Four Nights with Anna ***1/2
Directed by Jerzy Skolimowski
Written by Eva Piaskowska and Jerzy Skolimowski
Artur Steranko as Leon
Kinga Preis as Anna
"Four Nights with Anna" is the first film in nearly seventeen years by Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski, whose previous work which runs well into the mid-60's I have never seen, but whose positive influence in the field is very apparent with his film. This is a film for the rather sick humored-and even those that wouldn't find some of the perverse humor funny will certainly be affected by the disturbing aspects of it. This is a creepy little film about the powers of memory and obsession, with a tone as black as night.
There is a very simple story behind "Four Nights at Anna," but its through the subtle performances that the layers come out. Artur Steranko gives a nearly completely silent performance as Leon, a man who works at a crematory and lives a life of solitude. Growing up with his grandmother, he is surprised when she is found dead in their apartment. While walking around his land he ends up witnessing the rape of a young woman named Anna P., and he reports the incident to the police, right after Anna gets a look at his face. From then on he becomes obsessed with Anna, more so than looking out the window to watch her change which is what he was doing prior to the incident. For four straight nights he breaks into her apartment-never doing anything sexual to her, despite the fact that he almost grabbed her breast while she slept. Instead he stays by her bed, fixes her clock, sews a button onto her jacket, and slipping a ring onto her finger-usually disappearing before she wakes.
Fans of the absurd will know that they are right at home from the very start of the film. In one of the opening scenes Leon finds a human hand in a garbage can, and at one point he is walking down the road while in the background three men are pushing a car. There is no real reason for this addition in the background, but it seems appropriate in the shot for some odd reason. The humor is very subtle, but black as night, if you are into those kind of laughs. Take the third night-where Leon watches Anna throw a party. When he breaks into her house he puts on the radio, grabs a plate, fills it with some left over food, and begins to lightly dance. Half of the audience will begin to chuckle at the insanity of it, and the other half might just start to shiver at the creepiness of it. I was recalling Stuart Gorden's "Stuck," which contains a scene where a dog licks the blood and bone off an injured man whose stuck in a car windshield-I found it funny, but only at the sheer blackness of it all.
The film is mostly silent, with its dialouge far between each other, all to a very playful musical score. Artur Serano gives a terrific performance as Leon, giving a perfect balance between insanity and empathy. I found it hard to be completely creeped out by his actions, and even though we do not get a strong amount of backstory between him and Anna (such as a past history or something of that nature) until the ending, his attraction to her seemed quite believable, and not simply a voyeuristic obsession. By the end, when everything comes together and we learn about the time lapses and flashbacks that have occured throughout, there is a certain amount of tragic yearning in his character, and the final shot is humorous, but only in its ache.
This is a very dark film, not only in its content but also the way its shot. The film is beautifully, but darkly, shot. The camera moves around casually as Leon walks, often lingering on little moments for an amount of time just past the norm. "Four Nights with Anna" is a very good movie-one of absorbing entertainment and shocking humor. A film that will have some kind of effect on its entire audience-if its laughter, fear, or just plain shock. I was a viewer that had a little bit of all three.