A strange but captivating film
Cineast – the Central and Eastern European Film Festival – is taking place at present in Luxembourg. Tonight I watched a film called 11 Minutes which caught my eye as it was partly made in my home country, Ireland.
It is a strange but captivating film. It tells many stories all at once about various people on the same day in Warsaw. The audience has to be patient and keep being introduced to new characters, new situations and new places. The film jumps from one scenario and set of characters to another in non-chronological order. Just when you think that you are figuring out what is happening in the film, the film jumps to somewhere else and to another character. THEN to make it even more confusing and bizarre, the same scenes are shown again but from a different perspective and emphasising a different character! Truly bizarre.
Little by little the film begins to make sense and viewers are able to put the sequence of events together and how people are connected to each other. Nevertheless it takes a long time before one reaches that point.
11 Minutes shows a very short moment from the lives of different characters representing a broad spectrum of contemporary society, the 11 minutes that would seal their fate and decide on their future. A jealous husband of an attractive actress who meets in a hotel room with a cocky and immoral Hollywood director, a drug runner driving through the city on his motorbike, a hot-dog seller and a group of hungry nuns… An intertwining of some unexpected events, all happening in the vibrant and lively capital of Poland, which could easily stand for any city in any part of our changing world.
As the film is a mix of different characters in different situations, it does not allow any of the characters to be deep and to develop so that the viewers can get to know them. It is the weakness of the film. There just is no time to learn who these people are. We do not even get to know their names!! That is how transient they are in this film.
The film is set in the capital of Poland, Warsaw. The city looks gorgeous. The characters are seen walking around tall, modern buildings in the heart of Warsaw. There are many aerial shots of the city in the film so one can see Warsaw and get the feeling that one is in a large, busy city – which is what it is. The director deliberately included the images of the skyscrapers in the background to give the film a very contemporary look and feel. I liked it and thoroughly approve of this!
One of the reasons that I was interested in seeing this film is that it was partly made in Ireland. I thought that part of the film would be set in Ireland. Many Polish people have settled in Ireland so I thought that it was going to involve some Poles in Ireland. Not a bit of it. The producers and editors of the film have made it so well that you will not see one scene that could be identified as in Ireland. I was a bit disappointed by this. Perhaps the editing was done in Ireland. I am not sure. What I am sure of is that there is NO VIEW of Ireland anywhere in the film.
So having spent most of the film watching various characters and scenes slowly evolve and become closer to each other, and trying to understand how it was all connected, when the final eleven minutes came together, it was certainly very dramatic with lots of crashes and explosions and deaths but it seemed a tad unrealistic and too sudden. It did not strike me as a good ending for the film. The final scene where the image fades out is utterly bewildering. I believe that the directors or writers could have thought of something better. It left me feeling a bit cheated as a viewer. I had spent so long waiting for all of the events and people to finally converge in a big crescendo but then the very last part of the film ended badly.
Bizarre aeroplane/ thing in the sky sequence
There was a strange sequence in the film that was left unexplained. For a few different characters in a number of scenes, a jumbo jet roared overhead as it was preparing to land. It was so low it looked like it was centimetres above some of the tall buildings. Frankly it looked like some of the videos of the aeroplanes that crashed into the Twin Towers in New York in September 2001. The planes were very low and ploughed into the skyscrapers. The aeroplane in this film kinda looked like it was about to do the same thing. Even though the characters noticed the jet, nothing was really said about it. Maybe jumbo jets roar over the centre of Warsaw every day. I know that they do in Luxembourg.
The unexplained thing in the sky…
The other strange thing that was talked about and sort of shown in the film was a thing in the sky. That is all that I can call it as the director chose not to show it nor explain what it is. The characters notice it alright but they do not explain it or describe it to us. One of the characters, the slimy American film producer, even points it out but then calls it a secret and tells the woman that he is trying seduce what it is by whispering it in her ear. The audience are left out of the whisper so there is no answer. Whatever it is, it is odd and it does not add anything to the story apart from confusing the audience.
Would I recommend it?
The crucial question! Yes, I would recommend people to go see it. It has fantastic cinematic effects and Warsaw looks gorgeous as a backdrop. There are some funny moments in the film such as the nuns buying hot dogs. There are some very pretty actresses and extras in it which is always nice.
I would give it 7.5/10. It is a thought provoking film and enjoyable but the odd features and the poor ending take away from it. I am sure that others would disagree with me about this, but films are in the eye of the viewer.