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Układ zamknięty ‘The closed circuit’ (film)

2013/04/16

‘The closed circuit’, which will premier in the Chicago Film Festival on 21 April, has been the most popular film in Polish cinemas since ‘Drogówka’ (Highway Patrol), Wojciech Smarzowski, with an audience of a quarter of a million, and a hundred thousand just in the first weekend, beating many of the Hollywood productions currently showing.

closed circuit

Closed circuit – ‘Układ Zamknięty’

Unlike the vast majority of Polish films, ‘The closed circuit’ was financed privately, without any government funding. The director, Ryszard Bugajski, also directed the 1982 film, ‘Interrogation’, which was banned by the then Communist regime, with Bugajski forced to emigrate abroad.

The film is set in the Tricity in 2003, ten years after the end of communism in Poland. The plot, apparently based on the real-life experiences of Kraków businessmen Lech Jerzorny and Paweł Rey, is about three young, talented businessmen who open a high-tech factory. This comes to the attention of the local state ‘mafia’, the local Prosecutor, played by Janusz Gajos, and tax office boss, played by Kasimierz Kaczor, who are both jealous and would like to make money for themselves. We are in Poland, so success must be punished.

Suddenly, and without any apparent warning, the three businessmen are arrested with great brutality by armed and masked anti-terrorist police. They then face a Kafkaesque nightmare of imprisonment with neither cause nor explanation. The message of the film appears to be that it is not possible to run an honest business in Poland. The film ends with the businessmen being invited to set up in Denmark by their Danish partners, in a country which (apparently) rewards rather than penalises talent and success.

The best feature of the film is the superb acting of Janusz Gajos who plays the ‘black character’ in the film, the prosecutor, Andrzej Kostrzewa. He is a man who gained power, position, influence and wealth in former communist times, and still exerts a malign influence in his fiefdom. He is portrayed as a poor husband and father, who hunts wild animals, and generally behaves like a lord without any saving graces whatsoever. He is very ably assisted in his dark plots by his obsequious young assistant Kamil Słodowski, (Wojciech Zołądowicz). The Polish state is portrayed as one big money-extorting racket, with the proesecutors, courts, police, media, government, tax authorities and even the prisons colluding with each other against ordinary citizens.

Janusz Gajos

Janusz Gajos in ‘Closed Circuit’

By contrast, the young entrepreneurs are portrated as innocent  ‘victims’ of a post-PRL oligarchy. Apparently, Janosz Gajosz demanded changes in the plot to make the story less of a monochrome morality fable, with one of the young businessmen, Marek Stawski, being given a mistress to avoid appearing so ‘pure’.

Ultimately, we are left with a conservative PiS (Law and Justice) propaganda, with the former communists to blame for dark plots against honest, God-fearing Poles.

What non-Poles would most  like to know about the film is the extent to which it portrays the reality of post-communist Poland. Is the ultimately controlled by ex-PRL big-wigs?

My answer to that would be, ‘I don’t really think so.’ It is true to say that in Poland you have to deal with a vast amount of unecessary, pointless, time-consuming bureaucracy. It would also be true to state that the powers that be often make decisions in an arbitrary, and inexplicable fashion. Furthermore, there are corrupt links between business and government, and politics in Poland is not completely clean. (It probably ain’t anywhere). But not to the extent portrayed by ‘Closed Circuit’.

I asked two acquaintances, both senior lawyers, their opinion of the film. The first informed me that it was entirely fictional. He pointed out the fact that, for example, any prosecutor, working as a state official in 2003, would have been extremely badly paid, rather than very comfortably off man portrayed in the film. The second was of the opinion that there was a lot of truth in the film.

Watch the film and make your minds up for yourselves.

‘The closed circuit’ (Układ Zamknięty) Ryszard Bugajski, starring Janusz Gajos and Przemysław Sadowski 7/10. Second best Polish film of 2013 after ‘Drogówka’. Great acting and drama, but plot a little exaggerated.

The closed circuit

‘The closed circuit’ poster (English version)

Film trailer (Polish)

English editor, A native of the Isle of Wight, Warren has been running the language teaching company, Go! Languages, with his wife Małgorzata, since 1997. A fan of England, Portsmouth F.C. and Pogoń Szczecin, Warren will be contribing articles on football for the Szczecinian.

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1 comment to “Układ zamknięty ‘The closed circuit’ (film)”

  1. Adam · 2013/11/27 · Permalink Reply

    “The first informed me that it was entirely fictional. He pointed out the fact that, for example, any prosecutor, working as a state official in 2003, would have been extremely badly paid, rather than very comfortably off man portrayed in the film.” – Well, apparently you have no idea about the case. The story is not fictional, and still it’s not quite over. The fact that the film haven’t received governmental funding or support, which is extremely rare in our country, says more than anything. And regarding the “extremely badly paid” prosecutor, this is also untrue. Prosecutors earn much more than average wage, and it is easy to guess that this particular story is not an extraordinary exception. Such people learn corruption for a long time, with plenty of opportunities to get rich in the meantime. There were, and still are, many similar cases going on in Poland. The communist “heritage” is still very strong in Poland, not to mention post-soviet Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, etc. I know what I’m saying. In the West you have a true law. In the East you can bribe almost anyone. Here in Poland none of these works. Everyone who tries doing anything more than just work/food/sleep, must struggle against suspicious bureaucrats and their crooked rules loftily called “the law” with no guarantee of success, so most people just give up.

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