Sunday, September 20, 2015

TIFF 15 Film Review - Body (Cialo)

Starting with a police investigation of an apparent hanging suicide that turns into the deceased getting up and walking a way. Body is an off centre narrative focused on three peoples differing ways of how they view the human body and deal with loss. Janusz (Janusz Gajos) is the investigator at the scene of the non-suicide.  He has a daughter at home Olga (Justyna Suwala) who is borderline anorexic and not his biggest fan.  She mocks the way he eats trying to turn him off of his dinner by describing how chickens are treated before they are killed for human consumption. Anna (Maja Ostaszewska) is a therapist at a clinic for anorexic women.  We first meet her as she is giving a shout therapy session to a group of recovering girls.

Janusz investigates a crime scene where a woman dismembered her newborn child leaving the body parts in a bathroom stall at the Warsaw Gadansk rail station. Janusz shows no ill effects from the event while his colleagues are visibly shaken. The investigator ends the work day greedily slurping a large bowl of soup as a junior colleague gives him an update.  He comes home to find Olga slumped by a puke filed toilet leading to her admission to the clinic where Olga is a Therapist.

Director Malgorzata Szumowska presents a story that is grim but sprinkled with occasional comedic moments. The main focus of the production is how the three main characters.  Olga remains devastated over the death of her mother, blaming her father for the event.  Anna lost an 8 month old son 8 years ago but pretends when visiting her mother that the child is still alive and keeps a crib in her apartment. Janusz deals with dead bodies as his trade showing no outward emotion to the death of his wife Hanna.

The film gives a good representation of methods to treat anorexia. The various group treatment sessions at the Clinic feature scream therapy, role-play, dance, body image outlines and strict rules that must be followed at meal time before moving on to the next treatment session. The narrative also looks at daily city life. It's rainy damp and cold but Szumowska documents the regular interaction between apartment dwellers from friendly hellos to quiet neighbourly request to keep the music down.

Janusz Gajos leads the cast as the cynical criminal prosecutor who's character bears his first name. His is curt, emotionless and mocking of those that show emotion or warmth. Justyna Suwala is angry and vulnurable as his anorexic daughter Olga. Her anger and disgust at her father shows in her eyes, body language and actions. Olga clearly has not gotten over the death of her mother that manifests itself psychologically leading to her hospitalization. Maja Ostaszewska turns in the standout performance in the piece as Anna. She is Olga's therapist who herself is dealing with a personal loss. She lives modestly with her large dog Fredek. Anna has visions of the dead and can write their communications to the living on paper while in a trance like state. Despite her mundane existence  she does her best to help the recovering girls and their families.

Body is a film that has a very narrow focus and will result is a small commercial appeal. The subject matter is heavy, the film has very few smiles or laughs and the landscape is dreary and washed out. The tone of the film is set early on and its subject matter is not one that will not likely have a wide appeal.

** 1/2 Out of 4.

Body | Malgorazata Szumowska | Poland | 2015 | 90 minutes.

Tags: Anorexia, Suicide, Psychiatry, Clairvoyance, Prosecutor, Crime Scene, Warsaw, Dead Infant,  Dismemberment, Scream Therapy.