Much like the short films and feature debut of David Lynch—hell, throw in his last release Inland Empire too—Belarusian writer/director Grzegorz Cisiecki’s Dym [Smoke] is both stunning visually and experimental in its story structure and motives. It begins with a young man, shirtless, moving away from the flowing clouds out his window to the corner table of his desolate room, sitting down and pressing play on the old Sanyo tape recorder in his hands. From here it all goes into the surreal madness the film’s tagline foreshadows, showing vignettes of a balding man in a car backseat feeding on something juicy with a hint of humiliation once our lead, now dressed in a trench coat, approaches him; a brothel shrouded in a smoky haze of drugs, anonymity, and sexuality; and the brighter, quieter moments of the nameless gentleman and the woman he loves.
Many may ask the question, “What does it all mean?” And to that I reply, “Anything you want.” Cisiecki could very well have made a piece so personal that it touches him at his core, but what its meaning is to him is meaningless to how it affects you. The duration may leave you in a state of utter confusion—perhaps even anger at its incomprehensibility or in your own inability to understand—but if just one frame hits you with a powerful blow to your soul, well then the film is a success. For me there were many gorgeous instances burned into my mind, from the mesmerizing beauty of a girl at the end, covering her face with her hands and in turn her hair, sticking in place, seeming to be a shot played back in reverse; the bordello scene of danger and fear on behalf of the lead, with its masks, its brazen edits with malicious intent, and the red-tinted view of a balcony above with the feeding man, this time with hair and a beard, smiling oddly with the girl he’s chosen; and the innocent look of the same actor in the car’s backseat, the embarrassment of his actions left unpunished.
It is that shame that sticks with me the most in my understanding of the piece. To me, it is a story of the death of love and the tearstained shame of those a broken-hearted soul attempts to capture in order to fill the void left. Here is a man who has lost his soulmate, whether from death, a break-up, or a myriad of other possibilities, that has just awoken from a night of empty passion with a woman he barely knows. Taking his recorder—containing the last remnants of the girl he once spent a day in the park with, lying together, hands clasped, staring at the sky—he tries desperately to remember happier times. But the static we hear play back amidst the haunting score by Aleksandr Poroch and Rashid Brocca, doing their best Badalamenti, mixes together the joys of complete glimpses and the horrors of disjointed darkness from the abyss he has begun to wade in, barely keeping afloat. The surreal moments of blood, sex, and tears are the pain of his soul and his heart—the muscle that I could infer is what the man in the car has been eating, he being the facilitator of his night of carnal pleasure devoid of emotion.
I could be way off base—I almost hope I am so as to take from Dym what is purely mine and mine alone. But this is what I beg anyone who decides to watch to do. Go in with an open mind and discover something about yourself through its visuals—there is no speech for the seven-minute runtime—not for meaning in the pictures themselves. Cisiecki gives us the line that this is “The story of the person who became the captive of surrealistic madness,” but perhaps the person he speaks of is you the viewer. All the actors, Grzegorz Golaszewski, Bartlomiej Nowosielski, Oriana Soika, Marta Szumiel, and others, are wonderful, yet, in the end, they are merely vessels for our own demons to inhabit in a story personal to us. The lead is you; the curly haired girl, your love; the new woman, all those that have come and gone, never comparing to the one and only. We all live inside the smoky haze; it’s only when it clears that we should ever take pause and take a stand to not let the chance pass us by.
Dym [Smoke] 8/10 | ★ ★ ★
View the film on Vimeo like I did by clicking here.