The term “slow burn” gets thrown around a lot these days (I’m guilty of it just as much as the next person) but it’s rare that a film comes along that actually feels like a slow burning fuse towards some bonkers explosion. Pawel Borowski’s Mushrooms is a film that feels like the archetypical slow burn, a creeping but relentless film that is shivering with tension and will keep the viewer off kilter until the end.
The plot of Mushrooms is almost laughably simple. One day, an elderly woman is out in the woods foraging for mushrooms when she comes across a couple passed out in meadow bedecked in 18th century aristocratic clothing. They awaken and explain that they are the victim of a prank by their friends at a costume party and were left out in the woods after drinking too much. The woman offers to guide them back to the city, and the film begins a slow and steady march towards a crushingly bleak conclusion.
The glory of Mushrooms is that we never quite get a read on who the villains are. Sure, the man found in the meadow is acting very suspiciously, clearly hiding something, and is caught in several lies by the old woman. But, at the same time, the woman is also clearly up to something, leading the couple in circles and from the outset being clearly not just distrustful of them but also mildly disdainful and condescending. It’s a beautiful dance of who to believe and who to doubt, one that will keep the viewer constantly guessing and at the edge of their seat. And it never gets stale. No matter how certain we think we are off what’s going on in the film, something always happens that throws us off balance.
Mushrooms is a classic variation of the whodunit, albeit we never know what the crime is or who the victim is. Instead, we’re led on a seemingly meandering journey through the Polish forest towards…something? All the while trying to figure out the end game of the filmmakers. Have faith though: while the movie may seem like it’s going nowhere, it goes somewhere, and that somewhere is…something else. The bomb at the end of this slow burning fuse is well worth the wait.