Movies: War of Love **
(12a, limited release)
It's hard to convey in words what a strange little film this is. Based on an early 19th-century play by Polish playwright Aleksander Fradro, Sluby Panienskie (to give the movie its original title) operates for the most part very much along the lines of a broad Restoration comedy.
Set in Poland in the 1820s, it stars Marta Zmuda and Anna Cieslak as Klara and Aniela, two exceedingly handsome country sisters who've decided men are a bad lot and vowed never to get married -- bad news for Gustav and Albin, two suitors with very different courting techniques.
Albin is obsessed with Klara, and follows her about like a lovesick puppy, which only earns him her haughty contempt. But Gustav, who's keen on Aniela, is an altogether sharper chap, and hatches a cunning plan that might just land both him and Albin the girls of their dreams.
Acted by the ensemble cast with a spirit that sometimes verges on the hammy, War of Love has the makings of an entertaining period romp, but for some reason writer/director Filip Bajon decided a straight drama wouldn't be clever enough. About 15 minutes into the film one of the characters reaches into his 19th-century pocket, produces a mobile phone and rings one of the other principals for a chat. Later the cast are seen wandering past mobile homes and sitting in motor cars.
The message these jarring slices of modernity might be intended to convey is that times may change but the ancient dance between men and women does not. However, this is hardly profound, and the effect of the intrusions is to fatally puncture the integrity of this four-piece love story.