Skolimowski’s Sprawling and Irrational ‘11 Minutes’ Crashes Lives Together


At first blush, Jerzy Skolimowski’s new film — released here weeks before the well-traveled Pole’s 78th birthday — scans like another New Wave old-timer trying to budge into a 21st-century media world that’s passed him by. De Palma, Verhoeven, Schrader, Wenders, Friedkin, Toback, et al. have all arrived here in one way or another, but Skolimowski’s flourish has its own perverse personality, sutured to a crisscrossing-destinies structure that’s been kicking around since, of all things, Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey.

As a film about What We Are Now, it begins in unpromising fashion by introducing various characters mucking around Warsaw via the confining clichés of found footage: surveillance video, selfies, Skype calls. But then it opens up, and we bounce from scenario to scenario, all unfolding within a few blocks of each other during the same stretch of sunny afternoon. (We know because a chiming clock tower and low-flying jet recur over and over.) A punkette with an Eraserhead mohawk breaks up with her boyfriend, a hot-dog vendor with a pedophilic past serves a gaggle of nuns, a cokehead courier scurries from a tryst to various drops, a teen embarks on a doomed pawnshop robbery, an EMT team battles a psycho in a stairwell to get to his pregnant wife, etc. Most prominently, a berserk husband jealously stalks the hotel room where his new actress wife is being “auditioned” by a hilariously sleazy film director.

Of course there’s a fateful confluence — a Road Runner cascade of disaster, actually — involving more than a dozen individuals, and it’s kinda glibly spectacular in a way that’s easy to dismiss. You could also scoff at the film’s textural short cuts: The acting can be TV-crude, and half of the stories are so undeveloped they’re not stories at all. But Skolimowski’s erratic career has often trucked in willful, beautiful ambiguities (take 1978’s The Shout), and 11 Minutes — which does not actually chronicle an eleven-minute span — resists the bow-tied over-resolution you might begin to dread as its clock ticks down. Peppered throughout are mysteries that verge on the Lynchian, from the enigmatic appearances of the ghostly “Man on the TV” (“You cannot make amends”) to the black spot in the sky only the characters see (and which manifests on a police surveillance computer screen as a dead pixel). Suicides and irrationalities appear to be peaking, and at least one character undergoes a subjective meltdown that suggests a Francis Bacon painting.

A low-bore DeLillo-ness plays at the movie’s edges, but does it aggregate into a substantial something? Not really, but the traces of postmodern dread, however Haneke-lite it all may be (isn’t everything Haneke-lite?), can tickle your short hairs if you’re prone.

11 Minutes
Directed by Jerzy Skolimowski
IFC Films
Opens April 8, IFC Center