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Cahiers du Cinéma Septembre 2011
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An interview with Zbigniew Bzymek that discusses the production process of Utopians.

Cahiers du Cinéma Mars 2011
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One prefers the unidentified flying object, Utopians by Zbigniew Bzymek, which fell directly out of Brooklyn.  One finds oneself brutally in the middle of a very strange trio: a yoga teacher, a military daughter who doesn’t part with her uniform throughout the entire film, and a schizophrenic with whom she is in love and whom she never leaves.  The trio strings unforeseeable scenes punctuated with ellipses without warning, more resembling of performances, such as when the young schizophrenic plays horseback riding on the back of her friend’s father.  The humor is always latent and its fragmented course slowly concentrates around the failed father, comically crowded by the dog, which he found on the street.  There is something profoundly New York, bringing to mind the packet of nodes, entaglements, of Frownland of Ronald Bronstein.  The true vitality, the urgency of the fragmented story is found again in the snatched way of production (the two actresses are the producers).  In spite of its blunders, Utopians was the most promising film, revealing a young filmmaker to follow. 




Berlinale - Hesteopera, congothriller og minimalisme
In the Danish Film Magazine Nosferatu UTOPIANS has been called an “ANTI-FILM” and “more interesting than entertaining” and the antithesis of the Coen brothers’ True Grit.

“Utopians is an American film from the other end of the spectrum. It is almost an anti-film, without drama or storytelling, and in a way the director, Zbigniew Bzymek is working in direction opposition to the Coen Brothers. It is a film that is hard to understand, everything takes a long time and no one knows where anything is going, but it shows a universe where human beings are less energetic and aware of their role in society than in a film like True Grit. Possibly it is more interesting than entertaining and once you are sitting in a cinema and forced to spend your time on a movie like this (a big part of the audience decided not to, and walked out), it is starting some big thoughts in a completely different way. With Coens you can lean back and enjoy, with Bzymek you have to lean forward and give. There is almost no experience unless you are creating it yourself while watching the film. It is also art, but in a completely different genre, and a festival really comes into its own when it is able to show True Grit in the morning and Utopians in the afternoon.”


Das Manifest

“ ‘Time is nothing individual,’ says Roger, the yoga instructor who always comes late. Such speeches, when delivered in an un-renovated loft atop irregularly cut carpet remnants with a tone of thinly veiled depression, are not easy to take seriously; yet the film does so successfully [or: ‘to its benefit’]. Roger, who with the best intentions is [still] consistently defeated, passes his time with Zoe, a black female soldier and Maya, her schizophrenic beloved. A strange tension reigns among the three, which is cautiously and comically explored in short fragments of everyday life. When you think you’ve reached the beginning, you think wrong: Bzymek, whose background is in video art, the sensibilities of which transfer surprisingly well in his film debut, has a more unusual perspective than that of the arthouse.* Like the skins of an onion, [he] gathers disparate happenings together, seeming to connect the a-chronological — though they [the disparate happenings] could just as well play as parallel universes. A relaxing mystery, which doesn’t operate as a puzzle but as a hyper-real mood-machine: Maya in the dusty light of the window frame, Roger by himself, peeling an apple, the crunch of the fruit ear-piercingly loud (finally someone who grasps the concept ‘ambient’). Each person, Bzymek seems to say, has his own time, yet all of those times must somehow fit onto the face of the same clock. Where Roger finishes and Zoe begins remains pleasantly in the balance, and for a very beautiful moment, the world stands upside down. UTOPIANS: A shifting, eccentric, sympathetic Film.”


for Kinematrix

Who are the Utopians?

The visual counterpart of the Pixies’ song “Where is my mind?” was just screened in the Forum section of Berlinale’s 61st edition. It seems unsurprising that Utopians is the work of director Zbigniew Bzymek, who’s practices range from film to video art to performance. In this manner, aesthetics offer the birth of an event for the moving images, portraying problematic stances of identity, status and gender.

What does rejecting the cartesian mind/body dualism mean to film? And what does it mean for the inner workings of this particular film? This is a story of how this film is not its synopsis, i.e. “A yoga teacher attempts to find home with his ex-military daughter and her schizophrenic girlfriend.”

Firstly, what Utopians does is render a series of unsympathetic, unemphatic and unapologetic moving images built around its three characters. Presented to the viewer’s eyes, these images manage to blend the borders of identity and memory, leaving the event bare.

The manifold identities of Roger, his gay daughter Zoe and her schizophrenic lover Maya are continuously negotiated in everyday events. One would assume a sharp contrast is drawn between the myriad assemblages that form Maya’s split personality and a middle aged fatherly concern with his daughter’s well-being.

However, in a remarkable attempt at surpassing the boarders of character shaping through traditional narrative, Zbigniew Bzymek deconstructs and constructs its characters identity crisis at the same time, using sequences of contradictory events. The tensions as well as the moments of relaxation experienced by Roger, the unidentifiable nuances that lead to his unexpected actions make the yoga teacher claim his own identity unbalance over the challenges of the situation.

On the other hand, his recently discharged trouper daughter Zoe ultimately aspires to her newly found identity to be reshaped into a state of normality. Her permanent struggle to reach this normality at time reach surreal points of the absurd. In a particular scene where her, her topless girlfriend and her pretending to be asleep father are all sat in a bedroom and Zoe’s only line after carefully staging this instance is “Now we watch TV”. Just like a casual event in the everyday life of your typical family. Nevertheless, the event which opens the viewer up to be affected is Robert claiming his own identity crisis over the situation to Zoe.

Rooted in a single change of events in the everyday lives of all three characters, this crisis is shifted on its axis throughout the film, scenes fading to black only to open up to kaleidoscopic insights on the shattered identities. Trapped in loose selves, each character’s identity is mirrored in the others, constantly negotiated by uncertainties, even that of the stray pitbull rescued by Roger. They are all utopians of their own making, faced with their inner contradictions.

Utopians is Zbigniew Bzymek’s first written, directed and produced feature film after a series of video art and theatre work including 7 short films he made at Polish language films and his work associated with the New York The Wooster Group.




Einer der besten Beiträge des diesjährigen Internationalen Forums des Jungen Films der Berlinale kommt von einem polnischen Filmemacher, der in den USA produziert und gedreht hat. Utopians von Zbigniew Bzymek ist ein Traum aus lakonischem Humor, genauen zwischenmenschlichen Beobachtungen, gepaart mit einer trockenen Figurenzeichnung und einer konzentrierten Kameraarbeit (von Robert Mleczko), die immer wieder die Räume zum tragenden Moment der Szenen werden läßt. Der bravouröse Jim Fletcher (ansonsten eher im New Yorker Underground-Theater vertreten) als Roger steht dabei im Zentrum des Geschehens bzw. Nicht-Geschehens. Er ist Yoga-Lehrer, der es nicht immer schafft pünktlich zu sein und auch der Yoga-Show-Inszenierung im Kurs seines Kollegen nebenan kann er letztlich nicht das Wasser reichen. Keine Lichtprojektionen, keine Podeste für den Trainer, keine Videos, nur ein karger Holzfußboden und eine Matte — mehr hat er nicht zu bieten. Als er dann auch noch einen herrenlosen Hund mit zum Seminar bringt, drohen auch seine letzten Kursteilnehmer abzuspringen. Doch was soll er tun? Es gibt soviel zu klären und doch so wenig, das sich kommunizieren läßt. So oder so ähnlich meint man Roger vor sich hinsinnieren zu sehen. Seine Suche nach innerer Ruhe, Spiritualität und nach Achtsamkeit gegenüber allen Lebenwesen läßt ihn immer wieder an die Grenzen seiner eigenen Realität und der seiner Mitmenschen stoßen. Dabei versucht er das schwierige Verhältnis zu seiner frisch aus dem Militärdienst entlassenen Tochter genauso zu retten wie deren komplizierte Beziehung zu ihrer schizophrenen Freundin zu verstehen. Das kann dann dazu führen, daß er apathisch auf einem Bett liegt, oder bei der gemeinsam übernommenen Hausrenovierung kurz vor dem ausrasten steht. Und doch schwingt im Miteinander eine Herzlichkeit, Ironie und Wahrnehmungsgabe mit, die die Kommunikation untereinander so spannend werden läßt. Einmal wird er seinem Yoga-Kurs sagen: »We can make our own time«. Daraufhin werden ihn die meisten alleine im Trainingsraum zurücklassen. Roger wird eben auch noch lernen müssen, daß er nicht zu spät kommen kann, um dann diesen Satz im den Wartenden vor die Füße zu werfen. Oder er lernt es doch nicht. Denn er kann ja auch einfach mal hier den Teppich staubsaugen. Sein zugelaufener Hund wird es ihm immerhin danken. Denn er ist mehr als fasziniert vom Gerät.