European psycho suspense drama can be unsettling in a way mainstream Hollywood — our staple diet for imported crime drama – normally avoids it. The sub-genre can be uncompromising in its definition of screen violence and/or gore despite not getting too loud. It demands an acquired taste to accept and savour such violence as entertainment.
Thriller lovers need to approach this Polish film keeping as much in mind because, to begin with, “The Plagues Of Breslau” is a celebration of extreme gore. In India, where the definition of a ‘good film’ is still synonymous with family viewing, writer-director Patryk Vega’s directorial effort could come as shocking fare for many.
“Plagi Breslau”, as the film is originally titled in Polish, officially comes to India on Netflix with English subtitles only now, nearly two years after release. In terms of storytelling and treatment, the film is actually uncomplicated for a thriller — which makes it an easy watch if you can stomach the queasy stuff.
Patryk Vega and co-writer Sylwia Koperska-Mrozinska establish the tone for the 90-minute runtime with the very first sequence. A body is discovered, tightly stitched inside the hide of a bull. Police detective Helena Rus (Malgorzata Kozuchowska) is informed that the victim was alive when sewn in, and must have baked and crushed to death as the sun dried and shrunk the hide.
That’s just the first few minutes. As Helena gets on with investigation, more such brutally imaginative killings follow. Soon, she discovers a pattern. The killer strikes at a specific time of the day, and the victims may not be altogether random. Helena also realises she might have to draw from the city’s history to crack the case.
There is a thematic similarity between David Fincher’s serial killer gem “Se7en” and “The Plagues Of Breslau”. If Fincher’s killer chose his victims going by the seven deadly sins, Vega’s villain seems to draw brainwave from the six great plagues. However, the likeness ends there. Vega has crafted a very distinct, moody thriller far removed from Hollywood slickness.
The narrative adheres to vintage formula. If the killings (and ensuing autopsies) are a bloodfest, they have been timed apart at regular intervals. Standard cliches abound, though Vega does reveal creativity in executing most of the outrageous deaths without going over the top. The film also throws in a societal comment or two, which adds to the pulp fiction flavour.
Malgorzata Kozuchowska’s Helena is imagined as a troubled cop with a daunting challenge at hand. The actress is quietly effective in bringing alive Helena, an intriguing mix of cynicism and resilience. She toplines a cast that impressively fit their roles.
Despite setting up his characters and plot points with formulaic familiarity, Vega’s storytelling manages to hold your interest right till the end – if only because you are curious to know how this bizarre story will end. It’s your film only if you relish graphic pulp fiction. Others would consider skipping this one.
“The Plagues Of Breslau” (Netflix film in Polish language with English subtitles); Cast: Malgorzata Kozuchowska, Daria Widawska, Tomasz Oswiecinski, Katarzyna Bujakiewicz, Direction: Patryk Vega
–IANS, Vinayak Chakravorty