BERLIN (Reuters) - Director Tomasz Wasilewski says he was inspired to make a film about the emotional desperation of women trapped in provincial 1990s Poland after the fall of communism because he remembers that time through female eyes.
The 35-year-old director’s “Zjednoczone Stany Milosci” (United States of Love), showing in the main competition at the Berlin International Film Festival, depicts several women who live fairly routine lives in the concrete cinderblock housing typical of the era, but dream of romance.
One of the women is married but has fallen in love with a handsome priest, another loves a recently widowed doctor and a third has fallen in love with the young female aerobics teacher who lives across the hall.
Wasilewski said on Friday after a press screening that while the politics of that time were turbulent and exciting, people’s personal lives and society were changing in different ways.
“I remember some portraits of people and sensations and emotions from that time, and I experienced actually that time through the eyes of women, the whole transformation and all the changes that happened in Poland,” Wasilewski said.
That was in part because like many Polish men, his father went abroad to work when the Iron Curtain came down, leaving the young boy with his mother and older sister. “So the whole period of transformation I saw through their eyes,” he said.
The parts of the main women characters are played by Polish theater actresses, which helps in a movie that is divided into vignettes - each of which could be seen as a short stage play.
Julia Kijowska plays Agata, whose love for the young priest is so all-consuming that she spies on him in a shower and tells her husband after making love that his hands are sweaty and he shouldn’t touch her.
Kijowska said she saw her character as emblematic of people who under communism had been unable to express themselves — emotionally as well as politically.
“This is quite a strange story, being in love with a priest, but this wasn’t our main goal,” she said. “I think we more focused to find a presence on screen for that character, for the lady who (for a) long time nobody touched because they didn’t let them touch.
“This is of course the individual story, and the story of a whole generation, I suppose - the kind of lack of freedom...lack of spirituality, lack of different ways and choices that people at that time couldn’t make.”
The film is one of 19 in competition for the main Golden Bear prize to be awarded on Saturday.
Editing by Mark Heinrich