“Aujourd’hui, maman est morte.”
As part of the Focus on Poland strand, EIFF is screening Anka Sasnal and Wilhelm Sasnal’s The Sun, The Sun Blinded Me. In one scene, a priest sits down to eat a sandwich while the sound of a bird chirping in the background is heard. The camera moves from his scrotum to a stuffed bird, nailed onto the wall. In the scene after the priest conducts the funeral service of the mother of Rafał, the film’s protagonist.
The Sun, The Sun Blinded Me is an adaptation of Albert Camus’s 1942 novel L’Étranger, made even more existential and inexplicable by the incongruous, experimental style it favours. Sound is heard counterintuitively: just as the taxidermy bird uncannily twitters, Rafał is infrequently heard over the amplified non-diegetic noise of the background. The experience of the film is true to its title: most shots are claustrophobic closeups; sunlight burns and waves deafen.
With Rafał’s thoughts so inaccessible and the film so immersive it is almost as if somehow actor and audience have swapped roles. Famously ambiguous, the title of Camus’s novel has been translated in many ways. After Rafał, an immigrant himself, encounters a Maghrebi refugee on a beach, he must confront the foreigner within himself.
Retaining Camus’s sparse written style, The Sun echoes the silent work of Alfred Hitchcock. In their balance of irony and suspense, Sasnal and Sasnal have created something that, if it gets a wide enough release, will haunt the generations as well.
The Sun, The Sun Blinded Me is a work of minimalist beauty, a timely and faithful study of Camus’s classic that has relevance to issues of today. The experimental style might not be for some but it certainly offers a lot to chew on.
CAST: Rafał Mackowiak
DIRECTORS: Anna Sasnal, Wilhelm Sasnal
WRITERS: Anna Sasnal, Wilhelm Sasnal
SYNOPSIS: Camus’s L’Étranger is reworked into a modern Polish context in which the colonial mindset becomes that of the neo-nationalist. Rafał has barely seen his late mother put into the ground when he is being confronted with the fallout from a reckless and impulsive act of violence against an immigrant.