These 9 months living in Wroclaw as a Erasmus student have been the perfect opportunity to become closer to polish cinema. Today, I would like to recomend you 3 polish films for expats. These 3 films are: “The double life of Veronique”, “In the name of” and “Edi”. I would like to talk about them deeply, instead of just explaining what the plot is about.
Firstly, we are going to talk about “The double life of Veronique”, a Krzysztof Kieślowski film released in 1991.
“The double life of Veronique” is structured in two parts: the one corresponding to the character of Weronika, which covers the first third of the film, more or less and the one that concerns Véronique, which covers the rest.
Weronika is a girl who lives in Poland, who has a short career as a singer and more than that, she suffers from a serious heart disease. Véronique, her twin, lives in France. The parallel between the lifes of one and the other, beyond the name and the face, are very obvious. Both are dedicated to music (Weronika as a lyrics singer and Véronique as a teacher in a conservatory). Moreover, they have the same scar, their mothers are dead, they share the same disease and they do not know of the existence of the other one. Both, in spite of the millions of kilometers that separate them, are capable of feeling that they are not alone. Their existences seem to be, in some way, interconnected. “I feel like I’m not alone”, Weronika tells to her father after waking from a dream. Later, Véronique makes a confession to her lover: “Throughout my life I had the impression of being here and far away.” It is clear that both feel each other. It could be said that they are two bodies that live the same soul.
The existence of a double stranger is a very common topic in Universal Literature and serves as a premise to the Polish filmmaker to give life to this suggestive, mysterious and poetic story full of explicit scenes.
The strength of the film resides precisely in the bond between these two women who resemble each other, feel the emotions of the other one and, even if they have never met. The film is placed between the awakening and the dreams. The silence, the emotions, the memories that seemed to have vanished, but also the permanent bewilderment fed the connection between Weronika and Véronique.
The film reaches its maximum splendor with the history of the puppets. We can consider this scene a metaphor for the bond that unites the twins. But this is not the only relationship we can establish. The fact that a twin is Polish and the other French seems to point to the relationship between Poland and the rest of Europe at that time.
In what concerns the audiovisual quality, we can say that “The double life of Veronique” is a film with a careful, original and sensitive visual aspect. The scenes have a certain warm tone, almost touching the sepia shade, which contributes to the beauty of the feelings.
As a conclusion, we can say that “The double life of Veronique” will make you fantasize about the possibility of having a doppleganger in another part of the world, capable of trapping you in a story full of mixed feelings.
In order to continue with this list of 3 polish films for expats I would like to talk about “In the name of…”. It was directed by Małgorzata Szumowska and released in 2014. It shows the life of a closeted middle-aged gay priest (Adam) who lives in a rural town. He tries to straighten young delinquents and reinsert them into society. At all times he hides his sexual orientation. Despite being aware of his attraction to men, Adam decided to become an active part of the Catholic community to escape from his sexuality. When he met Lukasz, one of the young guys he tries to help, that “bandage of sexuality” that he has over his eyes became more difficult to wear.
I think it’s one of the movies we’ve seen in class that has generated more controversy. This is due to the relationship established between the church (and Catholicism in general) and homosexuality. For centuries the church has been labeled homophobic and the truth is that sometimes it deserves that label. I am heterosexual, Christian, Catholic and a practitioner but I think there should be a renewal of Catholicism. Jesus said “Love one another as I have loved you”, at no time specified the gender of that ”another”. In Spain, unlike Poland, marriage between persons of the same sex is permitted but judicially, not ecclesiastically. I believe that this should change and that homosexual marriage should be approved by the Church. In spite of everything, today we can see small flashes of light of that renewal. The current pope has repeatedly mentioned phrases such as: “If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and is willing to do so, who am I to judge?” or “People should not be defined only by their sexual tendencies: let us not forget that God loves all his creatures and that we are destined to receive his infinite love.” The church has been involved on several occasions in scandals related to pedophilia and child abuse. Obviously they are isolated cases and measures have always been taken but it is ironic how these “servants of God” judge homosexuals and the LGTBIQ + community in general at the same time that they commit those crimes.
Going back to the movie, the boys try to show their masculinity continuously. They address each other with “insults” such as “you are a pussy.” They intend to continue the role of man that the current society imposes seeking authority and respect. We can find not only a gesture of “supposed masculinity” but also an apology to sexism. With these comments it seems that women are inferior to men.
There is one scene that has caught my attention: Adam masturbating in the bathtub. The director wants to show us how a priest can sin of thought and deed. If we analyze the scene more deeply we can consider water as a symbol. Water is often related to purity and it seems that Adam purifies himself of his sins instantly. But this is not the only scene in which Adam sins, there is also an explicit sex scene between Adam and Lukazs where you can see two people loving each other, beyond the genre, religion or any other social conception.
The end of the movie was quite surprising to me. Lukasz decided to join the school of priests, but it does not seem that he did so because he had received the call of God, actually he did not want to be separeted from his true love: Adam. Despite being an impossible love they will fight for their union in hiding.
As a final contribution, I consider it a very necessary film for the Polish society, given the existing conception of homosexuals in this country. The film may have helped the LGTBIQ + community to normalize their situation. I hope that within a few years this community can be treated with absolute respect.
The last polish film I am going to talk about is “Edi”, directed by the Polish Piotr Trzaskalski and carried out by Henryk Golebiewski. This film tells the story of two homeless who sell metal scraps in order to earn some cash. Thanks to that money they will buy alcohol to avoid the problems they have around. Shortly later Edi will be immersed in a series of problems after accepting the proposition of some gansters, which will turn him into an adoptive father.
In this first part of the film you can see the vice that Edi and his homeless mate had with alcohol. This is a social problem that can be seen day after day in any society in the world. Thanks to it they reach an utopian state that distances them from the real problems they had, with which they count, making them catch an easy path of life where the complications seem to be minimal.
On the other hand, in this film it is possible to observe values of great importance as the support. Edi, having no material values such as a house, vehicle or even money, focuses its social capital on relationships with others. At all times he shows a strong empathic position as he always offers everything for others without expecting anything in return. Thanks to these acts he feels alive and with vitality to go forward. With this fact I have been able to learn that material goods are not the ones that give vitality to life but social relationships and experiences with others are those which make you feel alive and full of energy.
Likewise the film shows the real life as it is because it does not look for perfect and happy endings. It is important to add that it does not focus on a single genre but it mixes romance, drama, certain moments of suspense and even terror. Life itself is that, the combination of different types of moments, that make us grow as humans.
One of the concepts that I liked the most about the film was the famous “Carpe Diem” lifestyle. Edi is a person who focuses on his day by day, making every day special. As the protagonist says every day can be Christmas since you are the one who chooses how to feel, live and even manage that day.
Finally, I would like to emphasize that in today’s society the idea that men are more violent than women is really ingrained. However the film breaks with this gender, sexuality, ethnicity and disability in Poland topic since as it shown all men do not comply with that idea. It is the case of the protagonist who in spite of being in adverse situations he does not resort to violence. In my opinion I think the term masculine is not well defined because there are no concrete roles for the male or female gender, but everyone is capable of doing everything. In the case of Edi, despite the fact that he is a man, he is able to raise and to get by a baby. This role is associated with women so the film again breaks with stereotypes marked by society.
I hope you liked these 3 recommendations of polish films for expats. If you watch them let me know by social media @SergioSMacias.
Thank you for your attention!