Dym, which literally translates to Smoke, is the title of a Polish-made independent short film, and in many ways the imagery the title invokes captures much of what this short film seems to be about. It’s a modern surrealist film, and the influences of more famous and stylish filmmakers like Luis Buñuel and even David Lynch (though part of it looks as though it wants to be Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut) are apparent in almost every frame. Where it tries to stand apart however, is in its modern and somewhat noir approach. The plot (and given that this is a surrealist film, the plot is not especially clear) involves a young man (Grzegorz Golaszewski) who seems to be driving an older and more grotesque man (Bartlomiej Nowosielski) to an erotic dinner party and while this is happening, he reflects on his relationship with a young woman (Oriana Soika).
The film is chopped up into seeming incoherence in order to illicit an emotional response from the viewer. The imagery is quiet, haunting, and also at times disturbing. It almost has the feel of a dark mystery story, yet one which is experienced much like a dream. The characters lives are intertwined in various ways, but what they are feeling and why is unclear. The mood depicted from the way each scene is shot is essential for determining the emotional state of the characters since for the most part the actors are all somewhat ambivalent. The backdrops are often clouded with fog or smoke, as if the world around them is nonexistent. As the plot slowly unravels, a beautiful setting in the memories of the protagonist is revealed which gives a stark contrast to the seedy world of his present. The images are strong, diverse, and best of all, fairly interesting to look at, and this is what keeps you watching for the duration of the short run time (7 minutes). A film like this can make no sense in terms of narrative structure, but often that doesn’t matter or is beside the point. Here however, the story (or lack thereof) feels more engaging than what the short itself has to say, of which I’m not sure it actually says anything.
While the short is somewhat engaging, its technical strong points by far outweigh the impact of the film itself. Given that this is director Grzegorz Cisiecki’s first film (short or otherwise), it shows a considerable amount of potential. The shots are well framed and almost exclusively contained in close-ups which hides the backgrounds (likely concealing the limited budget) while simultaneously making the plot feel more personal and tied to one specific character and his mindset. To accompany all this are some impressive choices in the music as well as sound editing. The atmosphere is consistent and fits with the tone of the rest of the short. There’s no dialogue whatsoever, yet what’s happening is clear enough without it – well, as clear as it can be (it's meant to be a surreal). Of course it needs to be said that this is by no means a great short, or even a great example of surrealist filmmaking. Instead, it feels more like a demonstration of skill or an experiment in amateur surrealism. While it’s by no means bad, it doesn’t leave you with much afterword. The one thing to take away from this short is that it’s surprisingly well filmed. It led me to wonder what the director could do if he were given a larger budget and complete story to work with. It’s called Smoke and the tone as well as some of the imagery fits the title, but smoke itself is also something that’s light and insubstantial. In the end, Smoke is just that.