United States of Love
11th October 2016 8.45pm at Vue West End
14th October 2016 12.30pm at Vue West End
United States of Love, Polish writer and director Tomasz Wasilewski’s third feature, is set in Poland during an era of new found freedom, yet fear for the future: 1990, after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
With an opening shot of a group around a table, the film’s colour is almost completely black and white – except for a few touches of pink, red and other faint colours – clearly to portray a sombre atmosphere in a world only barely on the brink of post-Communism. The setting is stark, imparting a sense of desolation in the small Polish town. Long shots create a feeling of alienation, with flashbacks that have a Brechtian effect of hindering emotional involvement with the characters and close-ups which invoke a sense of claustrophobia.
Slightly quirky, unsettling, and uneasy, the film has a Fassbinder vibe. A priest tells schoolchildren, “Don’t be shy about your body, even though it’s heading toward death…Don’t fight it, respect it,” and when one of the children asks him if he had sex, he responds, “Would you believe me if I said no?”
A movie about yearning for love and tenderness, it follows three women who have neither. Agata (Julia Kijowska) is married to a man with whom she engages in almost violent lovemaking, with no affection. Explicit with graphic sex scenes, it is as if the characters release their anguish through sex. In her desolation, Agata becomes enamoured with the town’s priest. Iza (Magdalena Cielecka), a school principal, is desperate about her frustrating long-term relationship with a married doctor. Her younger sister, Marzena (Marta Nieradkiewicz), is a lonely dance teacher who hasn’t seen her husband in years, as he works in Germany. She is drugged and raped by a sleazy photographer in her pursuit of a modelling career, while also being the object of obsession and stalking by a female neighbour, Renata (Dorota Kolak).
With excellent acting, the female performances are particularly subtly nuanced, intense and poignant. Glimpses of austere humour soften the pervading angst. Realistically portraying the era, United States of Love movingly recreates a momentous period in history from the point of view of the people living it; a remarkable, unconventional and compassionate study of the personal feelings of a few individuals amid a time of very confusing changes.
United States of Love is released in selected cinemas on 18th November 2016.
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