ND/NF Review: ‘The Last Family’

It’s film heaven for emerging directors, the New Directors/New Films festival. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Film Society of Lincoln Center have spent 46 years showcasing films made by international directors.

From Korea, to Abu Dhabi, to back home in New York city, the New Directors/New Films festival has helped establish directors from all backgrounds as big names in the industry. On Saturday March 18th, the MoMa took a trip to Poland in the late-20th- century with director Jan P. Matuszyński’s film ‘The Last Family.’

‘The Last Family’ tells the true story of Poland’s most famous and controversial family, the Beksiński’s. Matuszyński brought the dystopian surrealism of one of Poland’s most popular surrealist painters to life. With a son, Tomasz Beksiński played by Dawid Ogrodnik, who battles with extreme suicidal thoughts and a wife dying of cancer played by Aleksandra Konieczna, it becomes clear to see that a life riddled by death, pain, chaos, and darkness is what has inspired Beksiński’s classic goth paintings.

In a film that director, Beksiński’s Matuszyński, was clear to establish was not a biopic or a documentary, rather a film based on true events, one thing is for sure: you don’t need to know the history of the Beksiński family to acknowledge the stellar work of art that ‘The Last Family’ is. The muted neutral colors of the film, coupled with the visible progressive shift in technology over the years brings back the perfect amount of nostalgia to the audience, while also maintaining the perfect level of reality.  The film also gives the perfect amount of camera time to each family member, developing a clear understanding on the personal life and background story of each family member in a non-intrusive and cohesive way.

Many critics have commented on the lack of political commentary in the film, seeing as the Beksiński’s lived during a time of great political turmoil in Europe, however I find that this is what makes the film unique. By filming 90% of the movie within the household of the Beksiński’s, it focuses solely on family relations and dynamics allowing us to gain unique insight into the Beksiński’s life while making a unique social commentary on mental illness.

Just as Beksiński’s paintings remained the silent witnesses to the family’s inner turmoil, audiences were able to time travel once they stepped into the MoMa’s tiny theatre, and be flies on the wall to one of Poland’s richest families, leaving no doubt that Matuszyński’s ‘The Last Family’ is a film worth seeing.

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