Polish Cinema: Beksinscy. Album wideofoniczny (Marcin Borchardt, 2017, Poland)

              Beksinscy. Album wideofoniczny (Beksinscy. Video album) is a documentary which chronicles the Polish painter Zdislaw Beksinski and his troubled relationship with his son Tomek. It functions very well as a supplementary piece to Jan Matuszynski’s excellent 2016 drama The Last Family (Ostatnia rodzina), which chronicles this relationship as well. Watching Beksinscy, it is clear that Matuszynski’s drama was far from an exaggeration, and the relationship he chronicled in that film was quite accurate. Beksinski was a true photobug, and he chronicled much of his daily life with a camcorder. Tomek followed in his father’s footsteps, also documenting much of his life. There is a remarkable treasure trove of footage that the filmmakers had to work with, and the film is composed entirely of this footage. There are no interviews conducted after the fact.

               This style brings a remarkable intimacy to the proceedings. While the film does trace Beksinski’s rising success as a painter (there is one interesting segment where a news crew interviews him about his paintings, and we also see one of his exhibitions in Warsaw), it is primarily focused on his relationship with his son Tomek. Tomek is a troubled young man who is facing a severe mental illness, and attempted suicide multiple times. The film addresses how Beksinski and his son deal with their depression. While Beksinski seems to turn inward, Tomek is very outward facing – at one point, he even adopts the persona of a vampire (Tomek was a somewhat popular radio DJ in Poland).

               While the film ends tragically, not only with the deaths of Beksinski and Tomek but also Beksinski’s wife Zofia, there is actually a great deal of humor in the film. For anyone seeking a window into the life of an artistic but dysfunctional family in Warsaw in the 1980s, this film is great.

7/10         

Comments