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Crows Reviews

Muted on the surface but heartfelt underneath, CROWS filters the troubles of modern-day European society through the eyes of a little girl searching for love. CROWS takes place in a Polish city where the lonely and neglected nine-year-old Wrona (Karolina Ostrozna) feels unwanted at school by her classmates and unloved at home by her hard-working mother. Wrona, who identifies with the black crows at the seashore, cannot even find a playmate near her apartment building. Tired of her lonely latch-key existence, Wrona kidnaps and runs away with a three-year-old child (Kasia Szczepanik) who lives in her neighborhood. Although the child, Malenstwo, is loved by both her parents, Wrona acts as her new mother. Malenstwo plays along with the game, while Wrona takes her first through the city and then to the seashore, where they board a small boat. When Malenstwo innocently tears up Wrona's paper doll collection, Wrona angrily pushes her into the water and their sea journey ends almost as quickly as it began. Once on the dock, Wrona and Malenstwo make up and become closer friends. Wrona then takes Malenstwo back to her parents' house in the city where she places her on the doorstep and runs away. When Wrona arrives back at her own home, she realizes that she was hardly missed and begs her tired mother for some affection. Like another recent European import, FATE (1994), CROWS tells a short, precise story about a handful of unhappy people living in a cold, uncaring world. Also like FATE, CROWS uses many haunting, silent passages to create mood and develop character interiority. In fact, CROWS so beautifully captures Wrona's perspective that the expositional scenes spoken by the children--in Polish but subtitled in English--almost seem superfluous (the facial expressions say it all). But the child actors (Karolina Ostrozna and Kasia Szczepanik) are never less than natural and unaffected (three-year-old Szczepanik is especially remarkable). CROWS is but one of several recent films--including SHANGHAI TRIAD (1995), WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE (1996), and THE WHITE BALLOON (1995)--told from a child's point of view and featuring great child performances. CROWS also evokes Ingmar Bergman's THE SILENCE (1963) in the way that it shows a child's life impacted by a surrounding social malaise and in the specific scene where Wrona listens to a clock ticking while lying in bed (like Bergman, writer-director Dorota Kedzierzawska uses sounds meaningfully in each carefully designed shot). CROWS is marred slightly by Kedzierzawska's choice of a final image (the sadder penultimate shot would have made a much stronger ending). In any case, CROWS is a superbly crafted poetic ode to the loss of innocence and the search for love in a cruel universe. (Adult situations, extreme profanity.)