Leave No Traces review – dense, detailed reconstruction of the killing of a Polish teen

An account of a murder in early 1980s Warsaw by communist-era police mixes John le Carré-ish intrigue with a documentary-like detachment

This well-intentioned Polish drama is based on actual events: the notorious beating to death in 1983 of 18-year-old Grzegorz Przemyk in a Warsaw police station, a crime covered up at the highest level of government. Film-maker Jan P Matuszynski recounts the incident in meticulous, exhaustive (and sometimes exhausting) detail. His film is intelligent and worthwhile but feels a bit weighed down by the desire to do justice to history.

It begins in high spirits, with two pals larking about in a Warsaw square, Grzegorz (Mateusz Górski) and Jurek (Tomasz Ziętek); when police demand to see the pair’s ID, Grzegorz refuses – he knows his rights. His mum is Barbara Sadowska, a poet and outspoken critic of the communist government. At the station, he is brutally beaten up. At one point an older officer intervenes to berate a rookie for booting him in the back. Go for the stomach he barks: “It leaves no marks.” Grzegorz dies two days later.

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