LFF Review: Leave No Traces

Jurek and Grzegorz being arrested

Poland has long played an integral role in European history. The invasion of the country by Germany sparked World War II and its subsequent membership of the Eastern Bloc and the Warsaw Pact, revolution and independence have all been turbulent. Solidarity, a trade union movement, played a pivotal role in this political change. In 1983, the murder of Grzegorz Przemy in military custody shone a light on the abuses of the communist authorities. Leave No Traces tells the story.

On the evening of his graduation, high school student Grzegorz Przemy (Mateusz Górski) goes into the centre of Warsaw to celebrate with his friend Jurek Popiel (Tomasz Zietek). The pair are detained by the militia and beaten. Despite being taken to hospital, Przemy dies from his wounds. He’s the son of renowned poet Barbara Sadowska (Sandra Korzeniak) and she is determined to get justice. As the news seeps out internationally, the authorities take decisive measures to shift the blame.

Leave No Traces is a dense and powerful drama which highlights the lengths authoritarian governments will go to in order to cover up their crimes. The campaign of disinformation and oppression is laid out skilfully in Jan P. Matuszynski’s verbose film. There are beautiful period details and it’s clearly made with a lot of care and attention but in its focus on the minutiae Leave No Traces is a bit of a trudge. Which I suppose is half the point.

Leave No Traces screened at London Film Festival.

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