 2011 Movie Review

Venice [  Poland (Polish, German, Russian), 2010, 110 minutes ]
Director: Jan Jakub Kolski
Principal Cast: Marcin Walewski, Magdalena Cielecka, Graznya Blecka-Kolska, Teresa Budzisz-Krzyzanowska
See it: May 20, 31, June 5, at SIFF

Marek is a young boy growing up in Poland whose greatest desire is for his parents to take him to Venice. His parents have gone, his older brother has been, his aunties, the priest… everyone, it seems, except Marek. When the promised day finally arrives and Marek’s parents collect him from boarding school, his dreams are crushed as he learns that due to the war (WWII) he will be spending the summer at his aunt’s farm in the “safe” Polish countryside instead of in Venice.

Marek is crushed, but soon is carried away in visiting with various aunts, cousins, and neighbors as summer fades into fall. When the groundwater rises and floods the basement, Marek immediately has visions of Venice, and together with his relatives, he creates the plazas and waterways of his dream city out of tables, boxes, and scrap wood. This created city becomes the backdrop for a host of emotional moments as individuals love, laugh, fear, cry, burst out in anger, reminisce, and grieve.

The elements of weather and the changing of seasons play a large role for indicating the passage of time, and the countryside is beautifully showcased in this film. The backdrop of WWII is also extremely important, though all of the viewers information comes through the experiences of the main character children (letters they receive, the radio on while they’re playing, soldiers spied on from the forest).

Venice was beautifully shot, had a haunting score, and developed memorable characters who changed in very small, but very believable, ways throughout the film.

Overall Entertainment / Enjoyment: B+
I really enjoyed this story, and I felt the depictions of emotion and personal growth to be very realistic. The scenery was beautiful and the story was woven meticulously from the first to last scene. It was already a long movie, but the B+ is because I wanted slightly more from the ending, so I left feeling just a bit unsatisfied.

Film Festivalness: A-
Since I wanted slightly more from the ending and I left feeling just a bit unsatisfied, that probably means it was an excellent film festival movie.

Ability to invoke childhood memories: B
You can’t help but remember your summer vacations and the imaginary worlds you and your siblings/friends invented as you watch these kids cling to their childhood. But hopefully none of us have to remember soldiers parading in our fields or bomber planes flying overhead while we ice skated and built treehouses.

Siff Provided Synopsis:
Eleven-year-old Marek dreams of a trip to Venice. The outbreak of WWII, however, cuts short his fantasies. Instead, he’s packed off to a tiny Polish village in the middle of nowhere to live with his aunts in their dilapidated villa. When the villa’s basement floods, Marek creates his own version of Venice while the aunts join him in his make believe world, until the realities of war intrude. Director Jan Jakub Kolski combines the brutal images of war with the dream-like qualities of a child’s sensitivity and need for magic. Though Kolski’s never experienced war, his grandfather was a prisoner at a concentration camp and he has seen his family cope with war-related trauma. According to the filmmaker, if you make personal movies, you are responding to personal needs. Based on the short story by Polish novelist Wlodzimierz Odojewski, the story of Marek’s transition from boy to man is shot in the luminous cinematography of Arthur Reinhart (Tomorrow Will Be Better).

Provided Film Synopsis

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