United States of Love
Tomas Wasilewski’s United States of Love evokes an earnest sense of despair in its portrayal of love, showing the hardship such a powerful emotion can bring with it. Set in the 1990s, the feature is an agonising view into the lives of strong women who harbour dark secrets and the struggles they face in the everyday.
This forbidding polish drama strings together loosely chronological stories of four women linked by their loneliness and solitude: Agata (Julia Kijowska) is cold and unforgiving, bound to an unhappy marriage; Marzena (Marta Nieradkiewicz), strict headmistress and mistress to local Dr Karol (Andrzej Chrya), is tossed aside when his wife suddenly dies; and forcefully retired Renata (Dorota Kolak) uses her new-found freedom to build on her unhealthy obsession with neighbour Iza (Magdalena Cielecka), an aerobics instructor with dreams of becoming a model.
Wasilewski’s intelligent, engaging narrative not only portrays women in a realistic and truthful light but it also highlights the problems with a capitalist society. Cinematographer Oleg Mutu’s bleak, pastel painted world shares parallels with the characters’ equally dreary existence. This is a society where nothing grows, where people live in carbon-copy flat blocks and live their lives behind closed doors.
Whilst the movie itself is deeply personal and voyeuristic, some of the camera work does not fit the mould. The director maintains a respectful distance when filming some of the more extreme scenes but there are a lot of over-the-shoulder shots that depersonalise aspects of the narrative and avoid emotional contact. The chronology of the script is also, at times, mildly confusing, with storylines being stopped and started at unusual intervals.
United States of Love was well received at the Berlin International Film Festival, with Wasilewski winning the Silver Bear for his wonderfully constructed, arthouse script. Dark, sombre and thought-provoking, United States of Love has an artful poignancy that lingers.
United States of Love is released in selected cinemas on 18th November 2016.
Watch the trailer for United States of Love here: