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Poland, 1953 (MIFF 1956, Programme 5)

Director: Aleksander Ford

The first major Polish colour film to he shown in Australia. Five Boys from Barska Street won prizes at both the 1954 Cannes and Edinburgh Film Festivals.

The film shares with Shoeshine an extraordinary insight into, and sympathy for, the adolescent mind; but differs from this other film in the important respect that its story is conceived in optimistic mood.

The film, set amid the rubble and rebuilding of Warsaw during the years of 1947 to 1949, is the story of the regeneration of a group of young city delinquents. Five adolescent boys, whose turbulent wartime childhood has made them turn for security into a gang of larrikens, are brought to trial for robbery with violence.

The magistrate decides to apprentice them to a master mason engaged on a project of reconstruction instead of sending them to prison. Gradually, the promise of a worthwhile future changes their attitude towards life. However, the influence of their old leader. Zenon, a vicious thug, remains strong. and this creates the film's central conflict.

When he orders them to assist in his plans to blow up the project, the boys decide they cannot destroy something they have helped create. A fight between Kazeh and Zenon in the sewers beneath the highway is interrupted by the arrival of the police. Zenon is captured and the wounded Kazeh is comforted by his friends. The bitter past is over and they can now turn confidently to the future.

This vivid documentary of life among the ruins is determinedly serious, and uncompromisingly realistic, and the playing of the young delinquents is sympathetic and credible.

The settings are brilliantly shot in fine colour, and the mainly reconstructed backgrounds of Warsaw rising from the ruins are cleverly integrated into the narrative. Production values are lavish throughout, with complicated built &ndash: up sets and many long virtuoso tracking shots. it is a film that makes a positive affirmation of faith in life.

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