My faith was shaken from the sentences I had read. How was it possible that a textbook could get the story so wrong? I was reading about a famous historic event but the facts were different from what I was taught in school. The book I was reading from had been published in a different country; that was my first clue. Maybe I had grown up naïve but it was not until college that I discovered published words do not always equal absolute truth. The college course I was taking was taught by a history professor who came from a different country. The textbook he was showing us was the one he had used in his studies. From our discussion groups I learned that a country’s citizens could learn a different version of history. The question that came up was how do you tell which version is accurate. Because I was interested in history I had to process this new information; the only thing I kept thinking about was this idea that there were people walking around in the world who formed opinions about countries based on what they learned in school. Just think about it, a person grows up loving or hating a country based on someone else’s interpretation (or purposeful omission) of events. Since that revelation back in my college years, whenever I am reading or watching something that claims to be a true story, I quietly question the validity of it if I did not actually have the opportunity to witness it. When it comes to movies based on true events I take them with a grain of salt, but do not let my doubting mind affect my enjoyment of the unfolding story. As for today’s film based on a true story, it is the first time I have ever heard of such an event . WORKING in occupied Poland for the French Red Cross Mathilde Beaulieu, played by Lou de Laage (Breathe, The Wait), agreed to return with the desperate nun back to her convent. The patient waiting for Mathilde was a pregnant nun. This film festival winning drama had a simple but striking visual look to it. I thought the camera shots complimented the cast which also included Agata Buzek (Redemption, Valerie) as Maria and Agata Kulesza (Ida, Rose) as Mere Abesse. The actors did a wonderful job portraying their parts as the director’s pacing offered enough time for each cast member to shine in the scene. As for the story it is startling, at least for me since I never read about it in my history books. I felt the script did a wonderful job of layering the various components taking place during 1945 Poland and presented all of it as a powerful piece. The subtitles were not a distraction to read, at least for me. Because of the history involved in this story, this foreign film lingered long after I viewed it. I believe there are no accidents, that there is a reason for everything; but I have to say, this story could shake up a person’s faith. Polish, French and Russian was spoken with English subtitles.
3 ½ stars
I do not need to read a book to know how strong women can be. Televised wildlife programs showing fiercely protective mothers with their offspring are not needed since I was raised among powerful women. My maternal grandmother’s life was devoted exclusively to her children. She had neither the need for friendships nor any outside interests (except for movies); her mission was to take care of her children: my mother and her siblings. There never was a time where my grandmother did not have freshly baked or cooked food in her house. The only traveling she did was from her house to one of her children’s homes. This woman never uttered a bad word; her strongest showing of displeasure was uttering the word “feh.” In turn, each of her daughters was strong in their own way. When my leg was caught in the back door of the local bus; my mother held me up as she ran alongside the bus, screaming and pounding on the door until it stopped. When my aunt’s two youngest children each had a run in with a glass door, my aunt did not wait for an ambulance. She wrapped their bleeding limbs as she put them into her car and sped away to the hospital, where my cousins were stitched up without loss of limb. I was not surprised by these women and I was not surprised with matriarch Ester Stermer’s strength in this incredible documentary. However, I was amazed on what she did for her family. When explorer Chris Nicola was investigating a massive array of caves at the Polish/Russian border, he discovered signs of human habitation. Curious, he began to piece together bits of story and information that led him to the survivors from the cave. Mixing archival footage with reenactments narrated by the surviving family members, this story was unimaginable. During Word War II Esther Stermer led her family to these caves; where they lived underground for nearly two years, avoiding capture by Nazi soldiers. I understood why the director used actors to recreate scenes of the family’s journey; yet, I felt they were tamer than the survivors’ real experiences. Not that I consider this a fault, it just gave me a minor feeling of manipulative, dramatic effect. Seeing and hearing the survivors’ memories had more impact. So many people judge strength by how much weight they can lift or how far they can run and it is certainly a valid method. However, the strength of a protective parent really is a special gift.
I never quite understood the reasoning behind hiring celebrities for advertising campaigns. My passion for the movies does not transfer to an actor selling hair shampoo or breakfast cereal. Just because they can act doesn’t mean actors have some inside knowledge of a consumer item, let alone world affairs. Granted, I can enjoy a fun commercial that has an entertainer in it, but that is as far as it goes for me. Based on Viktor Pelevin’s novel, I found this off centered movie to be an unusual mix of comedy, drama and satire with a touch of science fiction added in for good measure. The movie told the story about the birth of the advertising industry in newly formed Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Vladimir Epifantsey (Home, Fartovyy) played Babylen Tatarsky a former sales clerk who found himself thrust into the explosive world of commercials and product placements. Also starring Mikhail Efremov (9th Company, The House of Sun) as Leonid Azadovsky, I found some scenes thought provoking as I compared the Russian style of commercials to the ones here in the United States. One of the most interesting aspects of the movie was the scenes that dealt with the digitalization of popular figures into commercials. I found the idea disturbing to tell you the truth and still thought about it after I left the movie theater. On the other hand, these scenes I have mentioned were not enough to continue my interest in the story. Not sure what type of movie it wanted to be, I found myself periodically getting bored and confused. I could not tell if they were trying to mimic the times of the 1980’s or it was just poor cinematography in the way the movie was filmed. With a tighter focus, I think this could have been a better movie. It was that damn trailer I bet, that sucked me into seeing this film. Russian with English subtitles.
Imagine the possibilities if you were able to swap out your soul for another or just have it removed to avoid some type of distress in your life. For example, maybe you are a lawyer about to go to trial and you want to have the soul of one of the top lawyers in the country. It is an intriguing concept and this dark comedy chose the perfect actor for the role: Paul Giamatti (The Illusionist, Win Win). Playing himself, Paul was struggling in rehearsals for a production of Anton Chekov’s Uncle Vanya. Seeing a magazine article about a storage facility for souls, Paul made an appointment to see Dr. Flintstein, played by David Strathairn (Heavens Fall, The Whistleblower). Mr Giamatti has a gift for quickly changing emotions, going from a humorous point to an intense frantic state with the simple use of his expressive face. The movie with its science fiction vibe had several funny bits throughout it. Paul went from being a soulless actor, much to the director’s chagrin, to a brillant actor with the aid of his temporary soul. I wish the writers would have stayed with this story line instead of bringing in the secondary story involving the Russians. It would have made for a stronger film. Fans of Paul Giamatti will certainly enjoy this movie. For those of you not familiar with his work, this DVD would be one to rent to see his excellent acting skills on display.
2 2/3 stars — DVD