Polish Cinema: Snow White and Russian Red (Xawery Zulawski, 2009, Poland)

Wojno polsko-ruska (Snow White and Russian Red) is remarkably close to its source material - for better or worse. Dorota Maslowska’s novel, published in 2002, doesn’t exactly lend itself to adaptation. It is composed of an internal monologue of the protagonist Silny (if you can call him a protagonist). In this novel he rails against the various women in his life, as well as forces from the East (hence the title) and West. Very little happens that could be called action.
Xawery Zulawski’s adaptation - unfortunately a far cry from the best works of his father Andrzej - translates the source material by bringing Maslowska more deeply into the narrative. The action of her writing the novel is interspersed into the film. He also lends the adaptation a comic book-like quality. Fight sequences become almost Matrix-style. Sometimes a white and red filter appears to color the screen. Other times the action is sped up (this effect is quite fitting, given the characters’ main drug habit).
Borys Szyc does an admirable job as our protagonist, delivering an unremitting intensity befitting of our dresiarz hero. Unfortunately, he starts at 100 and has no place to go. This is the problem of the film overall - the level of intensity simply becomes tiresome at a certain point. There is no place left to go. His fellow performers - almost entirely women - express little beyond caricature. But perhaps this was Maslowska’s intention.

When the film does try to remedy this toward the end, in which Borys meets his maker, it feels heavy-handed and pretentious. Wojno polsko-ruska could have benefited from ending at least a half hour earlier. This deconstructing segment at the end truly drags, and the film becomes a chore to watch. In the end the film feels too derivative of the films it seeks to emulate, such as Trainspotting.



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