Dir.: Jagoda Szelec; Cast: Dorota Lukasiewicz, Paulina Lasot, Karolina Bruchnicka, Jacub Gola; Poland 2018, 108 min.
Director/writer Jagoda Szelek (Tower: A bright Day) casts students from the famous Lodz Film School in her sophomore feature, a non-narrative exercise in power and human misery. The ritualistic nature of Monument shines a light on how we chose to remember the past.
Twenty young people have high hopes about embarking on their internship in the hotel business. But before the programme kicks off, one of them has already gone missing. The draconian manager takes a nonchalant approach and hands round their name identification badges: there are ten Pawels and nine Anias. “The customers are not interested in your names, they want to enjoy themselves”, the manager retorts sternly, when asked for a reason.
The job is pretty dreary. The film becomes a study in surreal depersonalisation. The women have to clean the rooms, and the toilets. Moral is low – apart from one young man, who tries to ingratiate himself with the nameless manager, who acquires the nickname “witch’ from his fellow interns. Even though he is rude about them behind their backs, the manager is unimpressed, humiliating him in front of an ‘Ania’, who comes up with good plan to re-organise the work schedule. The women talk about their childhoods, particularly about their relationships with their mothers; while the boys tell each other rather unfunny jokes and fight. Two of them have sex. The place is falling apart, rats run wild down in the cellar, and one of the women faints. In this enigmatic endeavour times seems to stand still. It is never made clear if the missing young man is the only survivor of a fatal bus crash, or if the other have entered a ‘Huis Clos’ a in Sartre’s play. But their relationships are strained, they only unite in hating the “witch”. The final ritualistic dance is a strange exercise in exorcism.
DoP Przemyslaw Brynkiewicz’s black and white images are stunning: the realistic environment of the hotel, the suites, kitchen and laundry are in total contrast to the dark cellar, the moody atmosphere of the rubbish bins and the gloomy, foreboding cellar, where rats scuffle around unaware of the human denizens. But in spite of the overlaying realism of these task-bound interns, there are echoes of The Shining as the past meets the present. Szelec has certainly made a singularly unique feature, which does not need to be categorised to be watched with admiration and a certain awe. AS
KINOTEKA FILM FESTIVAL 4 -18 APRIL 2019