Directed by Oliwia Siem and co-written with Tomasz Dembicki, torn between a high-maintenance girlfriend and his emotionally unstable mother, David finds himself drawn to rituals of death. An old photo may hold the key to his vivid and inexplicable experiences. Starring: Hanna Sleszynska, Damian Kret, Michalina Olszanska, Dorota Liliental, Maciej Gruszczynski, Rafal Rosiak, Konrad Makowski and Ryszard Kret.
Opening on a shot of their lead laying in a coffin, undoubtedly throws an ominous vibe in the mix, despite leading into a light-hearted moment between a couple in love. Throughout its initial moments it builds an atmosphere pointing to a fateful evening, adding a touch of the supernatural without revealing its destination too quickly. The directorial style adds a lot to the atmosphere, Siem’s choice to focus a lot on the details, combined with sharp, quick editing (by Piotr Mendelowski) gives off an aura of the uncertain and potentially dangerous. It’s impressive given that the scene where it comes through the strongest initially is simply one of a son making his mother a cup of tea but the choices of shots add a lot more to the story, using a graceful way of presenting the plot rather than unnecessary dialogue.
There are a lot of things that throw up red flags in film, one that’s been used many times is a son with an overprotective or clingy mother, it always leads to something darker and this is no exception, it works every time. However, one less common choice but certainly raises an eyebrow is having your character find a photo of a dead baby, it’s a very clear sign of where the film is heading but similar to its opening, doesn’t reveal itself too quickly. Although, once it is discovered who the baby is and why the picture was in his mother’s possession, it speeds up enormously through the rest of the plot and there is a little too much to get through within the last few minutes. The writing itself is well done, had the ending been stretched out and given a bit more of the run time, then it would have been more effective but even so, it’s a good story that’s well thought out. Speeding up the story however, does cut the ending off a little too abruptly, without giving time for the information to sink in, ending on a note that feels too open to interpretation. It’s a great idea to leave things on a mysterious note and let the audience fill in the gap with however their experience of the film dictates but it does still need a nudge in the right direction which doesn’t feel entirely present.
A problem that the film certainly doesn’t have is acting, the majority lands on the shoulders of Damian Kret as lead, David and he does a great job given the amount of different emotions he has to go through within 15 minutes. There’s no point where Kret’s performance doesn’t feel convincing and he makes for a sympathetic lead to draw you in, especially when supported in the beginning by Olszanska, with whom he has a strong chemistry. All of which is very much strengthened by the performance of Sleszynska as David’s mother, she has that classically needy air mixed with the brilliant amount of manipulation in how she talks to her son, frequently comparing him to his father but done in a typically neutral tone to make it seem like she’s being reasonable.
Pollution of the Heart builds a strong foundation of sinister energy then launches into a slightly twisted tale, with sharp editing, skilled cinematography and impressive direction. There’s a great amount of foreshadowing to lead the story where it needs to go without revealing too much, it’s a shame that it tries to get through its big reveal a little too fast but it’s still an entertaining and gripping story. This one may certainly leave you wondering how much you don’t know about your own parents.