In Tadeusz Krol's latest psychological thriller The Last Floor
) one man's paranoia becomes ridiculously overwhelming when he accidentally discovers that the military unit he's been serving in for his entire life is entangled in a mysterious criminal affair. At almost exactly the same time, his wife's ex-lover shows up in the seemingly peaceful town. To make a horrible situation even worse, his son gets beaten up in school for the traditional, albeit very radical and discriminatory values to which his father strongly adheres.
The man, an experienced Polish army captain Derczynski (Janusz Chabior), begins to lose his mind in a situation that requires nothing more than calmness and perceptiveness. It's a rather slow and cumulative process, but a relatively violent and horrifying one. He decides that the only way to protect his nearest and dearest from the dangers of the outside world is to literally barricade himself and his terrified family in their own cramped apartment on the last floor of a communist-style building. What commences is an overwrought tale that delivers on an intriguing premise, but ultimately fails to keep up with all the far-reaching ideas that it so desperately tries to convey.
At first, The Last Floor feels like a mystery film trying to reveal a huge intrigue that, when publicized, might stain the honor of the whole country and its precious army. The story would be pretty much well-ordered if not for the director's strange inability to stay focused, a fact that only confirms that his intentions are never really clear. What Taduesz Krol tries to communicate is confusing, to say the least.
Without ever explaining the frightful mystification that turned Derszczynski's life inside out, he continues with a plot that suddenly wants to underline the mental illness of the main character, without referring to its actual cause. There are a few very brief scenes that attempt to remind us of the broader image, but they're too overly vague and unimaginative to have any valuable meaning.
Most of the action takes place within the aforementioned apartment, and the increasing and deeply stressful sense of claustrophobia that permeates the place is actually one of the few advantages of The Last Floor. In defense of the picture, I must say that the haunting imagery and attention to details when it comes to portraying how one father's dangerous obsession reflects on the mental and physical health of other family members, or rather lack of it, gave me the shivers. The film definitely uses the potential of that genuinely upsetting atmosphere, up until it all becomes wearisome and repetitive.
Janusz Chabior's devastating performance is his best to date, but it's hardly believable that he's going to get any critical attention for a role in a film that is superficial and thus almost immediately forgettable. The responsibility for the success of the picture lies entirely on his shoulders and I can only praise him for doing a really good job, seeing that he had to work with such an disjointed script. The plot scrupulously avoids describing the horror that Derszczynski's wife (Joanna Orleanska) and three children have to go through and eventually makes all the other characters seem bleak and unrecognizable.
The Last Floor had me fooled for a moment. Initially I thought that I was about to experience an intense and demanding psychological film that is also a grotesque insight into a typical Polish mentality often rooted in stereotypes and prejudice, but also in love for the country and its many valuable traditions. What I saw was a run-of-the-mill camp flick that never recovers from its lack of coherence.
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