Supernova – Review

It doesn’t take much to change the course of your personal history. The coming together of seemingly random events that, when they happen in sequence, result in a situation that is neither wanted or expected. The Polish film Supernova from debut director Bartosz Kruhlik starts out on that premise and then shows in detail just what the outcome can be.

Opening on a quiet country road on a sunny morning the scene is set for another idyllic day in the Polish countryside. There is no one around and cows graze in the nearby fields. From the distance comes a young mother and her two small children, pursued at leisure by her clearly drunken husband. She has had enough and is leaving him. Already on his way to another drunken stupor, the man has to let them go. When he decides to chase after them, he flags down a passing car to get a lift. This doesn’t work out well as he pukes in the car and the driver speeds off. The result of this opening sequence is a tragic accident that will affect all who become involved in its aftermath.

This is an assured debut film and one that shows admirable restraint in the telling of the story. The film has a very lean run time of only eighty minutes and it doesn’t waste any of it. Without any preamble, the principal cast is introduced as the story demands it. The father and his relationship with his wife are described visually with only a few lines of dialogue and so much more in terms of visuals. Having him open a can of beer and greedily guzzle it while his wife berates him gives a much clearer insight into their relationship than any amount of back and forth.

The rest of the cast is equally well-drawn. We are introduced to them with little fanfare and are given just the barest amount of back story so their part in the story can be told. This is a very wise move as, on paper, the characters are pretty familiar. The old-timers who are all very nosy and opinionated, the rookie cop on her first job who can’t handle crowd control, the rich, privileged alpha male and a few others would give a certain idea as to their motivations in the story. Without expanding on these broad descriptions it allows to focus to be on the story alone.

The film makes comments on Polish life which can also be seen as universal traits. There is a real lack of respect for authority based on the fact that the only time the people from the country are sought is when there is an issue. This breeds an atmosphere from the start. The way people react to incidents and tragedy is also highlighted. Some want to see what is going on, filming everything and generally hanging about. Others want to be in the middle of things and treat the situation as an opportunity to mess around and make a nuisance of themselves. In the film, these are shown without comment and it is left to the audience to decide if it is a good or bad thing.

The film will not be for everyone. The lack of score means that there are no influences on your viewing. It is always in the hands of the viewer as to how the story and the themes are interpreted. It means that you have to work a bit more than normal but results in an experience that rewards the greater attention that is paid to it.

John McArthur
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