If you love the stories about serial killings and have already devoured all such shows, movies, and documentaries on Netflix, then the streaming service has added a Polish drama in its library for you. While this is a cause for excitement, you should also brace yourself for the possibility that after having seen so many sinister stories, you might not be so impressed with this one. On the other hand, the ones who have only recently dipped their toes in these murky waters might find it a more enjoyable watch.
The Plagues of Breslau Plot
A dead body is found sewn up in cowhide. The next day, a man is torn to pieces after being tied to two horses who run in different directions. Detective Helena Rus notes that both the crimes took place at 6 pm. Another common point between the victims is that both of them have been branded with their sins. It looks like someone has taken the responsibility to clear the streets of Wroclaw of bad people by inflicting a medieval punishment on them. Every day, there will be a dead body on the streets at 6 pm sharp. It falls on the cops to figure out who is doing this and why.
The Plagues of Breslau Review
‘The Plagues of Breslau’ starts with an interesting idea. It rips a page right out of the history books and creates a modern tale of gruesome punishments. The six plagues of humanity are used as the excuse by the killer, emphasizing on the number 6 by committing the crimes at 6 pm every day. A similar theme of sinners and punishments has appeared in other serial killer stories before, most memorably in David Fincher’s ‘Seven’.
While Fincher’s approach towards the story was more character-driven, and we witnessed the crime scenes in the aftermath, like a piece of art left behind by the killer; Patryk Vega takes a bloodier, more graphic approach with his film. We see the mutilated corpses, but we are also made privy to the time in which the life is sucked out of them. This repetition doesn’t serve the story in any way; a redundant move at best, these scenes take away the time that could have been used to focus on other elements of the story, most importantly, the characters.
Most good stories tend to show rather than tell. Keeping the details from the audience, giving them a peek here and there, indulging them in the crime and its stakes is what makes such films exciting. ‘The Plagues of Breslau’ begins with this approach, but soon gives in to the telling part of it. Instead of allowing the audience to follow the breadcrumbs and piece together the clues, the film relinquishes its secrets too early and too easily.
What makes it more frustrating is that while focusing too much on simplifying the killer’s story and motives, the film forgets to pay attention to the situation of the protagonist. Her past remains obscured from us, and whatever her motivations might be, they are dismissed in a couple of lines. We don’t see how the crimes are impacting her; we don’t feel the transformation inside her. At times, we don’t even see the urgency to catch the criminal. By the time she does pick up on that emotion, the audience loses interest.
Under all these flaws, there is a decent story at the core of ‘The Plagues of Breslau’. It is not very original, and indeed, it has been done better. Still, the film manages to have enough hold over the viewer to keep them interested in finding out how it all turns out eventually. The bloodshed and grisly nature of the crimes might be tasteless for some, but the ones who love films like ‘Saw’, which indulge in the horror of head-slicing and the sound of bones being crushed, might like it, for a change.
If you are not interested in delving into the depths of a Fincher-style film, then you can indulge in this lighter form of story-telling. The actors, to their credit, do allow some sharpness in their portrayal of the characters that are not otherwise explored well enough. There is also a good chance that you might figure out who the killer is even before the film serves you the answer on the silver platter. If that doesn’t happen, then you will probably enjoy it more.
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