A New Entry In Polish Sci-Fi: The Man With The Magic Box

by Rachel Bellwoar

Some movies are hard to summarize because they have complex plots. The Man with the Magic Box is hard to summarize because the plot is too vague. Written and directed by Bodo Kox, both main characters start the film without their memories. Goria (Olga Bołądź) is going to have hers taken away and Adam (Piotr Polak) is introduced without his a few days earlier.

While the man (Bartek Cao) who drops Adam off promises him his memories will come back, they never really do, and as for why he lost them, that’s never really clear. One of the things Adam has forgotten is he’s a time traveler from the 50’s. Future Warsaw is a dystopia, but we don’t know how it got that way, or what it’s all about. You’ve got the usual overdependence on technology. Invisible touch screen computers, like Bluetooth, making it look like people are talking to each other when they’re talking to someone else. Buildings getting bombed. A limit on free water and electricity. Roombas being treated like pets, and animal-themed outerwear (where the real pets have gone is anyone’s guess). There’s no central focus, just a hodgepodge of environmental issues and hazy warfare thrown together to show that the world is doomed.

Why has Adam time traveled here? That’s a good question and one The Man with the Magic Box fails to answer. Clearly there are some people in the future who know time travel exists (the man who ferried Adam across the river). That points to some system being in place, for secret missions or the like, but mostly in the flashbacks it looks like the scientists are playing around – time traveling because they can, not because they have a plan. Maybe Adam forgot why he was sent back. The closest we get to a reason is escaping Communist Poland but, for that, the future doesn’t offer much solace.

With nothing better to do, Adam spends most of his time pursuing a romance with Goria, who works at the (very vague) chemical & pharmaceutical company where Adam gets a job as a janitor. A subplot around a friend Adam makes there (Sebastian Stankiewicz) shows promise but to no end. Eventually Adam finds a radio (the “box” from the title) and starts having memories of his old life, when he goes into a meditative trance. This gives him some purpose, since radios are hard to come by in the future, so he has to keep looking for more.

I wish I knew what Kox wanted people to take away from his movie. There aren’t enough rules around the time travel. Anytime you think you’ve figured something out, like the absence of animals, a rat shows up to spoil everything. Movies don’t have to give you all the answers (Inception) but you’re supposed to want to swap theories at the end. With The Man with the Magic Box there isn’t enough to go on to make such efforts feel constructive.

The Man With The Magic Box is available on DVD from Artsploitation.

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