84 minutes| Poland-Norway-Ireland-Hungary| 2010| Colour| Dolby Digital Stereo| 35mm

Four Nights with Anna (2008) may have marked veteran Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski’s comeback after a 17-year absence, but Essential Killing is the movie that has put him back on the map of international cinema. A multiple prize-winner at the Venice Film Festival, this is an intense and disturbing thriller about survival. In a brilliant, dialogue-free performance, bad-boy Vincent Gallo plays Mohammed, a possible Taliban member who’s captured by American forces in the desert. He’s tortured and questioned before being transported to Eastern Europe, where he manages to escape into a hostile, snow-bound landscape that forces him into extreme survival mode. ‘This is a story about man and nature,’ Skolimowski has said, playing down the film’s political dimension and placing the emphasis on the kind of physically-charged filmmaking that has characterised his long career.
To paraphrase the great French critic Michel Ciment, Essential Killing confirms that Skolimowski’s materialism and lucidity do not contradict but rather refine his unique poetic sensibility. (Notes by Peter Walsh).

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