James Bartlett clocks in 11 Minutes, which screened at this year’s Melbourne Film Festival (28 July – 14 August).
With a simple premise – the lives of several unrelated people are intertwined over 11 minutes in Warsaw, Poland – this was a hit at the Venice Film Festival, getting a special mention in the Vittorio Veneta category and being nominated for the Golden Lion too; a seeming triumph for veteran writer/director (and even occasional actor) Skolimowski.
The story of this Irish/Polish co-production begins with Anna (Chapko) and her husband (Mecwaldowski) enjoying the first morning of their honeymoon, selfie/iphone filming themselves in bed. But then Anna is on her way to a hotel to meet Richard Martin (Irish actor Dormer), an apparent movie producer who is prepping the room by pouring champagne – and unplugging the phones.
Husband Mecwaldowski however realizes she accidentally took a sleeping pill he put in her drink, and begins a frantic chase to get to the hotel – where Martin is already creepily questioning and flirting with her.
Elsewhere, other people are going about their day. A hot dog seller (Chyra) is charming some nuns, a courier is delivering drugs and “servicing” a client, a couple are breaking up and handing over the dog, and a window-washer is having a bedtime break too.
We switch continuously between these stories, and lead inevitably towards a conclusion that will hopefully see them clearly come together; how we don’t yet know. The answer is a stunning and exciting slo-mo sequence that leaves you with a bang, but ultimately struggles to justify the 70 minutes or so it took to get there.
Despite the success of this film, it did at times seem grasping for symbolism with some David Lynch-style elements (the nuns; several pointless scenes viewed as if we were the dog; a girl inexplicably spitting in the hot dog seller’s face; the lack of character names; dissonant and loud noises and music; drug-induced shaky-scenes; a random suicide; a bubble floating), all of which made this seem quirky for quirky’s sake too often.
More than that, the constant flipping never allowed for any emotional momentum – let alone dialogue and narrative clarity – to ever build, so often it seemed we arrived too late, and then left again none the wiser. That said, the end scene is a cracker, and Dormer and Chapko dance around each other with some erotic fizz, but overall this seems too fractured and bumpy a ride to justify the time.
The 2016 Melbourne Film Festival took place 28 July – 14 August.