A creative writing teacher I once had about a thousand years ago taught me that you shouldn’t let the content of your work dictate the form. That is, writing about boring people doesn’t excuse boring writing. I think this concept has a name, but like I said, it was about a thousand years ago.
I mention this because Michal Marczak, director of the Polish pseudo-documentary All These Sleepless Nights, should’ve realized that making a movie about aimless, disconnected young people involves more than just swooping an aimless, disconnected camera around them. Marczak’s dexterous lens follows two Warsaw art students as they dance, smoke, flirt, fuck, and snort their way through all-night revels and regretful dawns.
That description makes Nights seem more exciting than it is. Our two handsome male leads, Krzysztof Baginski and Michal Huszcza, look like they walked out of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog. (I also got a distinct “Eric and Donald Jr.” vibe from them, but that might’ve been something I was bringing to the experience.) Both Baginski and Huscza are actual art students who were “cast” by Marczak and then filmed in semi-improvised social situations. See Krzysztof dance on the beach. See Michal lounge in sparsely furnished apartments. Et cetera.
There’s the hint of a Jules and Jim-esque triangle when Michael starts a relationship with Krzysztof’s ex-girlfriend (or maybe it was the other way around?), but not even sexual jealousy can rouse these paragons of wide-eyed ennui from their glazed-over disaffection. There’s also something to the notion that this generation—some of the first who were born after the collapse of the Soviet Union—have a unique, communal coming-of-age experience. But that’s not explored in any depth, either. Still, if you want to know what it’s like to attend a Polish rave, this is the movie for you. Spoiler alert, though: It’s just as tedious as an American one.