The Girl From The Wardrobe


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Girl From The Wardrobe
"An extraordinary piece of imaginative cinema."

Tomek (Wojciech Mecwaldowski) has a brain injury. He behaves awkwardly, sometimes aggressively, and is dependent on the constant care of his brother Jacek (Piotr Glowacki) to cope with the reality that other people have created around him. It's understandable that Tomek would find that reality difficult because he doesn't perceive its subtleties. Similarly, Jacek doesn't perceive the airships that Tomek likes to watch from the roof, though he respects his brother's difference.

Looking after Tomek is hard work. Jacek can never risk leaving him alone for long and the only neighbour willing to babysit is prejudiced and abusive. Whether in pursuit of work or women, he needs to get out alone sometimes, so one day he turns to another neighbour, Magda (Magdalena Rózanska) for help. Magda sleeps in her wardrobe and has recently tried to gas herself, but she reluctantly agrees. As she and Tomek get to know each other, an intense bond forms between them and Jacek becomes the outsider, effectively disabled by his inability to share or comprehend their secret world.

Copy picture

An extraordinary piece of imaginative cinema to come out of Poland, a country whose film culture is almost wholly focused on social realism, The Girl From The Wardrobe recalls the simpler, darker world of Terry Gilliam. It confronts stigma head on by making Tomek an active participant in the story, talented and possessed of a passionate inner life, yet doing nothing to prettify the effect he has on most others. As his connection with Magda gives him a clearer idea of his separate destiny, we see how important he has been in giving Jacek's life shape and meaning, how difficult it would be for this lifelong carer to live independently. As she can more clearly articulate what Tomek has, perhaps, always understood, Magda, by her very presence, threatens the elements of fantasy and projection that all relationships contain to some degree. She finds the world at large hostile, shrinking from the kind of threats all women experience in day to day life, easily wounded, yet her sensitivity allows her strange insights and the balance of power between the three main characters is constantly in flux.

Doing a great deal with a small budget, this film benefits from superb cinematography by Arkadiusz Tomiak, who shifts viewpoints and invites us into altered perspectives largely through the use of light. The music is magnificent, sombre and sweeping yet filled with possibility. Though heartbreaking in places, this is also a film that invites us to experience joy.

The Girl From The Wardrobe uses simple techniques to produce outstanding results. Stunning costume design and well constructed sets give it depth and visual appeal while the acting is strong all round. It's a film that deserves to make waves.

Reviewed on: 15 Feb 2014
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A young man leaves his mentally disabled brother in the care of an eccentric neighbour.

Director: Bodo Kox

Writer: Bodo Kox

Starring: Wojciech Mecwaldowski, Piotr Glowacki, Magdalena Rózanska, Eryk Lubos

Year: 2013

Runtime: 89 minutes

Country: Poland


Glasgow 2014

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