Kinoteka 2015 – Hardcore Disco – Review ****

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There is a certain danger in bringing minimalism into a film. And I am not just talking about the artistic challenge – that’s a different “thing” in itself. The danger is that you openly invite the audience in to think, to add their own interpretation, to participate. It’s a wonderful thing that you create – an artwork that changes from audience member to audience member (and don’t you go telling me that it is in the nature of every work of art to be like this because in some mainstream movies we ALL know that’s not true). But the other result is that you may end up making a squillion different films that you never intended to make in the first place. Director Krzystof Skonieczny places his cinematic influences quite clearly in the film, not only stylistically but with very obvious hints. However, the more I watched Hardcore Disco the less I saw what Skonieczny seemed to want me to see and more of something completely different…

Hardcore Disco is both hard hitting and powerful. It is the story of Marcin, a stranger who, one fine night, erupts into the life of a normal family living a normal life. They are a typical 21st century liberal family; the father earns money, allowing the mother to experiment and “search for herself” in the arts, and their daughter Ola to go out and party, drink and do drugs whenever and wherever she wants. Marcin arrives on the scene and seems to fit right into their lives, despite bringing a certain ‘atmosphere’ with him, born of his tendency to be “not much of a talker” and just, dare I say, a feeling of foreboding. The family accepts his presence as they would do with any friend of Ola’s and Ola is quite happy to hang out with him, however, Marcin is not a regular guy. He is a man with a plan…

I would almost go as far as saying that Marcin is a very clever embodiment of the film itself. They are both silent –  by no means refraining completely from speaking, but doing so only when they need to; they are to the point. In this film, even the nattering of the two parents is there to make a point. It is, all in all, a very efficient film. They both keep their cards quite close to their chests. They don’t give much away until the last, explosive moment. And trust me – they both have several surprises up their sleeves.

There can be no mistake about the film’s message. It is (or at least Marcin is) waging a very personal war on the “overly liberal” family. The daughter who can bring the man she had casual sex with to the breakfast table, the mother who asks this young man how many drugs they did the previous night… Marcin is, for all his hard partying, an old-fashioned guy with a lot of disdain for this lifestyle. Do you know who precisely he reminds me of? Clint Eastwood. In fact, the whole way he erupts into the family’s life and causes deep, painful havoc and masterfully manipulates them all reminds me very clearly of one film in particular which also happens to be my favourite Clint Eastwood film – High Plains Drifter. True, there is no inherent danger against which the stranger unites the family – in fact, the biggest danger the family faces, quite unknowingly, is Marcin himself. But the way he takes the “corrupt” family and makes their life into a living hell (albeit without physically painting anything red), coupled with his cool and distant style,  makes him the perfect Polish, modern Clint Eastwood.

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Except, that’s not what the film wants to tell us. The allusions, both stylistically and literally, all point to Jim Jarmush – Ola has (rather randomly) a poster of Stranger Than Paradise on her wall and Marcin makes a telling allusion to Permanent Vacation, clearly comparing Ola and her permanent and planless party lifestyle to a state of permanent vacation set in the 21st century. In a funny kind of way Marcin is exactly who Ola wants and needs. In this new generation no pleasure is out of bounds, sex, drugs, rock’n roll, freedom; there is no new emotion to experience on that side of the scale. What is left is to explore is the scale of pain. Ola makes this clear on a theoretical level at the beginning of the film, saying, given the choice, she would want to burn to death because “pain makes it interesting, it fucks with the senses”.  In this sense, the film becomes a very interesting and novel take on a sado-masochistic relationship, even though – and I need to phrase this carefully – we are deprived of Ola’s final reaction to Marcin’s exploits. Then again, some horrors are best left to the imagination to have their full effect…

Hardcore Disco sets a town of brooding and foreboding from the outset and the tension does not miss a beat or loosen its stranglehold all the way through the film. You may find it slightly stylised. You may find the lack of explanations unsettling and unfamiliar. But I would argue that this is what makes the film such a strong experience…

 

Kinoteka is on until 29th May in several London venues. More information at http://kinoteka.org.uk/

A native of Istanbul, Turkey, Sedef moved to London three years ago to get her MA in Film Studies and never quite got round to going back home. As she once worked in a DVD company and watched films for a living, she started a personal blog (essiespeaks.blogspot.com) as a short answer to being constantly asked “watched anything interesting recently?” and loved blogging so much she just kept typing . She is the biggest Tarantino fan she knows and would be unable to choose a single film of his as a favourite.