Prime Time, the 2021 Polish film prima facie tells the story of a man who forcefully enters a television studio and tries to go on air as he wants to say something. But as the film unfolds, you realize that it is not just a crime thriller, but it goes way deeper than that. The director, Jakub Piatek, who has co-written the script with Lukasz Czapski, has left many things up to the audience. It is upon us to decipher what it all meant.
What did Sebastian want to say?
Nobody knows what was killing him so much so from inside that he (Bartosz Bielenia as Sebastian) took such a grave step. The director does give us hints, but it isn’t anything near substantial. There is a lacuna that still exists. Throughout the narrative, we see that Sebastian is coercing the studio people to put him on air. They do not adhere to his demand and try to play around with them. They engage in a conversation with Sebastian, try to appeal to his rational side, lure him and even go to the extent of making his father talk to him. His father hints at Sebastian having a ‘sick’ lifestyle. Maybe he was referring to his sexual preferences, which he disapproved of. But then again, it’s only speculation because the film doesn’t provide enough evidence to consider it as a fact.
In my opinion, the director never wanted to focus on the “what.” Rather he wanted to draw our attention to the social circumstances that triggered this fire inside Sebastian and led him to that “what.” Today with social media, everything has become accessible. People can very easily put up their viewpoints for the world to see. The film is set in the year 1999 when all these technologies were not available. Today we take this luxury for granted and sometimes even misuse it. But imagine the state of an individual, just wanting to speak up, tell his side of the story, but the world doesn’t give him that opportunity. There is a volcano inside Sebastian that is ready to explode. Maybe he wants validation, or it might be a possibility that he is mentally ill, but the point remains that he was never allowed to speak up. It was a kind of symbolic approach the director took to show the two-faced reality of our society.
Did Grzegorz and Sebastian plan it together?
I do not believe that Grzegorz knew Sebastian beforehand. Yes, it was seen multiple times that even after being a hostage, Grzegorz tries to help Sebastian. In the end, when Sebastian asks him to leave, he doesn’t. Sebastian also gets a panic attack when Grzegorz gets unconscious and falls to the ground. So, there was a bond between them, but I believe it originates from being in a similar situation. Maybe Grzegorz understands Sebastian’s plight of being considered as an underdog throughout this life. It could be possible that they had a conversation before Sebastian broke into the studio because clearly, Grzegorz led him inside willfully. Maybe they resonated with each other because society never considered them to be worthless. They were the immaterial fragments of our society. Their existence or nonexistence didn’t matter to anybody. Grzegorz worked as a security guard, and even after working for so many years, nobody even knew his name. This impertinence shown by the Hippocratic society may have become the thread that binds them together and filled in them a feeling of apathy.
Why did Sebastian burn his notes at the end?
Sebastian had written everything he wanted to say on pieces of paper. At the end of Prime Time, the studio owner tells him that even if they can’t put him live, they could record what he wanted to say and then later maybe broadcast it. But Sebastian is done with everything. He is beyond caring now.
He got his answer. In this world of a million opinions, nobody has the time to stop and listen to what the other person has to say. It’s all just a waste of energy. He shows the people that he never had bullets in his gun. He releases both the hostages and lies on the floor, symbolizing that he has given up in this battle against the system.
Streaming on Netflix, Prime Time says a thousand words without even saying anything. The film is directed by Jakub Piatek.