- David Zak
OPERATION HYACINTH: sizzling history and intrigue
Updated: Apr 22, 2022
I knew nothing of OPERATION HYACINTH when we started to watch. The film is an exciting thriller set in a dark time in Polish history – 1985-88 – when gay men were inventoried to suppress homosexuality. Like THE DANCE OF THE 41, a better historical film set in Mexico in 1901, HYACINTH explores history through a personal lens.
Robert (the excellent Tomasz Zietek) is a rising detective, son of the leader of the police, and girlfriend of a police archivist. It seems like an ideal life with a bright future. However, the death of a gay man not far from a public washroom and a villa in which gay escorts may have been brought to entertain guests are discoveries that change his life.
He pursues Arik (a lovely Hubert Milkowski) in a chaotic run from the washroom sting. Robert keeps his identity hidden as he grooms him to be an informer. Arik assumes Robert is also on the run, and the relationship is complex, haunting, and in the end, beautiful.
Pressures between father and son, other members of the force (some of whom may be closeted), and plans for his impending wedding add to the intensity of what is a very satisfying film.
Piotr Domaleswki directs a screenplay by Marcin Ciaston with panache. The settings in Poland are beautiful, and the art direction – especially the use of light and shadow – makes the story pop better than most Hollywood thrillers.
OPERATION HYACINTH is the best kind of film – one that leaves you touched by the many lives captioned on film and wanting to know more.