I will save you all.
Once, many years ago, in the aftermath of a devastating explosion, snow fell. It burned. It infected and damaged, destroying lives and communities as it razed the landscape and poisoned the earth beneath it. The wake of its horrors weigh heavy on those left alive, a burden to carry forward each day. From the haze a man emerges, a muscular specter surrounded by an air of mysticism, a supernatural force borne of tragedy, come to heal and make what’s broken whole again.
Michał Englert and Małgorzata Szumowska’s film, a wintry tale set in a gated community of Warsaw, is a peaceful slow burn, investigating the increasingly shallow and bitter lives of a petty group of people as they attempt to shake themselves of their destructive predilections. Never Gonna Snow Again, alternatively titled Wonder Zenia¸ utilizes the gentle healing powers of Zenia, a Ukranian migrant from Pripyat who exists as a wonderfully ethereal being, a masseur whose touch seems to peer deep into the hearts of his patients. As they open up to him about their lives and their prejudices, it reveals a deeply troubled community, so disturbingly insular and self-destructive that they’ve done little but normalize their daily mania. They point fingers across the street, blaming and jeering at neighbors, hypocritically screaming at the removal of greenery as they sit in a monstrous, vapid, neighborhood void of personality or charm. Day after day they become increasingly dulled and hollow as they drown their sorrows in pills. Their casual gluttony consumes themselves, each other, and the soil beneath them.
Despite the desperately hopeless atmosphere that surrounds the empty rows of houses, Zenia quietly travels from home to home, a large massage bed in tow, and becomes a beacon of light for everyone. His calm tone is mesmerizing, a therapeutic presence that seems to stir deeply repressed realities within everyone he encounters. As his healing process progresses he begins to utilize a strange form of hypnosis, transporting people to a haunting forest bathed in aquamarine light, an existential plane in which they must confront their fears and insecurities. As Zenia works to lighten the burdens of others, his own grows heavier, wrestling constantly with his past, present, and future. Constantly haunted by an inability to save his loved ones from the horrors of his youth he stares through windows into the world beyond, only to be caught by his own reflection staring back blankly.
Core to the film’s intelligent execution and subtle storytelling is Alec Utgoff’s impeccable performance as Zenia, whose energy perfectly encapsulates the many troubled angles of his character. Upbeat and cheerful with a profound sense of melancholy behind his eyes, his presence grows increasingly otherworldly as he works his magic upon the people he encounters. He is the beginning of a thousand tiny threads, a holistic representation of the many themes Never Gonna Snow Again seeks to discuss and deconstruct. Each night he returns home, exiting the neighborhood by passing a guard who does little but try to stave off the boredom. From the rows of lavish homes he comes back to an empty apartment, bare walls and a tiny bed. An immigrant’s life, confined to a meager living while serving a well off community completely detached from their own privilege. He’s also a mystical agent of nature, hypnotically sending people back to lush landscapes and opening their eyes to their destructive consumerism. Also orbiting wide concepts such as our universal contemporary loneliness and our tendency to turn a blind eye to what others may be going through, it’s a film that lingers, its many ideas stirring in the mind far beyond its run time.
Zenia’s calming presence is a reminder that we can all do better and be better, and maybe just begin to escape the demons that haunt us. As he fades as enigmatically as he once appeared, there’s a new atmosphere within the community he spent so much time healing. Today, it snows again. This snow is cold but comforting, a beautiful, sparkling cover that signals a new beginning. Innocent and pure, it purges dark pasts and makes space for rebirth. It might just be the last time.