My duty (2022) – film review

Twenty-two years after the premiere of Krzysztof Krause’s legendary film Debt, Polish filmmakers have returned to the story of blackmailed businessmen who decided to go to extremes and kill. The drama of Sławomir Sikora, whose original experiments have played the role of canvas for the film’s screenplay since the 1990s, did not end with Debt’s recent credits. Denis Delicia and Bogusław Job’s film is dedicated to what happened after that. The only question is, should this story be added?
Sikora was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the murder of a blackmailer. The action of “My Debt” begins with his falling into a cell full of cruel criminals. Delić and Job use the classic tropics of Polish prison cinema, including Konrad Niewolski’s Symmetry or the Wehrmacht’s The Procedure. The hero is forced to resist the unreasonable aggression and psychological terror of his fellow prisoners. There are secret police, corrupt guards, fights, attempts to dominate and gain a piece of internal freedom. But Delhi and Job can’t even follow the well-trodden paths of the species. All handles set prison movies they run out in the first three scenes, and then only the genre determinants remain in place.

It seems that this will be the advantage of “My Debt”. By knowing Sikora’s history, you can rely on more than just a simple story about the hardships of prison life. Unfortunately, this is not the case. It’s hard to say what was most important to the creators of this story – what made them start this project. The plot is devoid of any context that makes Debt strong. We learn nothing about Sikora and her business partner’s dreams and life plans. There are no problems in the transformation of Poland, the weakness of the government and the police is not properly emphasized. There is no shadow of the immanent evil that Gerard Krause committed. Deli and Job completely ignore the discussion of sin, guilt and punishment. There are no traces of moral, social or legal thinking, metaphysical. So, there is nothing to rely on any dramaturgy of Sikora’s fate.

The protagonist himself does not evoke any emotion: neither sympathy nor anger, which is not lacking in the guilt of the protagonist Bartosz Sak. The actor does not play with the body, he has an almost motionless, expressionless face – but it is difficult to say the strategy of indifference or indifference because the actor does not convey these feelings. The figure is completely transparent, devoid of expression and message. It is unknown what their goals, feelings and thoughts are. On the one hand, he seems to have reconciled with his fate, because, as he said, he will pay the title debt. On the other hand, at some point he compromises his words and begins to act in vain. And there are more similar scenario inconsistencies. There are also characters who do not need to be on the screen, their adventures are unknown. First of all, I think of Sikora’s cellmate Hector, played by Piotr Stramovsky.

For some time, much has been written about collecting signatures for a petition demanding Sikora’s pardon. Krause’s film also played a role here, and it is mentioned in “Delicia and Job”. However, the creators did not turn the campaign to release the hero into the film’s axis. The fight, without warning, suddenly appears at the very end of the film, successfully completes three scenes and closes without any obstacles. There is no hint of uncertainty about the success of the initiative, there is not a single twist, not even epidermal tension, that will enliven the movement and interest the audience in what they see on the screen.

In any case, it is not even known what the main plot line is. The film begins with Sikora’s imprisonment. Then the creators go back to the past, to the time of the murder. But people who don’t know the story and don’t watch The Debt understand why these people brutally killed Greg in about half of the film. After a few minutes, the action goes to the courtroom, then to the psychiatric hospital, then to the prison again (but a completely different cell, left without any justification and comment) – and so on. infinitely: to the past, to the future, and over and over again. The creators are so intensely juggling between time and space that it is impossible to determine the existence of the “now” that makes up the dramatic reading.

There is also a problem with the dramaturgy that Sikora doesn’t actually do much harm to much of the film. Except for the first scene where he was attacked by fellow prisoners. Then everything goes its own way. He quickly makes “friends” under his camera, makes friends, gets the best job – starts working in the kitchen, and even decorates the prison for Christmas. Of course, it’s easy to assume that being in prison is traumatic enough – it’s hard to disagree. The problem was that the creators were not even sure to emphasize Sikora’s place, which led to her dramatic murder. The creators failed to convey the level of injustice that affected the protagonist, so the tragedy of the arrest does not sound appropriate. Those who do not know the debt will not be aware of the degree of terror they experience. In Delicia and Job, there is probably a scene where Greg blackmails businessmen. It is not enough to influence the conscience and nervous system of the audience. One can get the impression that everything happens here, if there is no information about the nomenclature, credit – “Debt”, the action would be completely unreadable for the audience.

So, it turns out that on the basis of the same story can be made one of the most devastating and influential films of conscience in all Polish cinema, as well as a work that is not able to evoke any emotion. In addition, it is a work that does not add anything, does not create any problems, does not confirm, or in any way expands the knowledge of either real characters or Krause’s fiction. My Duty is just a dubious example.

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