The Polish filmmaker Jerzy Skolimowski is 78, and has had, shall we say, an unusual career. Growing up in the Communist era and surviving into the digital age is just the start of it.
He went to film school in Poland in the early 60s, co-wrote Roman Polanski’s classic “Knife in the Water,” and made autobiographical films of his own. Escaping the Soviet bloc, he made two masterpieces in London, “Deep End” and “Moonlighting.” (The latter giving Jeremy Irons one of his best roles.)
He lived in Hollywood for years, having turned into a terrific character actor (especially for sinister Soviet types). Even after he returned to Poland to re-start his directing career, he popped up as a bad guy in the first “Avengers” picture.
That’s a very odd resumé. But with his new film as director, “11 Minutes,” Skolimowski displays absolute confidence in his moviemaking skills.
The movie is a fractured narrative of the sort that became popular in the first years of this century; think “Run Lola Run.” A batch of story lines all take place in the same 11-minute span on a Warsaw afternoon, seemingly headed toward the same place. We gradually realize that everything is happening within the same couple of blocks or so.
A nervous actress (Paulina Chapko) meets a creepy American casting director (Richard Dormer) in his hotel room. Her husband (Wojciech Mecwaldowski), who has a black eye for some reason, is frantically trying to meet her — but why is he so frantic?
A hot dog seller prepares some franks for a group of nuns. A motorcycle courier (David Ogrodnik) barely escapes being caught by a jealous husband, but is late for a mysterious delivery. A lady walks her dog. Paramedics fend off a drug-scrambled man in a stairwell.
All of this is suspenseful, simply because we sense something awful is going to happen at the end of the 11 minutes.
And it does, although maybe not the way you think. Just don’t expect a heartwarming homily about how “We’re all connected” and “Everything happens for a reason.” Skolimowski is way too skeptical — too Polish — for that.
There’s one clue, in a dark blot that various character see in the sky. This remains a missing piece of the puzzle, but we can conclude that the characters are wrong when they think it’s an unexplained object. It’s not an object. It’s an emptiness.
“11 Minutes” 3 stars
From veteran filmmaker Jerzy Skolimowski, a very confidently-made fractured narrative about various lives intersecting the same 11 minutes in Warsaw. It’s a puzzle, but it mostly comes together in the end — but not in a happy way. In Polish and English, with English subtitles.
Rating: Not rated; probably PG-13 for violence
Showing: Grand Illusion theater