Reviews - Hope
Reviewed By John Stakes
The basic plot was intriguing. The angelic looking Francis (Rafal Fudalei) spots the theft of a rare painting from a church which he captures on camera. He makes two tapes of his observations, one of which he gives to his older brother Michael (a prison inmate) and the other to his long suffering girlfriend Klara for safe keeping whilst he tries to find the culprit. He succeeds almost immediately as the thief turns out to be none other than a local gallery owner. Curiously it seems at first Francis decides to try to blackmail the thief into returning the painting to the church and atone for his crime. Had Francis not intervened the painting was destined to leave the country. Surprisingly Francis persists even after his car is blown up and he eventually succeeds, the painting (of an angel) being restored to its position high above the altar.
But this was far from a mere plot driven piece of artifice: the psychology which motivated Francis was rooted in his past which was revealed to us in the opening shocking scene when the boys’ mother is killed in a road accident as she tries to stop her children from running onto the main road where Michael had kicked the football they were playing with. Their father suffers a stroke on learning of her death from which he has never fully recovered.
It was through the playing out of the later theft of the painting by which time the boys had grown up that we came to understand the differing impact of their mother’s death on her children. Michael blamed himself and had never come to terms with her death. He is now in prison for murder. Francis presented a more complex figure; outwardly charming but apparently fearless having blotted out the pain of his loss to the point of being unable to experience pain himself. These characteristics explain why Francis remained composed when his car was bombed when the rest of us would have given up the chase and headed straight to the police.
As the story unfolded it becomes clear that redemption or atonement was the prime motivation for the actions of both brothers but the desire to make amends has damaging consequences, particularly for Michael who commits suicide. Francis learns to feel his own and his father’s pain.
The small but talented cast were well served by screenwriter, lawyer and politician Krzysztof Piesiewicz who seems to think in triplicate as he has also worked on the classic “Three Colours” trilogy with Kieslowski which achieved world wide popularity. This film adds to his two other screenplays entitled Heaven and Hell, which have also been filmed and released.
Hope was premiered at the 2007 Moscow Film Festival and has gone on to feature at several other film festivals around the world. Whilst most films with subtitles seem to have limited appeal away from film buff audiences, the German thriller The Lives of Others for example proved that subtitling is no handicap to world wide appeal if the finished work is good. The problem here was that whilst the film maintained its slight “Hitchcockian” feel it delivered far less than it promised lacking pace when needed so tension was rarely achieved and never maintained, and the film came across as pretentious at times. Still there was much to appreciate and, overall, the film deserved its inclusion in what has been a stimulating season so far.
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