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Venice Film Festival. “The Green Border” by Agnieszka Holland among the favorites

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On Saturday evening, we will meet the winner of the Golden Lion at the 80th Venice International Film Festival. Critics present on the Venetian island of Lido, where the festival takes place, see four films as the winners of the most important awards. Among the productions with the best reviews is “The Green Border” by Agnieszka Holland. The favorites also include “Poor Creatures” by Yorgos Lanthimos, “Io Capitano” by Matteo Garrone and “Evil does not exist” by Ryusuke Hamaguchi.

Let’s be clear: picking the winners of the festival at the Lido in Venice (similar to the festival in Cannes) is like fortune-telling. Very often, the tastes of jurors and critics diverge. The jury of a film event of this caliber also likes to consciously cause surprises.

Despite this, as every year, both viewers and critics try to identify the winners of the most important awards – the Golden Awards Lviv and the Grand Jury Prize. If critics were to award Golden Lions, they would probably award them to the film by Greek Yorgos Lanthimos, “Poor Creatures”. But three other titles also boast excellent reviews: Insult Agnieszka Holland “Green Frontier”, “Io Capitano” by Matteo Garrone and “Evil does not exist” by Ryusuke Hamaguchi.

We will find out on Saturday evening what the Main Competition jury will decide.

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Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo in “Poor Things” dir. Yorgos Lanthimosphoto: Atsushi Nishijima/Biennale di Venezia

“Poor Creatures” by Yorgos Lanthimos

Anyone who managed to get to know the Greek’s work – for example the wonderful “The Favourite” with the Oscar-winning performance of Olivia Colman or the equally extraordinary “Lobster”, probably did not expect “normal, God-made cinema. Lanthimos would not be himself if he did not surprise the audience again. Originality and unpredictability are the most characteristic features of his work.

“Poor Creatures” is his first film shot in Hollywoodbut apparently the director did not succumb to the dictates of big studios and remained true to himself. This time he offered viewers a Victorian horror and at the same time macabre black comic, adapted by screenwriter Tony McNamara based on the 1992 novel by Alasdair Gray. It’s the story of a young woman who tried to take her own life by throwing herself off London’s Tower Bridge, but was brought back to life by an eccentric scientist. The exotic spookiness of the methods of reviving the woman is revealed only towards the end of the story.

The main role was played by the Greek’s favorite actress – Emma Stone, who created such an outstanding performance that she is considered an unrivaled favorite for the award for the best female role.

“The Green Border” by Agnieszka Holland

The film by the Polish director tells the story of the events that, starting from 2021, are still taking place on the Polish-Belarusian border. The humanitarian crisis caused with full awareness by the Belarusian dictator Alyaksandr Lukashenko became an opportunity for the director to look at the extremely different attitudes of her compatriots towards immigrants. Border guards submit to the inhuman dictates of the rulers, throwing refugees back to Belarus, after which the Belarusians transfer them to Poland again. And ping pong with real people continues. There are those who would like to help, but are simply afraid, and finally those who, against all odds, do everything to save exhausted people.

“The Green Border” review: Agnieszka Holland’s best film since Europa, Europa

Despite the accusations made by the ruling camp that are offensive to the director, this is not an anti-Polish film. Agnieszka Holland draws attention to the helplessness and inaction of the entire European Union in this matter. The creators emphasize that this film, shot with great sensitivity and empathy, was created to change that.

Agnieszka Holland at the premiere of her film in VeniceRESENTMENT

“Io Capitano” by Matteo Garrone

Agnieszka Holland’s film is not the only film in competition in Venice dealing with the fate of refugees. The creator of the famous “Gomorrah” and the award-winning in Cannes, “Dogman” also tells the story of people looking for a better world, reaching Europe through the Mediterranean Sea to Sicily.

However, Garrone’s film is very different from the picture of the Polish director. Italian he dressed his story in an almost fairy-tale and adventure style, creating a great spectacle compared to “The Odyssey”. He made two teenagers from Senegal the heroes who want to fulfill their dreams in Europe. The stories of migrants who travel thousands of kilometers and learn about various cultures – said the director at the conference – are “truly epic”, hence the film’s formula.

He made a picture full of hope, like in fairy tales, which almost always end well.

Film Festival Venice

Still from Matteo Garrone’s film “Io Capitano”Biennale di Venezia

“Evil does not exist” by Ryusuke Hamaguchie

We know this Japanese filmmaker best from the famous “Drive My Car”, which won an Oscar for the best international film. The most frequently used word among critics about his new work is “weird”. But he doesn’t make any other kind of cinema.

This time, the director makes the protagonists of a father and daughter who live in a small village near Tokyo. One day they learn that a glamping site (luxury camping) for wealthy residents is to be built right next to their house. A Tokyo-based land acquisition company is responsible for this.

If the critics are to be believed, the picture is so compositionally bizarre that it will either delight us or disappoint us. But there are definitely more of the former. The director shows the banality of evil in contemporary society and how it has become widespread. This time it concerns the destruction of nature and the Earth under capitalism.

Ryo Nishikawa in the film “Evil does not exist” directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi2023 NEOPA Fictive/Biennale di Venezia

The moving “Woman from…” on the last day of shows

However, the excellent reviews of Holland’s painting do not end Poland’s participation in the Main Competition. On the last day of the competition screenings, the film by the Małgorzata Szumowska-Michał Englert duo had its premiere, also applauded and receiving complimentary reviews. And similarly to “The Green Border”, which deals with human dramas, the enormity of which is intensified by the narrative of the current government.

The directorial duo took on the story of a transgender person. The film covers 45 years of Aniela Wesoły’s life, more than half of which the heroine lived in a provincial Polish town as a man. It shows the struggle with attitudes in her immediate surroundings and the heroine’s journey in search of freedom as a transgender woman.

Małgorzata Szumowska and Michał Englert on the set of “Woman with…”NoMad Films/Biennale di Venezia

It is worth adding that the director of the Venice festival, Alberto Barbera, is a fan of the Polish film. He mentioned at the conference that the film by Polish filmmakers may turn out to be the dark horse of the festival.

Deadline, “Variety”, “The Guardian”, tvn24.pl

Main photo source: 2023 NEOPA Fictive, Atsushi Nishijima/Biennale di Venezia, Agata Kubis/Kino Świat, PAP/EPA

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