By Bartosz Szarek (Nowy Sącz, Poland)
In every end there is a beginning of something new. The death of the boy in a film Baby Bump (2015) also created by Kuba Czekaj, portends the birth of a young man in The Erlprince (2016). Supposing the debut of Czekaj functioned mainly on the physical level of the teenager Mickey House (Kacper Olszewski) and acceptance of emerging changes as well as dealing with various conflicts, no matter how nonsensical they may seem from the adult point of view, in his second production Czekaj deals with shaping of psychological maturity of the teenager (Stanisław Cywka), whom Mickey House surely could have become.
As a person matures – abandons certain things. John Lydon in the production Song to Song (2017) directed by Terrence Malick emphasizes: “Learn the principles in youth because it will make parents happy. Later you can send them to hell”. That’s why the character flips off to all “matchboxes”, mother’s kisses, Disney animations and “fires” Erlking (1782) written by Goethe in a punk version. In a new film created by Czekaj, he resigns from musical-visual style of his previous film, chaotic editing, animated inserts and musical blends which aimed at illustrating changes occurring in maturing person in favour of ponderous, quasi-gothic climate and fight against dragons of juvenile mentality.
Something which in Baby Bump pointed to grim joke, in Erlprince awakens demons of the protagonist, anonymous boy for whom the weapon is testing bonds limits with overbearing mother (Agnieszka Podsiadlik) and a man (Sebastian Lach), he would like to notice a father in. The boy is outstandingly talented, intelligent and, as is often the case, he has problems with establishing contacts with other people. Entering adulthood by the main character is additionally marked by the obsessions connected with the end of the world, quantum mechanics and parallel realities as a drive of perfidious game directed at the mother, in which HE is dealing the cards – Erlprince.
The boy feels everything more intensively than the rest of the characters, whether it concerns doubtfully marked in the film Oedipus complex represented by the mother, fast- approaching responsibility, stability and dutifulness personalized in “father”, or natural sexual drives. It is not clear, whether the apocalypse churning in his head involves message of destruction or triumph, but one thing is certain. The world in which he exists and he knows is moving to an inevitable collapse.
Erlprince is a film, which is carried rather by the atmosphere than by the story. And great credit is due to the cinematography created by Adam Palenta, who already worked with Czekaj on the film Baby Bump and his short forms. Watching the results of Palenta’s work is just a pleasure, regardless of whether the camera is directed at the damp and impassive, immersed in neon colours motorway, which the mother with her son are travelling or at the extraterrestrial landscapes in which the boy “teleports”, when he loses his grip.
Consequence of Czekaj’s evolvement as the author is admirable and enviable. In Erlprince, in a complex, definite way and fortunately without falling into cliché and routine, he presents characteristic of maturing teenager facing with difficult choices and situations. Similarly to Mommy (2014) created by Xavier Dolan, submitting sneaking director-writer issues to the history and its characters should not be treated as a disadvantage but as the author’s signature. Blinding film making, but even better omen for future.
(Translated from Polish)