Day of The Wacko (Dzien Swira)
Vanguard // Unrated // $29.95 // November 25, 2003
Review by Don Houston | posted December 14, 2003
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Movie: Lately, I've noticed that Vanguard Cinema has released an awful lot of great films from Poland. For all the stereotypes about the Poles, they have a small but thriving film industry that has make some exceptionally intelligent movies on a regular basis. While some of their movies fall into the trap of making films for the lowest common denominator (which I refer to as the Hollywood syndrome), they also provide a source of great enjoyment to those of us willing to engage our brain when watching a movie. Most of the releases I've seen in recent months were older movies by Andrzej Wadja and I'll be the first to admit that each time I watch one of his movies, I like it more. I've also seen a host of films from lesser known talents and today's review concerns one by writer/director Marek Koterski called Day Of The Wacko (Dzien Swira).

The movie was about a neurotic elementary school teacher, Adam (Marek Kondrat), rapidly approaching his fiftieth birthday. All of his dreams have vanished and he sees himself at the mercy of everyone around him. From the neighbors to his students to his bitchy former wife and pretty much everyone else (including his dopey son), it seems that either everyone is part of a universal conspiracy to get him or that he's crazy. Needless to say, his sanity is somewhat questionable, and he suffers from a number of imaginary health problems that also contribute to his sad life. Rather than take charge of his own happiness, he goes around blaming everyone instead of looking inwardly for his answers. The movie detailed his journey into finding out the answers to life's questions and the result for the viewer was a lot of funny moments.

Okay, the movie had a lot to laugh at, and with, but what about the movie as a whole? That's a good question since much of what went on seemed lost in the context of Adam's weird mind. The humor ranged from sublime to nutty as could be and the answers to his questions were eventually displayed at the end of the movie, although it was in a dark fashion (to be expected from a Black comedy) and I liked the acting and general level of humor enough to rate this one as Recommended but it did aim rather low in most cases, trying to get a belly laugh rather than a thoughtful chuckle from the audience. I can say that I got a good lesson about life out of the movie and the limitations of some translated humor might make it even better for those who speak Polish. It wasn't a classic comedy by any means but I think a lot of foreign moviegoers will appreciate it at least as much as I did.

Picture: The picture was presented in non-anamorphic widescreen color with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 as it was originally shot. The movie was released in Poland last year and it looked fairly solid although with some soft focus and grain issues at times. There was some video noise with a bit of compression artifacts showing up from time to time yet it looked fairly clear for a low budget foreign movie.

Sound: The audio was presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Polish with optional English subtitles or a 5.1 DTS track. Both were very clear and crisp with only minimal problems unrelated to the DVD transfer. There was some stereo separation but it sounded like it was converted from a 2.0 track.

Extras: The extras seemed good on the surface except that the best ones were in Polish. The moderate length Behind the Scenes featurette would've probably been interesting in English as would the audio commentary. The other extras included a couple of trailers, a music video, a photogallery, a list of awards the movie has won, some biographies and a bunch of trailers for other Polish releases by Vanguard.

Final Thoughts: While I was disappointed that the two main extras were in Polish, I liked the movie enough to suggest you check it out. The content, the direction, the humor and the movie as a whole were worth it and the technical aspects backed up my opinion a whole lot. I wish I had the means to listen to the audio commentary track in English as I think it might help with some of the jokes I simply didn't get but perhaps I'll run into someone some day that'll watch it with me.

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