Małgorzata Szumowska’s satire of the inhabitants of a wealthy, gated community is an atmospheric, yet odd film that doesn’t entirely succeed in it’s intentions but weaves a tale of an intense, intimate community with razor-like precision.
Masseur Zenia (Alec Utgoff) — born near Chenobyl seven years after the disaster — spends his days walking from one perfectly designed house to the other, treating the cast of residents for their various aches and pains. They, in turn, become convinced that there is something about him that is magical, that his birthplace has given him something special that cannot be replicated.
Szumowska skewers the privileged listlessness of the residents with laser-like precision — they are permanently waiting for something to happen and yet their lives revolve around little else except the maintenance of their socially-acceptable images. Their homes are filled with glitz and chaos; the leftover decorations, food and rubbish from a child’s birthday party, as Maria (Maja Ostaszewska) —one of Zenia’s clients — stumbles around still hungover while her youngest child calls her a slut with no repercussions. Then there is the women whose teenage son is manufacturing MDMA in his bedroom, after winning an award for his skills in chemistry, but who is more focused on the forest being cut down for more identical houses to take shape.
There is something spectral that lurks just out of sight throughout Never Gonna Snow Again; a haunting motif in the soundtrack is repeated often, both in it’s musical form and vocally by a feminine voice that aches with loneliness. Zenia himself is somewhat mystical, moving easily between these homes of privilege but never betraying his true feelings about the residents in either his words or his expressions. Utgoff maintains a sense of pleasant banality, he is more of a canvas for the residents to transfer their own feelings onto — a mask that never removed. It is difficult, therefore, to read much into him as a character, and as the sole protagonist of the film any narrative or emotional focus is lost.
Michał Englert, regular cinematographer for Szumowska, provides gorgeously bleak images of a Poland edging its way towards winter, the skies heavy with snow and expectation as black and white, identically perfect houses stretch out as far as the eye can see. This dearth of colour feels appropriate in a world where individuality is sacrificed for conformity — where the only person of interest to the residents is someone who is “different”, an immigrant who switches into Russian or Vietnamese as easily as he does Polish.
Never Gonna Snow Again is an interesting satirical experiment which sadly loses its intentions throughout the final act of the film. It doesn’t go the way you expect, but doesn’t seem to go anywhere else either.
Never Gonna Snow Again screened as part of the virtual edition of BFI London Film Festival 2020 on October 11th
by Rose Dymock