Polish born director Rafael Kapelinski, who studied with Andrei Wajda in Lodz and got an MA from the NFTS, has directed a disturbing, haunting debut feature, which in many ways – not least due to Nick Cooke’s brilliant black-and-white images DoP Nick Cooke – resembles Michael Winterbottom’s first feature Butterfly Kiss from 1995.
Written by Greer Ellison, Butterfly Kisses is set in a South London estate where the three main characters, teenagers Jake (Stevenson), Kyle (Whiting) and Jared (Lyons), spend their days aimlessly gorging on internet porn and in a bar run by Shrek (Turgoose), which has an in-house drug dealer. This is mainly about showing off to each other, and, like a couple after 40 years of marriage, scoring points. Fathers are absent in the army, or literally dying. But Jake is worse off, because his friends know that he is still a virgin – the only one of the trio – in spite of his rather pretty good looks. When Zara (Day) moves into the tower block, Jake, ogling her from his window, gets a part-time job looking after her much younger sister Amy (Beaumont). After Kyle and Jared talk Zara into sleeping with Jake, we learn his dark secret: From here on onwards, Butterfly Kisses steams like a derailed train into oblivion.
Saving us from any graphic horrors, Kapelinski makes watching this even more painful. Nathan Klein’s score relies heavily on the organ, underlining the apocalyptic narrative. A voice-over by Kyle at the start of the feature, tells us about a day in school, when everyone put an anonymous confession into a box, the contents were then read out aloud, each not knowing who had written what. Stealing Mars bars from the old owner of the corner shop seemed just like the internet porn – a mild transgression compared with Jake’s dark secret. Butterfly Kisses shows us that the clichés of life on council estates, are just the fruits of juvenile neglect – not the true evil lurking behind Jake’s boyish features. AS
KINOTEKA POLISH FILM FESTIVAL 7 – 29 MARCH 2018