Directed by Oleksandr Herasymenko | Review by Prarthana Mitra
Behind every homeless man, you see on the street is a story worth telling. “Just A Coincidence” is student filmmaker Oleksandr Herasymenko’s take on an existential dilemma as old as time, retold through the lens of a beggar whose daily roadside drudgery is upset when he crosses path with a stranger who turns out to be a man from his past.
The circumstances in which they so unexpectedly meet brings him face to face with skeletons from his past — ones he thought were long buried, quite literally.
The five-minute short depicts a day in his life, and for the entire duration of the film, the nameless protagonist (played by Adam Stelmaszak) is rooted to his spot — in one corner of a busy Polish thoroughfare where he ekes out his living by asking passersby for alms.
There is a listlessness, you could almost say a sad hopelessness, as he goes about jangling his cup of coins hoping people would feel sorry and empathize. At the same time, he betrays an utter lack of belief in random acts of kindness, and his mannerisms seemed to be of one who is completely disillusioned with the enterprise.
It is only later that we connect the dots and trace this back to his own past misdeeds. Or just one, to be precise.
Hailing from Poland, Herasymenko had originally titled the film “Karma Doesn’t Exist.” But it’s the very thing that lingers on his characters’ (and the viewer’s) minds after the final twist, even if the director claims it to be purely coincidental.
Stelmaszak’s beggar meets the man from his past (played by Igor Legan), neither really anticipating they would run into the other. The moment is levelled with tension, as wide static long shots morph into quick cuts, close-ups and dramatic musical cues.
There is a hurried flashback scene that seems to suggest that the stranger/passerby recognizes our homeless guy as the man who once ran him over and left him for dead. The film does not fill the gaps in the narrative between then and now, leaving it to the audience to interpret the reversal of fortune — perhaps, he went to prison and came out out a beggar. Or karma eventually got to him. Guess we’ll never know.
Writers Herasymenko and Alona Anikiieva have done a terrific job in capturing the full essence of the metanarrative and the complex shifting dynamic that the film heavily relies on. Their portrayal also tries to be as sensitive and respectful of the vagrant community as possible and the setting almost reminds one of Leos Carax’s Lovers on a Bridge. Only here, we have foes from a past life.
However, the film ends of a hopeful note, with an unspoken apology being offered in exchange for coins in the beggar’s cup. That brief moment of afterthought alone suggests that both of them are willing to understand that life works in mysterious ways — that karma and coincidence are just other names for fate.
Prarthana is presently in between odd jobs and obtaining her master’s degree in literature. She loves modern poetry and meditative cinema. Based out of Calcutta, Prarthana observes people, football, films and enjoys writing about all three. Of late, she relates to Frank Ocean’s music. Her writing experience consists of writing for various sites such as Try Cinema, The Indian Economist, Doing The Rondo, Saintbrush and various academic journals.