Folk Tales Review
By Vanessa Nim (March 20th, 2018)
Directed by: Pawel Lukomski
Written by: Pawel Lukomski
Produced by: Pawel Lukomski
When it comes to thrillers, it has become increasingly rare to find a film that is able to establish suspense and adrenaline characteristic of the genre without relying on tired tropes or sacrificing other elements of the film. However, every once in a while a film comes to us that is showcases the best aspects of the genre with a refreshing cinematic take. Brought to us by Paweł Łukomski and Studio 35, Folk Tales is one of these rare and remarkable films that finds the sweet spot between thriller homage and modern filmmaking.
Written and directed by Łukomski, Folks Tales depicts the journey of Juju (Anthony Adeleke), a young African migrant, whose course to Europe is interrupted by Mara (Renia Gosławska) and Bobok (Szymon Osiński) a pair of organ harvesting bruisers. When Juju wakes up to find himself being held on ice for harvest, he makes a quick break through the forest where he stumbles across an isolated Polish town. Seeking refuge, Juju calls out to the villagers for help, but is greeted with nothing but closed doors and darkened windows. It is not until the air of defeat engulfs him that a door opens for Juju, and he is welcomed in by Kiki, who promises to take care of him.
Between the bruisers pressing pursuit of Juju and Kiki’s unknown motives, Folk Tales creates a riveting narrative that easily hooks us with careful allusions and captivating visuals. The film pulls from a number sources including Edgar Allen Poe’s iconic narrative poem, The Raven; the mystifying affairs of witchcraft, demonology, and religion; as well as race and gender politics to craft its story and instill the intrigue necessary for a successful thriller. While use of gothic themes and visuals reminiscent of Poe and European witchcraft is nothing new to the thriller genre, Łukomski’s choice to contrast the gothic and demonic antagonism found in the village with the more modern appearance of Mara and Bobok, as well as his integration of racial and gender politics into the film, makes for a newly entertaining story and an enjoyably speculative ending.
In addition to Łukomski’s contrasting antagonists and political integrations, Folk Tales’ cinematography also works to refresh the films themes. Lensed by the talented Krzysztof Trela, Folk Tales’ skillful cinematography goes far beyond just attractive visuals and, in many ways, is one of the key factors that ties the film together as an incredible thriller. From the motion-packed extreme close ups of the chase scenes to the still, encompassing wide shots of Jujus’s silhouette against the silent village, Trela’s choice in framing not only adds to the suspense and intrigue of the story, but also draws out the films haunting symbolism and highlights the harrowing disposition of the town.
With Łukomski’s combination of literary, religious, and political allusions and themes and Trela’s carefully spun cinematography, Folk Tales stands out as a refreshing take within the thriller genre. Although the film does struggle with some awkward pacing, the overall execution of the film is stellar. In a mere 24 minutes, Łukomski’s film succeeds at what many feature length thrillers are unable to accomplish: creating a suspenseful, cinematically engrossing thriller without relying on worn themes and dragged out homages. Blending together homage and modernity, Folk Tales brings out the best of the thriller genre to create a unique and intriguing film.
- Vanessa Nim