Film Review: Four Nights with Anna (Cztery Noce z Anna)
(Alfama Films/Skopia Films)
Showing as part of Kinoteka 2009
Reviewed by Guy Sangster Adams
In the deracinated environs of a Polish hospital, amidst rain, mud and shattered buildings, and the aura of the reduction to the Dark Ages aftermath of a war zone, love, life and moral boundaries appear to have been forsaken. From burning an amputated hand, to the bloated dead cow slowly floating downstream whilst he is fishing, to the rape of a nurse that he witnesses, memento mori and the brutalisation of society surround the predominantly mute hospital crematorium worker Leon (Artur Steranko). Middle-aged Leon is a disquieting mix of guileful and guileless, and following the death of his grandmother with whom he has been living and caring for, his voyeurism of his neighbour Anna (Kinga Preis) the rape victim, becomes an ever more obsessive infatuation.
Jerzy Skolimowski, in his first directorial role for 17 years, adeptly and unsettlingly, heightens the inherent voyeurism of the audience and makes one complicit in the minutiae of Leon’s machinations to both enter Anna’s bedroom and demonstrate his love whilst she is asleep, from mixing ground up sleeping tablets into her sugar, to cleaning her house after her birthday party which he has observed from afar, to painting her toe nails. Skolimowski has adroitly created a film that is both acutely disturbing and highly compelling, with surreal flourishes and moments of black comedy, for example when the head doctor (Skolimowski himself) questions Leon as to whether the amputated hand was still wearing a wedding ring. Through an innovative narrative thread that undermines one’s perception of the timescale of scenes, Four Nights with Anna forces one to question one’s responses to Leon, might one almost feel a poignancy for his unrequited loneliness or should one be steadfastly steeling oneself against the perceived violable conclusion of his desires; a tension that is artfully increased throughout the film and from which one is only released, for better or worse, in the closing scenes.