Hi, Tereska

on November 26, 2001 by Chris Wiegand
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   Few films since François Truffaut's semi-autobiographical debut “The 400 Blows” have managed to realistically portray adolescent initiation into the adult world. Last year, David Gordon Green achieved the feat with the lyrical fable “George Washington.” This year, accomplished documentary maker Robert Glínski's hard-nosed Polish drama “Hi, Tereska” comes close, capturing the unique rituals of universal youth.

   Like Truffaut in his debut, Glínski shoots in black and white and with a handheld camera, following his young protagonist Tereska (Alexandra Gietner) around the streets of Warsaw. And like Antoine Doinel, Tereska lives in a cramped apartment and has few friends. An act of rebellion at the design school where she is studying to become a clothes designer gains her an ally in Renata (Karolina Sobczak). Rather more experienced for her years than the boyish-looking Tereska, Renata introduces her new friend to drinking, smoking and thieving. She also encourages her toward her first encounter with the opposite sex. To the anger of her mother and her alcoholic father, Tereska grows increasingly rebellious and her safety is threatened by her journey towards maturation.

   Filmed in a sparse, documentary style reflecting Glinski's film-making roots, and with an almost total absence of music, “Hi, Tereska” displays a neorealist influence similar to “The 400 Blows,” with the primary action alternating between Tereska's flat and her factory-like school. Like its New Wave forerunner, it covers typical coming-of-age concerns with a welcome absence of sentimentalism.

   Non-actors Gietner and Sobczak, both of who were picked from reform school for the movie, are sympathetic in the lead roles, whatever their characters' actions, and their natural dialogue is filled with Polish colloquialisms. It is Gietner in particular who impresses. Caught up close and onscreen for most of the running time, her face is a picture of weary resilience against the random violence, poverty and unemployment she witnesses from day to day in Warsaw, the director's town of birth.    Starring Alexandra Gietner, Karolina Sobczak and Zbigniew Zamachowski. Directed by Robert Glínski. Written by Jacek Wyszomirski and Robert Glínski. Produced by Filip Chodzewicz. No distributor set. Drama. Polish-language; subtitled. Not yet rated. Running time: 86 min.

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