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2015年3月13日 星期五

Mój Rower (My Father’s Bike)(出走不離三爺孫)

Men are very different animals from women. They're so different that a popular book about male-female relationship uses as its title,"Men are from Mars, and Women from Venus". Mój Rower (My Father’s Bike)(出走不離三爺孫) (2012) is a film by Polish screenwriter and director Piotr Trzaskalski (Edi 2002, Mistrz 2005) about the strained relations between 3 generations of estranged men and/or adolescent. They came together when Barsia (Anna Nehrebecka), the wife of a talented 75-year-old retired jazz clarinet player suffering from high blood pressure and has to walk with a crutch, Wlodzimierz Starnawsk (Michal Urbaniak) "Vlodek") suddenly left a note on a desk saying that she's decided to leave him. His divorced concert pianist son Pawel (Artur Zmijewski) immediately flew in from Berlin and Pawel's own adolescent son Maciet (Krzysztof Chodorowski) flew in from England and converged at the airport of Lodz (the third largest city in Poland) for the unspoken purpose of seeing the old man, who has no company except that of an incontinent dog with nobody to look after him except a part-time maid. They've decided to look for Barsia whom her sister reluctantly told Pawel  had run off with a retired pilot somewhere in Suwalki, a beautiful lakeside rural area which forms part of the protected Suwalki Landscape Park in north east Poland, close to the border with Lithuania.

In their common search for the wife of one, the mother of the other and the grandmother of the third, Pawel, who behaves in exactly the same way towards his own son ie. having nothing but caustic words of criticism and sarcasms for and no apparently no real interest him, the way his father behaves towards him, found not only Barsia, but reconciliation with his own father and his own son. And the link to that reconciliation is the same old bike that Vlodek still keeps in his garage and which at the end of the the film, he wish to make a gift to Maciet. During the quest, as part of the family chit chat, Pawel told Maciet how he learned to ride the bicycle at age 4: Vlodek gave him the bike and a push and told him to ride with the other boys. When he fell and cried, Vlodek told him to get back up on that bike threatened that if he fell a second time, Vlodek would scrap that bike. After their futile search of Barsia, as Maciet was preparing go back for his studies in England and Pawel to an imminent concert in Berlin and thinking that  Pawel was not around, Maciet asked Vlodek in the garage if what his father told him  about how he learned biking at 4 was true. Vlodek said yes. Then Maciet asked Vlodek whether if Pawel really fell a second time, Vlodek would scrap the bike. Vlodek replied, "Of course not". The threat was merely to push him to face his own problems. It happened that as Maciet was asking the question of Vlodek, Pavel had just returned from looking for the paraphernalia relating to the bike which Vlodek had earlier promised to give to Maciet and by accident, he overheard Vlodek's reply.

When the film ends, we see the bike on the luggage reclaim belt in England, moving slowing along, amidst other suit cases. Then the screen cut into the end of Pawel's concert Berlin with which he had been most concerned to work on during the search and would be most annoyed if disturbed. Very quietly, Pawel approached the piano, sat down, thought a bit and then played a number which astounded every one: it was an Acker Bilk's number which his father played on the clarinet at an informal garden birthday party organized for the son of a 4 year-old employee of a musical training camp in the Suwalki area at which he had worked as one of the teachers years and years ago, at the invitation  of the director of that camp, an old friend who still had vivid recollection of how movingly Vlodek played the clarinet. When Vlodek was playing, the 4 year-old boy and everybody there listened in rapt attention, as if their soul had been carried away by the warmth and feeling of Vlodeks' play of that Acker Bilk's Aria. That includes Pawel, who was most reluctantly dragged in by Vlodek to play the accompaniment. When Pawel heard his father's deepest feelings, he responded and played with his heart too and not just with his fingers, as he did at the beginning of the play! At the end of the film, we are shown old Vlokdek silently watching his son play on his old black and white television, sitting on his chair not two feet from the television screen.

In fact, Pawel found Barsia but lied to Vlodek and Maciet that he had just received a call that Barsia had returned to Lodz and for that reason, they had to end the search. What prompted that lie was that he found his mother having a good time with her new lover whilst learning how to drive in the country road, with a man who was not afraid to express his true feeling to her, something his father, who he knew could only fully express himself through his music, would or could never do. Of course, Vlodek knew that what his son told him might not be true but he just acted as if he believed Pawel and  agreed to end the quest. In his heart, he knew that there was absolutely no chance that his wife would ever agree to come back. Before the search, he told his son that if he were Barsia, he would not come back but since his son insisted, he joined them in the search at the final moment.  Maciet also knew and said that his father saw Barsia with a questioning look. His father nodded. He was probably emotionally more mature than both his father and grandpa: he has fallen in love with his literature teacher and wanted to have a baby by her, something he revealed to Pawel in whilst all three of them were having a good time swimming in the lake, something they haven't done for ages. During the tête à tête with his father whilst sitting on a pier at the lake,  Pawel did not scold him nor give his opinion but instead tried to help him sort out his feelings and his anxieties.  When they ended the quest, Vlodek's dog, his only emotional companion,  was knocked down by a car. Probably, he doesn't need him any more?

I like the way Piotr Trzaskalski uses music in the play: music and the feeling embodied in music appears to be the secret bond between the generations: Vlodek's jazz, Pawel's classical and Maciet's hip hop. When he tells his story, the music sets the mood: a few bars or a few notes on the piano, allowing the sound to resonate with all its harmonics as it fades until it dies away and enter the world of silence, from whence it came, as if it were a messenger from a different world, a world without words, a world of pure emotions, the world of the human psyche. The notes could easily have been those of Arvo Pärt's, simple, pure, resonant as the pristine water on that lake in Suwalki around which the search for Barsia unfolded and in which the grandather, father and son found unadulterated and spontaneous fun, (water probably the symbol of human emotions)Wojciech Lemanski is to be thanked in that regard. I also like the way Piotr Trzaskalski uses light, which often comes from the side, setting in relief Vlodek alone in his chair in that sitting room in Lodz listening to his Benny Goodman, or preparing breakfast for his grandson etc. The acting by all three male generations are superb. In sum, a film well worth seeing.