Review: 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, Lotchanna Bejnarowicz, Leuzota Grisowski, Leuzota Grzybowski, Leuzzyanna

In recent years, national historiography has been a popular subject for Polish filmmakers. In the Oscar-winning ‘Ida’ (Pawel Pawlikowski; 2013), many years later, events from the Second World War cast their shadow over the coming of age of the film’s namesake. The devout girl learns that many of her countrymen were far from holy 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 Poland of yesteryear. With films like ‘Róza’ (2011) and ‘The Dark House’ (2009), he also shows that Polish history has its dark sides. Tomasz Wasilewski joins this wave of self-confident films with his ‘United States of Love’.

‘United States of Love’ focuses on Poland after the fall of the Berlin Wall. A land in which the newly discovered Fanta, aerobics and Hollywood have a magical undertone. A country in which they become acquainted with large refrigerators, jeans and previously forbidden 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 lead characters of ‘United States of Love’: a lonely school principal whose husband works abroad, a teacher fighting her old age, a God-fearing video store clerk, and an aerobics instructor who dreams of modeling. to become. They all hope for a better future. They want to work, decide for themselves what to spend their money on, and dispose of their dependence on the husband (and the patriarchal church) in the trash. But above all, they also want to know sexual freedom. Because if men are allowed to have a boundless existence, then surely women have the right to engage in affairs, have sex with whomever they want and create a sense of eternal youth?

The battle of the four takes place in an almost colorless setting. The sparse colors that do exist remain flat. Like sunbeams that are prevented by the cloud cover from actually breaking through. They are the shades of freedom and emancipation. The Poland of ‘United States of Love’ gradually blushes again. But its weakness shows that there is still a long way to go.

While not all may be equally subtle, it does hit the mark. This is partly due to the details. The way men want to confirm their superiority with simple gestures and touches. And the looks of the women that follow. The way in which the man appears to be placed higher in the picture, as if the camera wants to reconfirm their hierarchical position. And also here the look with which the woman reacts. Facing up. Not so much to the man, but further. To that heaven that shines above it. An area 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 fight, at the end of the ride they are left empty-handed. The misogynist stigmas of post-Wall Poland, which ‘United States of Love’ shows us here, stood (and perhaps stands) rigid. With every attempt by the women to make something of it, they sink deeper into a quicksand of male domination. In the end, little changes for them. This comes across as a narrative bid of weakness, but due to the uncomfortable and especially painful humiliations that the women undergo, the film nevertheless easily survives.

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