Full Gallop

on May 31, 1996 by Melissa Morrison
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   Krzysztof Zanussi's somewhat dull remembrance of his childhood in Stalinist Poland is enlivened by the presence of Maja Komorowska. Although 10-year-old Hubert (Bartosz Obuchowicz) is the film's focus, his "aunt" Idalia (Komorowska) is its anchor. Charged with keeping Hubert out of the communists' way, because his father's defection has made him a target of their oppression, Idalia stomps around in her riding habit, cheerfully subverting the system while smiling broadly at party officials. "Comrades, Carmen is a worker's name," she announces before launching into a bourgeois aria during a celebration of May 1, the communist holiday.
   Her passion is horseback riding, considered a similarly unsuitable occupation. One of the ways she ensures her ability to indulge is by fashioning a separate identity: a sister who's a dedicated party member. Young Hubert is confused by the duality, and the other adults around him, including his priest, are no help as he tries to distinguish truth from that which must be said in order to live fully. Alas, his struggle to understand is not very involving, due to thefilm's static rhythm and some unconvincing performances. Zanussi is interested in making a childhood memoir that just happens to be set against the unbending cruelty of Stalinism, but tension is regrettably absent from the screen. When, for example, a young groom plans and executes an escape to the West, there is no sense of danger or intrigue. Nor is there much sadness when Idalia is finally reigned in by party officials, and she and Hubert must part ways. The director concludes the film by appearing as himself, surrounded by his actors, explaining that Hubert grew up to be Zanussi. But the more interesting question is: What happened to Idalia?    Starring Maja Komorowska, Bartosz Obuchowicz and Andrzej Szenajch. Directed and written by Krzysztof Zanussi. A Studio Fiomowe "Tor" production; distributor not set. Drama. Polish-language; subtitled. Not yet rated. Running time: 104 min. Screened at Cannes.
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