Bratislava Film Festival

BRATISLAVA, Slovakian Republic -- This remarkable portrait of life in a small Polish village, "Tricks" is the second feature by Andrzej Jakimowski after "Squint Your Eyes" in 2002. It's to be hoped such a brilliant film will manage to find its way towards international distribution. The Europa Cinemas prize it picked up in Venice (where the film was screened during the Venice Days) should at least help its release throughout Europe.

A boy, his teenage sister, their mother who runs a grocery store in their village, the photo of the kids' father and a train station: With this very minimalist setting, the director manages to create a personal universe into which he draws a delighted audience.

The story of two children in search of their father could at first glance seem rather conventional, but it is enriched by a sense of space and rhythm showing Jakimowski as a master of directing. The story focuses on the boy, Stefek, convinced that the man boarding a train every morning at the same hour is his father, who had left home before he was born. His sister Elka had suffered from her father's abandonment and doesn't wish to hear about him.

Most sequences are organized around different relationships: Stefek and his "father," who establish an oddly affectionate relationship in the train station; Elka and her boyfriend; Stefek and his sister's boyfriend. Each of these sequences is almost a documentary-like comment on contemporary life in a small Polish town(with its rituals, its gossips, its surprises, reminding of Milos Forman or Jiri Menzel's early films.

The clever narration is marked by subtle twists, hence the film's title. As Elka had taught Stefek how to bribe fortune to make it go in the direction he wishes, the boy's obsession is to find a way to bring his father back to his mother. Helped by two figurines of valiant soldiers, he feels empowered enough to make it happen. How Stefek provokes fate and fiercely tries to organize events in order to make his wish come true is the connecting thread of the film. It gives it a comic tone as well as a very moving dimension.

Jakimowski brilliantly uses a narrow setting and gives the impression that we are always discovering new parts of the village in which his characters move as in a ballet. The choreography of the characters and of the camera movements reaches its ultimate achievement in the taking off of hundreds of doves in some of the film's most poetic sequences.

Although fresh, enjoyable and lively, "Tricks" could have been a drama. The bittersweet tone of the movie is also what gives it its charm: The dialogue is very witty and the kid's character is charming. The tension arising in the background could equally lead to a happy or an unhappy ending. The utterly poetic sequence that concludes the film is a perfect answer to this dilemma.

Kino Swiat International, Zjednoczenie Artystow i Rzemieslnikow
Writer/director/producer: Andrzej Jakimowski
Director of photography: Adam Bajerski
Production designer: Ewa Jakimowska
Costume designer: Aleksandra Staszko
Editor: Cezary Grzesiuk
Music: Tomasz Gassowksi
Elka: Ewelina Walendziak
Stefek: Damian Ul
The father: Tomasz Sapryk
The mother: Iwona Fornalczyk
Running time -- 95 minutes
No MPAA rating