Four Polish filmmakers teamed up for the vengeful and funny “State of Polska” anthology film, “The Land,” a dark episodic comedy about people lashing out, using or abusing the law and punishing each other personally for their unhappiness.
This Around the World with Netflix outing tells six stories with varying degrees of well-acted morbid wit, delivering jokes that find their often-grim punchline and hit it hard, time and again.
A grizzled, seen-enough cop (Krzysztof Stroinski) hectors his shrugging partner about the stream of reckless speeders passing in front of their cruiser, neither of them wanting to get out in the rain and enforce the law.
“They don’t read books,” the old officer grouses, in Polish with English subtitles. “They have no imaginations.” They can’t imagine, for instance, the consequences of their carelessness.
A crash in front of them forces him to take action, and since it involves a BMW driver, and “I would kill EVERYone in a BMW. I’d kills the drivers of older BMWs TWICE,” has been part of his tirade, just you wait.
A harassed young construction worker (Tomasz Wlosok) took his baby to work that day, and is getting chewed-out on the phone by the baby’s mom as he shops. A careless bump in the aisle — him looking at his phone as another shopper looks at his — leads to one of those just-long-enough lapses, and his baby disappears.
He frantically searches the aisles, runs to the sounds of any crying child, chased and hounded by the store’s security guards. Nobody believes him when he thinks he’s spied the culprit and his infant in the checkout line.
But maybe coming after a frantic dad still wearing his tool belt isn’t the smart play here. Hammer time!
A family schemes to kill or blackmail a tax auditing team that visits their factory, a gauche bullying young bureaucrat takes over a government art gallery run by a young woman (Joana Niemirska) he once deflowered, a couple of neighbors in troubled marriages tit for tat their way into an all-out fireworks war one holiday night and a passive aggressive young nudist (Daria Polasik-Bulka), single mom and squatter faces off — dancing naked — with the owners of the apartment she refuses to pay rent for or vacate.
That old saying “Everybody’s dealing with something” is never spoken, but that’s what we’re into here — a lot of characters blithely unaware of how their taken liberties and transgressions are impacting those around them get them into “situations” with each other.
Tax auditors scare a factory owner into a heart attack and prank the eavesdropping relatives who are planning to poison or otherwise harm them, seemingly justifying their treatment. Simple errors of judgement escalate into a bottle rockets/roman candles shootout on Polish Independence Day. And a belligerent speeder “with no imagination” can’t understand how racing and causing a crash might impact a cop with a personal connection to such a road tragedy years before.
Not every piece in “The Land,” titled “Kraj” in Polish, has what I’d call a neat and tidy moral or object lesson. The nudist is plainly a head case and nobody is willing to deal with her on a mental health level, the factory audit story is on morally shaky ground no matter how it turns out and the gallery tiff doesn’t really add up to much.
But for anybody who doubts the Poles can take a joke, tell a joke and go seriously dark when in search of laughs, “The Land” and filmmakers Veronica Andersson, Filip Hillesland, Mateusz Motyka (who did the best segment, “Supermarket”) and Maciej Slesicki (who did three) clear up that misunderstanding with style, carnage and explosions.
Rating: TV-MA, graphic violence, sex, nudity, profanity
Cast: Adam Bobik, Joanna Niemirska, Daria Polasik-Bulka, Bartlomiej Nowosielski, Paulina Masiak and Tomasz Wlosok
Credits: Directed by Veronica Andersson, Filip Hillesland, Mateusz Motyka and Maciej Slesicki, scripted by Maciej Slesicki, Veronica Andersson and Mateusz Motyka. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:43