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Short reviews of ‘The Closed Circuit’ and ‘The Tragedy of Man’

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Updated: July 8, 2013 6:08AM

‘The Closed Circuit’ 

Three entrepreneurs in Gdansk launch Navar, a start-up using breakthrough software and Danish robots. Using dirty tricks from the old regime, Polish officials target this new high-tech company for an underhanded takeover. Director Ryszard Bugajski, who made “General Nil” (2009) about a falsely prosecuted and then executed countryman, states upfront that “The Closed Circuit” is “based on a true story.”

This powerful thriller centers on a prosecutor (Janusz Gajos) who is implicated in the exile of his Jewish prof, as the late prof’s unpublished memoirs could confirm. Navar is partly run by that prof’s offspring.

Besides tax code intrigue, the plot instructs viewers on various Polish hierarchies. A television manager tells a young reporter that covering this scandal will make his career. A secret recording will wreck another career by exposing that station’s collusion with corrupt officials. Similar reversals occur with other characters.

Press material for “The Closed Circuit” states: “The film was produced exclusively from a private funding from a number of Polish businessmen with no assistance from the state, the fact with no precedent in Poland.” The translation is imperfect but the point is unmistakable: a show of anti-state solidarity by Polish capitalists.

Although the victims are cleared of all charges, none of the real criminals got charged. Two were even promoted. That devastating fact, mentioned in the end credits, is overlooked.

Kino Swiat presents a film directed by Ryszard Bugajski, and written by Miroslaw Piepka and Michal Pruski. Running time: 119 minutes. No MPAA rating (brief scenes of miscarriage, prison rape and attempted suicide). In Polish, with English subtitles. Opening Friday at Gallery Theatre, 1112 N. Milwaukee. More information:

‘The Tragedy of Man’ ½

Hungarian animator Marcell Jankovics adapts Imre Madach’s 1861 poetic drama for a pessimistic epic about the nature of existence. “The Tragedy of Man,” with a running time of 160 minutes, unfolds as a lengthy dialogue between Lucifer (voiced by Matyas Usztics) and Adam (Tamas Szeles). The animation styles vary throughout this chronology of human folly, but this wary sermon stays on message, even when the action moves to a dystopic future and then into outer space.

Adam and Eve are incarnated in various guises over time to observe — and often suffer — the rise of Christianity, individuality, rationality, industry and modernity. Settings include Heaven, the Garden of Eden, Egypt, Athens, Rome, Constantinople, Prague, Paris and London. Lucifer the interlocutor delights in the endless conflict between human reason and a hands-off God.

“The Tragedy of Man” was earlier adapted for the stage and screen. A 1984 Hungarian film, cast with children, opened with verse from T.S. Eliot and Ecclesiastes. Jankovics worked on his version from 1988 to 2011. Jankovics’ saga recalls the Persian folktale that animator Richard Williams never completed, as detailed in the recent documentary “Persistence of Vision.”

To add strains of grandeur, he draws on works by Bach, Mussorgsky, Respighi and Wagner. He thrills when visualizing the French Revolution as a tri-color mob in motion. Later, twisting DNA strands are depicted nearly as mystically. All told, “The Tragedy of Man” is illustrated theology. After the Fall, no one is free. Our ideas are bad for us. We can never make a heaven on Earth.

Mozinet Ltd. presents an animated film directed by Marcell Jankovics. Based on the epic drama by Imre Madach. Running time: 160 minutes. No MPAA rating (carnage through the ages; images of genitals). In Hungarian, English, French and Russian, with English subtitles. Opening Friday at Facets Cinematheque.

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