Hardkor Disko (2014) | Kinoteka 2015

April 11th, 2015
Author: Meredith Taylor

Director: Krzysztof Skonieczny

Writers: Robert Bolesto

Cast: Marcin Kowalczyk, Jasmina Polak, Agniesszka Wosinska, Janusz Chabior, Ewa Skonieczna

85min  Thriller   Polish with subtitles

Krzysztof Skonieczny uses techniques from Polish Masters to offer a chilling view of contemporary Poland.

Marcin, the central character of HARDKOR DISKO, is similar in many ways to the infamous Jacek (Lazar) who played the psychopath in Kieslowski’s A SHORT FILM ABOUT KILLING (1988). In the feature debut of young Polish director Krzysztog Skoniesczny (which has the identical running time to Killing) Marcin is a textbook psychopath who appears in an upmarket suburb of Warsaw to infiltrate the lives of a professional family. Nearly thirty years later than his counterpart Jacek, who focused on a hapless taxi driver, our contemporary protag is considerably more urbane and charming than his predecessor, but still has no money, and seemingly no job.

images-2He meets Ola (Jasmina Polak) a spoilt twenty-something, at the entrance to her family’s penthouse and after being told that her parents are away, he joins her on an drug-fuelled evening climaxing in a prolonged bout of meaningless sex, doggie-style, in Ola’s stylish bedroom. Marcin’s Warsaw is considerably more prosperous than that of Jacek’s era and the jagged skyline of this cold-lensed thriller is perfectly captured by Kacper Fertacz (who honed his skills on Lars von Trier’s Melancholia) whose framing echoes that of Jerzy Skolismowski’s Walkower (1965), often on the widescreen and in harmony with its voyeuristic and detached feel.  There may be more money flushing around in this contemporary Warsaw but there is still the same feeling of disenchantment and alienation that also permeated Kieslowski’s eighties outing.

The next morning, Marcin flips into convivial mode (but with the same flat emotionless stare) as he meets Ola’s parents Pola (Agnieszka Wosinska), a theatre designer, and Olek (Janusz Chabior) an snarky architect, at their breakfast table overlooking Warsaw’s modern skyline. There is something glib and unlikeable about these characters yet HARDKOR DISKO is strangely compelling, drawing you into its icy stare, half expecting a slap on the face by some sudden brutal revelation.  But that is the point. The compulsion here lies in the lack of information provided and our inquisitiveness draws us further into this web of seeming intrigue, a clever ploy adopted by Jerzy Kawalerowicz in his noir thriller Night Train (1959).

Indeed, Marcin, (superbly played by Marcin Kowalczyk) is a suave and beautiful stranger, in the same mould as Leon Niemczyk’s Jerzy in Night Train: an adventurer and opportunist who can turn on the charm like a lightbulb and snap it off again, remaining a cypher at all times. Representing disenfranchised youth, he is clearly bored and ‘hungry’ but he is also out for revenge. After accepting a lift with Olek, he strangles him (from the rear, like our eighties villain Jacek), drags him from his jeep, ties him up and then places a cigarette, lit end into his mouth, slowly asphyxiating him with the fumes, before breaking his neck. Marcin’s aloofness continues in this elusive thriller that is, in some ways, more of a mood piece evoking the general state of contemporary Poland both for its upwardly mobile protagonists and the ones left behind. HARDKOR DISKO remains highly watchable, despite Skonieczny’s tendency to linger over shots,  particularly noticeable in the last shower scene, as the enigmatic narrative moves inexhorably to a disturbing anticlimax. Flashbacks to Ola, as a bright vivacious child, show a glimpse of happier more meaningful times. Whilst Poland has moved into more affluent times, Krzysztof Skonieczny HARDKOR DISKO suggests that new cracks have opened in modern Poland’s facade: they may be different from those of the past, but they are just as noticeable. MT

SCREENING AT KINOTEKA 2015 POLISH FILM FESTIVAL

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