Complex and confusing, and altogether mind boggling, ‘Cosmos’ is the final film from Polish director Andrzej Żuławski.
The film follows the adventures of two young men, Fuchs and Witold, who arrive at a family-run guesthouse, in rural France. The pair hope to have a few days of peace and quiet – Witold to study for his law school exams, Fuchs to escape the “Paris rag trade” (he appears to have stolen the car belonging to his employers, and possibly also of of their suits). Nothing like that is about to happen however. As soon as Witold arrives, he is confronted by a hanged bird, on a string. The whole story becomes more and more bizarre from that point.
There’s a lot of symbolism to the film: animals are everywhere, whether as hanged birds (a hanged chicken also appears), a toad in a box found in the kitchen, and a bizarre assembly of insects and small creatures all over the food – ants, slugs, butterflies.
At the heart of the story is the confusion of lust between Lena, daughter of the landlady of the guest house, and the law student Witold. Lena is however, seemingly happily married to Lucien. Fuchs meanwhile has a fascination with Catherette, the maid, who has an extraordinary cleft lip, which compels all to look at it.
The film is confusing. Extremely. A French/Portuguese production (filmed in Portugal with the dialogue in French) it requires your full attention to take in all of what is happening on screen. Witold is a frustrated author (he is only a law student to make his father, a judge, happy), and so he is all florid words and frantic typing on his ever present Apple Mac laptop. Fuchs has undisclosed dalliances with various locals (and possibly Catherette but this we’re not sure of) and comes home with various injuries.
It’s humorous in parts, and the viewer is immediately taken in by the confused and twisted relationships between all the characters – parents, children, husbands, wives, nieces, friends, and lovers. All are quirky and complex. Witold is childlike and intense, breaking out into a Donald Duck impression from time and time.
At one point the entire family (including Witold and Fuchs) go to the mountains, where bizarrely there’s a doppelganger for Catherette – her lip is not disfigured, but she nonetheless is scarred emotionally.
In the end, all comes down to the cosmos – it’s hard to say if it’s all coincidence or confluence, but it definitely leaves the viewer with food for thought, if a little confused.
‘Cosmos’ stars Sabine Azéma (Private Fears in Public Places, Smoking, No Smoking), Jean-François Balmer (In the House, Madame Bovary, The Swindle), Jonathan Genet (Les chancelants, Vitalic: Fade Away), Johan Libéreau (Cold Showers, High Lane, The Witnesses), Victória Guerra (Sol de Inverno, Mar de Paixão and Dancin’ Days) and Clémentine Pons (Spaghetti Man, Bonjour).
‘Cosmos’ screens in UK cinemas from 19 August.