Four Nights With Anna (Jerzy Skolimowski, 2008)

Completed in 2008 after a 17 year hiatus during which he spent time painting, Polish filmmaker Jerzy Skolimowski’s “Four Nights with Anna” is a dark, blackly funny tale of one man’s obsession with a woman who lives nearby. Set in a grimy, unspecified rural location, Leon (Artur Steranko) is a crematorium worker who is infatuated with Anna (Kinga Preis), a nurse who lives in quarters attached to the hospital opposite his house. Leon lives with his ailing grandmother and spends his nights spying on Anna. Skolimowski piles on the tension and suspense with a slow-reveal narrative, that constantly wrongfoots the audience, dispensing red herrings with a Hitchcockian confidence and lightness of touch.

Utilising minimal dialogue and tense, brooding music; the film features striking visual scenes interspersed with sudden bursts of violence, and challenges the audience to find sympathy with a most unsympathetic lead character. Our unease and horror mounts as we witness the reason for Leon’s attraction to Anna. He contrives a way to break into her house every evening so that he can watch her sleep, and sometimes mends her clothes or paints her toenails while he is there.  While the film has at times an air of unreality, it is almost unbelievable to discover that the story is, in fact, based on a real life case that Skolimowsky read about in a local newspaper. This is a dark but thoroughly engaging film that stays with you long after you’ve left the cinema.

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