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Polish Films and Filmmakers at Berlinale

‘Body’ directed by Malgorzata Szumowska nominated for the Golden Bear and ‘The Performer’ selected for Berlinale Forum Expanded

February 09th, 2015
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A Polish director, Malgorzata Szumowska has been lucky with Berlinale. ‘Ono’ in 2004 and ‘Sponsoring’ in 2012 were both presented in previous Berlinales. In 2013 she was awarded with the Teddy (a prize for LGBT topics) for ‘In the name of...’, a film about homosexual love within the Roman Catholic Church.

Szumowska tends to tell disturbing stories. Her films are dramas without happy endings, her characters long for feelings, have complicated pasts, troubled youth and complex relations with relatives. In ‘Body’, Szumowska works with elements of black comedy. As she said in the interview just before she headed off to Berlinale, this time her audience will laugh, or smile at least. The story has a dramatic context but the director assures that she has learnt to keep distance from tragedies. Having gained more confidence about her filmmaking, makes her capable of smuggling a bit of irony into the drama.

‘Body’ is a story of people struggling to cope with the loss of loved ones. Janusz works with extreme cases as a coroner and it seems there is nothing that can be an obstacle for him.  Still, he feels helpless when faced with his anorexic daughter, Olga. She is depressed, grieving for her dead mother. Thus, Janusz decides to commit her to a clinic. This is where Olga meets her therapist, Anna. Anna had lost her baby to cot-death years before and now contacts spirits who communicate with humans from beyond the grave. The film explores mental anguish with a hint of black humour. The film represents a conflict between rational thought and beliefs in supernatural powers.

Another Polish film, ‘The Performer’, the debut feature of Lukasz Ronduda and Maciej Sobieszcznski, was selected for the Berlinale Forum Expanded section. It is a documentary with a fictional narrative based on the life of an original contemporary artist, Oskar Dawicki, who plays himself.

Meanwhile, a Russian-Polish-Ukrainian co-production, Alexey German's 'Under Electric Clouds' is in the main competition. The film follows an architect who is forced to abandon work on his project, supposedly a metaphor of modern Russia. In seven episodes, Alexey German condenses the spiritual state of his country into a symbolic film of long sequences.