Directed by: Adrian Panek | 88 minutes | drama, horror | Actors: Kamil Polnisiak, Nicolas Przygoda, Sonia Mietielica, Danuta Stenka, Werner Daehn, Jakub Syska, Helena Mazur, Krzysztof Durski, Maksymilian Balcerowski, Julia Slusarczyk, Matylda Ignasiak, Oleksandr Shcherbyna, Eugeniusonław Malinzkoko, Eugeniusonlaw Malinzko, Barbara Radizescie, Barbara Mazur
Imagine that you are so thirsty that you absorb the drops that run down a damp wall. Imagine that you are so hungry that you throw yourself like a wild beast among a tangle of people on a freshly opened can, without knowing what is actually in it, and whether it is spoiled. The eight children in the Polish, Dutch and German co-production “Wilkolak” (“Werewolf”) by director Adrian Panek, still have no luck on their side after the Second World War. They may have been liberated by the Russians from the Wolfsberg concentration camp, but they are far from having a safe home. In a large, poorly maintained country house in the middle of the forest, they find a place to sleep and the only adult who is well disposed to them cannot take care of them for long.
“Wilkolak” floats on atmosphere. The children, ranging in age from very young (probably even born in the concentration camp) to about 20 years old, have nothing more than their survival instinct and that has taken them very far so far. They seem like a close-knit group, but when it comes down to it, it’s each individual. This is expressed more clearly with one person than with the other. But the threat can be felt continuously, because it is not clear where the danger actually lies: outside or within the couple.
As the title suggests, this grim fairytale full of symbolism has horror-like, fantasy traits. It is seamlessly woven into the coming-of-age story that overflows with fear, but also hope. The children are marked by the horrors of the war, so that you naturally sympathize with them and also understand the inhuman traits they sometimes display. The child actors know how to convey this very naturally, Panek proves to be an extremely good actor director.
The setting is very beautiful. The mansion, in which many of the scenes take place, is a maze of doors, small rooms and an up to now working dumb lift. The forest is such a typically impenetrable Eastern European forest, where you can walk for hours without encountering a living soul. You shouldn’t think about being trapped in this environment.
“Wilkolak” is probably a bit too slow for horror and action film enthusiasts – especially in the middle part – although the body count continues to run. But thanks to its original approach and elaboration, this gem of a film for psychological horror fans is not to be missed.