Saturday, 15 October 2011

Money's Too Tight to Mention


I grew up with debt. One of my earliest memories is going to Blooms’ pawn brokers, a dark and dingy shop that you entered from a cobble-stoned back street, so as to avoid the shame of being seen going in. And I clearly remember regularly sticking my skinny kids’ fingers into the back of the television’s Ten Bob metre to snaffle enough coins to put the gas or electric on. Or searching down the back of sofa for Embassy cigarette coupons to take to the corner shop and exchange for chopped pork for sandwiches. And when the rent man cometh he didn’t always get paid. And more, of course.

So, that may be why I love these two rough and ready Polish films; both starring Andrzej Chyra; both about debt; both based on painfully true events.

The Debt ( 1999), directed by Krzystof Krause and written by Krause and Jerzy Morawski, stars Robert Gonera, Jacek Boruch and the splendid Andrzej Chyra.

It takes place in Poland’s dark economic hinterland after the fall of communism and tells the story of Adam and Stefan, a couple of young turks from Warsaw, who come up with the smart idea of manufacturing Italian scooters in Poland and making a fortune from the Italians.

They first go to the bank for a loan and are refused but they encounter a well- off acquaintance, Gerard(Chyra),who offers to lend them the funds in exchange for a share of the company profits.

So far, so good but when they later decide that Gerard is asking for too much and back out of the proposal things really go pear shaped.

Gerard bizarrely starts harassing them for the money that he never even lent them, saying that they were already too far into the deal to back out. It then becomes painfully clear that Gerard is a vicious gangster and things spiral horribly out of control from then on.

The Debt is like a knee to the gonads - a naturalistic, hard hitting and chilling story with a great performance from Chyra..

The Debt Collector (2005), is directed by Feliks Falk with a screenplay by Grzegorz Loszewski.

Andrzej Chyra play Lucek a hard-hearted debt collector, working in one of Poland’s most deprived areas, who mercilessly repossesses anything he can - including vital machines from hospitals and even a statue of the Virgin Mary. But, as the film progresses, Lucek starts to have doubts and he pulls so hard on the strings of his life that the whole thing unravels as he experiences an 'epiphany' that turns him into a decent human being.

The Debt Collector is also naturalistic and very well acted but, although it does have a more optimistic ending then The Debt, it’s just as effective in showing the hard side of life.

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Spinetingler Award-nominee Paul D. Brazill was born in England and lives in Poland. His stuff has appeared in the 2011 Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime. His noir/horror series Drunk On The Moon and short story collection Brit Grit are out now and 13 Shots Of Noir is out soon.