Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Between Heaven and Hell lies Purgatory, and so we come to the third and most complex element in the trilogy by screenwriter Krzysztof Piesiewicz. As the earlier films (Heaven and L'Enfer) also represented the Christian values of love and faith, so this film focuses on hope, yet it does so not in any conventionally uplifting way, rather through a focus on the capacity of the human spirit.

In a dizzying prologue, we see the death of hero Franciszek's mother when he was just a small child. Her sacrifice enables him to live, and perhaps it is this which triggers Franciszek to take extraordinary risks for the sake of others. When senator and underground art dealer Benedykt steals a painting from the church he helps to tend, Franciszek blackmails him over it, sticking to his guns despite attempts on his life; but he's not after money, he says; rather, he wants the painting returned. He tells Benedykt that he wishes to help him. Naturally the senator is at first angry and frightens, but gradually he finds himself undertaking a journey to places he might never have expected himself to be.

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If Franciszek seems angelic (with his head of golden curls to add to the effect), life isn't really that simple. He's often careless of the feelings of his devoted girlfriend and his single-minded 'goodness' taxes the strength of his suicidal brother - the one who lives with guilt relating to their mother's death. Franciszek, it seems, is almost hiding behind his air of holiness, refusing to take on his fair share of that mortal burden. The risks he takes - such as trying to beat the record for the late opening of a parachute - seem to require little real courage on his part as he continually feels that he is being watched over. Curiously, as Benedykt finds himself becoming a more spiritual person, Franciszek's journey is in the other direction; he is gradually becoming more human; but that, too, can have nasty consequences.

Thoughtful and thought-provoking, Hope is perhaps the most interesting part of the trilogy, but, like the others, it suffers from a sort of willful obscurantism which, combined with its slow pace, means that it sometimes struggles to keep the viewer's attention. Its distance from its characters (and Franciszek's distant nature) makes it hard to identify with them to any great extent, so that when it latterly attempts to depict their suffering it's hard to care as much as the film seems to demand. It also features an irritatingly intrusive soundtrack which seems to be trying to dictate emotion rather than letting the audience react naturally.

If you're looking for something a little different to occupy you at the cinema, Hope fits the bill well. It'll give you something to think about - it just won't necessarily give you much else.

Reviewed on: 16 Apr 2008
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A bold youth blackmails the important man who stole a painting from a church - but what is he really after?
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Director: Stanislaw Mucha

Writer: Krzysztof Piesiewicz

Starring: Rafal Fudalej, Wojciech Pszoniak, Kamila Baar, Zbigniew Zamachowski, Zbigniew Zapasiewicz, Grzegorz Artman, Dominika Ostalowska, Jerzy Trela

Year: 2007

Runtime: 101 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Poland, Germany


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