United States of Love – Zjednoczone Stany Milosci (2016)
Directed by: Tomasz Wasilewski | 104 minutes | drama | Actors: Julia Kijowska, Magdalena Cielecka, Dorota Kolak, Marta Nieradkiewicz, Tomasz Tyndyk, Andrzej Chyra, Lukasz Simlat, Marcin Czarnik, Jedrzej Wielecki, Julia Chetnicka, Malgorzata Majerska, Igor Bejnarowicz, Dorotarowialz, Grotaszanna Berne Michat
In recent years, national historiography has been a favorite subject for Polish filmmakers. For example, in the Oscar-winning ‘Ida’ (Pawel Pawlikowski; 2013), events from the Second World War many years later cast their shadow over the coming of age of the film’s namesake. The devout girl learns that many of her compatriots were far from saintly during the war. The past is not as unambiguous as is often thought. A director like Wojciech Smarzowski also follows in the footsteps of the patriarch of Polish cinema, Andrzey Wajda, with his critical comments on the Poland of the past. With films such as ‘Róza’ (2011) and ‘The Dark House’ (2009), he also shows that Polish history has its dark sides. Tomasz Wasilewski joins this wave of self-conscious films with his ‘United States of Love’.
‘United States of Love’ focuses on Poland after the fall of the Berlin Wall. A country where the newly discovered Fanta, aerobics and Hollywood have a magical undertone. A country in which people are introduced to large refrigerators, jeans and previously banned sex films. A country in which the dollar plays a significant role. The freedom of the West beckons. Also for the women in the country.
The same goes for the female protagonists of “United States of Love”: a lonely school principal whose husband works abroad, a teacher battling her old age, a God-fearing employee at a video store and an aerobics instructor who dreams of becoming a model. turn into. They all hope for a better future. They want to work, decide for themselves what they spend their money on and dispose of their dependence on the man (and the patriarchal church) in the trash. But above all, they also want to know sexual freedom. Because if the man is allowed to have a limitless existence, surely women should also have the right to have affairs, have sex with whomever they want and create a feeling of eternal youth?
The battle between the four takes place in an almost colorless setting. The sparse colors that do exist remain flat. Like the sun’s rays, which are prevented by the cloud cover, actually breaking through. They are the color shades of freedom and emancipation. The Poland of ‘United States of Love’ is gradually blushing again. But its weakness betrays that there is still a long way to go.
While perhaps not all equally subtle, it does hit the mark. That is partly due to the details. The way men want to assert their superiority with simple gestures and touches. And the looks of the women who follow. The way in which the man in the picture seems to be placed higher, as if the camera wants to reconfirm their hierarchical position. And here too the look with which the woman reacts. Upwards. Not so much to the man, but further. To that sky that rises above it. A space of freedom. Where everything is possible. But which at the same time is no more than an illusionary space.
Because no matter how the four women go into battle, at the end of the ride they are left empty-handed. The misogynistic stigmas of post-Wall Poland, which ‘United States of Love’ shows us here, were (and perhaps are) rigid. With each attempt by the women to make sense of it, they sink deeper into a quicksand of male domination. In the end, little will change for them. That comes across as a narrative weakness, but because of the uncomfortable and, above all, painful humiliations that the women undergo, the film easily stands up.