Zubroffka Review: Albert

At the 2014 Zubroffka Film Festival four young Polish journalists were mentored by film critic and journalist Michael Pattison in a workshop that helped them to explore the role of modern film criticism and journalism. Every day, the journalists met filmmakers, distributors and journalists as they learned how to make themselves stand out from the crowd and negotiate the complexities of a film festival. The following review is one of the results of this workshop.

The short film Albert, (Dir. Daniel Wawrzyniak, Poland, 2014) is a student production from The Polish National Film, Television and Theatre School. It's about a man, Albert, who works at a factory. He's an ordinary man who wants to find out something about himself. At the beginning of the film, we see Albert throwing an old-fashioned computer into water and picking it up. In the foreground there's a large industry field with lots of funnels and ashes. In the factory, workers clean something like twine or rather tape. They all have the same life. They work and take a rest. They have the same fate: to work. And they are nice to each other because of this shared routine. An important issue is that old sick people work there probably to the end of their lives. It is not shown in the film, but we see an old man who works nearby. Albert is carried out from the place of his labour.

Break times at work are the weirdest thing in the movie. A woman's voice says: “Albert, meal time comes.” And then he has to go to eat something, what looks like sawdust or insipid chicken for kids. When he goes home, he has to go through the highway in his strange boots, which are designed to walk on thick layers of ashes. The female voice follows in the wake of his life. “Albert, this is your time to relax.” Then he tries to imagine a woman. He may remind her and all of the things he liked before. One day Albert can't take it any more. He breaks all of the surveillance cameras in the workplace. The system alert turns on, but the voice remains calm: “Albert, this is your time to relax.” The repetition is frustrating. Then he escapes from the factory and climbs the birch-tree he sees behind the guarding screen.

The film echoes Total Recall, where the most anxious thing is a closed reality. Everybody there has to do things what other people says to them. In some ways Albert is not the most important character: more significant is the place where he lives and works. All of the people are trapped in this vacuum, where they have to behave in the same way. Everything is recorded and anyone who doesn't behave properly is eliminated. Albert is a fiction with true elements. The human mind really needs a boost to work better and to feel better.

By Karolina Odachowska

21 January 2015, by Cineuropa Shorts