Contemporary World Cinema | 2016 | 123 minutes
Stranger Says: Even with Dawid Ogrodnik, so fine in the Oscar-winning Ida and SIFF favorite Life Feels Good, The Last Family is an enervating, if lovingly lit, docudrama that never finds a consistent tone. The action spans 1977 to 2005 as the too-insular Beksinski family carries out their affairs from a Warsaw apartment complex. Dad is a surrealist painter (his favorite saying: “This make me wet”), the son (Ogrodnik in hyped-up mode) is a bipolar radio host, and the long-suffering mom puts up with them all. What follows: 28 years of suicide attempts, terminal illnesses, and murder. Fun!
SIFF Says:A structurally fascinating and harrowing portrait of an artist, The Last Family tracks 30 years in the life of eccentric 20th-century Polish surrealist Zdzisław Beksiński, whose varied and controversial career included sculpture, photography, drawing, and graphics. Disturbing, obsessive, ironic, and piercingly poignant, this family drama takes place in two of Warsaw’s monolithic postwar apartment buildings; Beksiński (Andrzej Seweryn, The Promised Land) and his wife Zofia (stage actress Aleksandra Konieczna) live across the field from their troublesome and manic-depressive son Thomaz (Dawid Ogrodnik, Ida), a DJ, music critic, and translator of English-language films. Together they make up a bitter, emotionally perilous brood, careening into each other like dysfunctional meteors. The film combines docudrama with letters, stories, and meticulous home-video reenactments, allowing screenwriter Robert Bolesto (The Lure, 2015) and director Jan P. Matuszyński―making his narrative feature debut―to create a rich, intimate, textured, and unflinching examination of the bonds, scars, and demons of one family. Featuring Salingeresque dialogue, Hitchcockian flourishes, a remarkable soundtrack (Tchaikovsky mixes with the Moody Blues), and scenes shot in hypnotic and unbroken takes, The Last Family slowly gets under your skin, providing a wholly unique cinematic experience.
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