“Żużel” in cinemas. Review of the film with Tomasz Ziętek. “Black Despair”

The fate of the new production by Dorota Kędzierzawska is complicated. “Żużel” had to wait a long time for the first shows. In 2019, he entered the Main Competition of the festival in Gdynia. But not right away. Initially, the commission rejected it, along with the intriguing “Bird Talk” by Xawery Żuławski, the award-winning “Supernova” by Bartosz Kruhlik and the experimental, though not completely fulfilled “Interior” by Marek Lechki.

After the media storm, it was decided to change the decision, but “Żużel” was eventually withdrawn due to delayed work on post-production. It was accepted a year later for a historical, virtual edition. But hardly anyone, apart from the jury, could see it through the “distributor requirements”. The festival faced allegations of elitism, and was hit by a wave of criticism. As it turns out today, it is difficult not to spare the film itself.

The nice Lowa (Tomasz Ziętek) is a boy from a poor neighborhood. He counts every penny, instead of a car, like his colleagues, he has a bicycle. He relaxes by swimming several lengths of the pool in one go. He is successful on the dirt track, which arouses the interest of the opposite sex. For example, the mysterious Roma (Jagoda Porębska), who does not hesitate to confess her feelings.

Success generates enemies, as Lowa finds out thanks to his greatest rival – the cunning Ricz (Mateusz Kościukiewicz). The claim mother (Żaneta Łabudzka) also does not intend to care for the well-being of the firstborn. Unlike the introverted Papa (unused Paweł Wilczak), encouraging the young master’s fighting spirit.

In the intimate cinema of Kędzierzawska (“Wrony”, “Nothing”, “I am”), a director and screenwriter known to younger audiences mainly for her wonderful “Time to Die”, melodrama and nostalgia dominate. Here, sometimes they turn out to be a ball and chain. “Żużel” falls into too serious tones from the very beginning, placing the accents incorrectly. As a result, the assumption is that light scenes (Lowa’s conversations with friends) fall off artificially, and the climax of the film, in theory shocking, evokes moderate emotions. When motorcycle adventures beg to be breathed into life straight from Ron Howard’s “Race”, Lowa’s triumph is filmed in slow motion with a jazzy background, as if borrowed from another story.

Not only the narrative is predictable, but the characters as well. The second plan – headed by Lowa’s mother and rival – falls into caricatured stereotypes, and its presence is becoming more and more questionable.

“A boy with a guitar has become one of the most sought-after and most awarded acting revelations. A hero with problems. He can play them beautifully” – I wrote about Tomasz Ziętek in the list of the most talented Polish actors and actresses of the young generation.

In “Żużle”, his freedom and effortless charm give the protagonist much more interesting than the script. As a young angry, Ziętek is associated with Zbigniew Cybulski. Although there will probably be those who will say that it is the worst part to play in a failed movie.

The climatically photographed “Speedway” (photos by Artur Reinhart) Dorota Kędzierzawska tells the story of a fleeting love of fans, the unequal struggle of dreams with reality and the corruption of ideals. But when the blackness of the track envelops the screen so quickly, the whole thing feels burnt at the start.


“Żużel”, dir. and scenes. Dorota Kędzierzawska, prem. 16.07