The Welts

Poland's entry in last year's Academy Awards was The Welts, the story about a grown man coming to terms with his childhood. It's a pretty standard story, with the only difference being that everything is from a Polish perspective. The one thing that director Magdalena Piekorz does is provide an extended introduction that takes up nearly half of the running time. Half of the film takes place in the childhood of Wojciech Winkler, and half takes place after he turns thirty. While the large amount of time spent when Wojciech was twelve does provide a better understanding of his actions as an adult, Piekorz could have conveyed the same amount of information in less time.

As a child, Wojciech (Waclaw Adamcyk) was at the mercy of his father Andrej (Jan Frycz, Torn, Pornography), a strict disciplinarian. Although Andrej rarely hit Wojciech, he threatened to do so often, and Wojciech was typically at the mercy of his domineering presence. Andrej was raising Wojciech by himself, and while he loved his son, did not know how to express this. He frequently lashed out at little mistakes, demanding perfection and flying into a rage when this didn't happen. Wojciech finally ran away, never to return home.

Piekorz picks up the story, based on stories by Wojciech Kuczok (who adapted his own material), when Wojciech is thirty. As an adult, Wojciech (Michal Zebrowski, The Pianist, The Hexer) is quick to anger and has few friends. He spelunks, a profession that gives him a lot of privacy. It's here that Piekorz provides the first of two deus ex machinas in the form of Tania (Agnieszka Grochowska, Warszawa), a very attractive young woman who takes a liking to Wojciech. She rebuffs all his caustic behavior and his attempts to ignore her, and succeeds in opening him up emotionally. It's hard to see anybody trying so hard with Wojciech, especially a complete stranger, but nevertheless she does, and Wojciech warms to her. At this point, he has the horrible realization that he is exactly like his father was, and this devastates him emotionally.

The underlying power behind a story like Wojciech's is this realization. However, the way that Piekorz comes about this seems a tad artificial. Two things, the Tania character and a later event bring about his catharsis. Thus, Wojciech changes because of external, and not internal factors. Although the distinction is minor, it is enough to note that Wojciech is a changed man not because of his own actions, but because of the actions of those around him. This makes him a passive participant in his own emotional health. The acting is decent, if not a bit overdone by Zebrowski, but the most interesting aspect of The Welts is that it's a film from Poland.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour 35 minutes, Polish with English subtitles, Not Rated but contains some language and nudity, probably an R.

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