Zjednoczone Stany Miłości (United States of Love)Berlin Film Festival 2016
Poland was on the cusp of a major change in 1990 as decades of communism were about to come to a crashing halt. The optimism that the country was feeling is certainly not evident in the protagonists of director Tomasz Wasilewski’s third feature film Zjednoczone Stany Miłości (United States of Love). Four women are trapped in various states of despair, and the desperation of their circumstances is eloquently communicated in this bleak, though excellent film. Agata (Julia Kijowska) is trapped in a marriage that feels increasingly pointless, while lusting after her local priest. Stern Iza (Magdalena Cielecka) is finding the life of a mistress increasingly unsettling, while the softly-spoken Renata (Dorota Kolak) has become transfixed with her younger neighbour Marzena (Marta Nieradkiewicz), who is rather naively pursuing her dreams of becoming a model.
Wasilewski deftly mixes these complementary stories in a way that is deceptive in its simplicity. One character takes centre stage for a portion of the film before the focus shifts to another character and her particular struggles (and struggle they do). The film is beautifully photographed and tends to track its events via a central mastershot. Cutaways and reaction shots are practically non-evident, which results in a greater feeling of truth to the proceedings.
It’s certainly not a feel-good film, and the wrenching events that unfold are often unsettling to behold. There’s rather a lot of non-sexual nudity and a fair few sex scenes that are not in the slightest bit erotic. Wasilewski grew up in Poland’s communist era and was still a child in 1990, but there’s little sense of nostalgia in the highly-detailed recreations of the Poland of his childhood.
The film could easily be interpreted as a cold study of a group of women at a certain point in recent history, but the viewer feels such warmth for these four protagonists that even the smallest glimmer of optimism that pops up in their lives is much welcomed. There’s an austere beauty to all aspects of Zjednoczone Stany Miłości that results in a truly moving cinema experience.
Zjednoczone Stany Miłości (United States of Love) does not have a UK release date yet.
Watch a the trailer for Zjednoczone Stany Miłości (United States of Love) here: