Magazine article Screen International

'United States of Love': Berlin Review

Magazine article Screen International

'United States of Love': Berlin Review

Article excerpt

Dir: Tomasz Wasilewski. Poland/Sweden, 2016. 104 mins

Polish ensemble piece United States of Love could almost be subtitled A Short Film About Anguish - not least because the period and housing estate backdrop are so close to the territory of Krzysztof Kieslowski's Dekalog. But otherwise, this unsettling feature by writer-director Tomasz Wasilewski, his follow-up to 2013's Floating Skyscrapers, is very much its own thing - austere and melancholic, but also marked by dry minimalist humour. Strong female performances, often borderline-agonising emotional pull, and hugely distinctive visuals will make this intricately constructed puzzlebox drama strong bait for niche distributors and festivals on the lookout for distinctively against-the-grain voices.

The setting is a small Polish town in 1990: the Berlin Wall has fallen, the USSR is on its last gasp, and Poland itself is yet to fully feel the longer-term after-effects of the rise of Solidarity. The central characters are four women. Agata (Julia Kijowska) is a young mother whose marriage has become joyless, and who is attracted to a young local priest. Frosty beauty Iza (Magdalena Cielecka) is a repressed head teacher whose long-term affair with a doctor, the father of a pupil, is also in crisis. Iza's younger sister Marzena (Marta Nieradkiewicz) is a dance and exercise instructor whose professional sunny grin hides the fact that she's missing her absent boyfriend; her desire to become a model will lead her into grim straits. …

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