Directed by Kasia Roslaniec
Polish filmmaker Kasia Roslaniec returns to the East End Film Festival with another cynical tale of a youth spoiled by capitalist consumerism, following her turn at the event with 2010’s similarly themed Mall Girls. It’s probably disingenuous to make the blanket assumption that all Polish teenagers are this preoccupied with spending more money than they own, though Roslaniec confines events to a select group of five young people. Mostly restricting them to the inner-walls of a bereft city apartment, the film highlights a specifically troubling example of what can happen when a teenage girl dealt with parental responsibility has her support structures displaced by corruptible influences.
Her camera travels around the apartment in pursuit of its meandering adolescents with a Dardennesian pace; furthermore, the story of young Natalia (Magdalena Berus) abandoned with her newborn baby is a moral matter also well-suited to those twice Palme D’or winning brothers. Roslaniec breaks from social realist style in her shift towards kitschy pop colours that seduce her characters away from the constricting residence, and away from real world demands. Natalia’s boyfriend Kuba (Nikodem Rozbicki) is more likely to be found down the colourful skate park than with his baby boy Antek, though the greatest destructive force is Martyna (Klaudia Bulka), a new lodger at Natalia’s apartment whose constant exposure in place of a supportive female role model – Kuba’s charitable yet unappealingly disciplined mother, for example – threatens to derail Natalia’s well-intentioned motherhood.
In one scene along the descent toward senselessness, Natalia and Martyna attend a nightclub, filmed by a swooping crane shot that reaches above the crowds, circles the DJ and flies back to its origin point. It would be a remarkable visual manoeuvre if not for the clearly visible jumpcut that appears in the middle, separating two impossibly connected shots. A minor quibble, but this instance sits alongside an extensive use of ellipses to cut down on time and action in the middle of a lengthy scene. Some of these forward jumps are effective in their progression, others act as superfluous punctuation.
My firsthand experience of Poland is in seeing the rigid communist blocs of old stand dilapidated in a hunched bunch, with an iPhone billboard, as white on high, towering above their grey. Communism ravaged Poland, and then along came capitalism to plant its flag on top. This is the state of the nation as Roslaniec sees it; her camera is almost resolute in its damning of youthful proclivities if not for the small measure of understanding and sympathy it grants to Natalia’s predicament, the poor girl doomed from the moment her mum packed her bags, and quickly led to regard her child as little more than a fashion accessory.
The attention paid to the realities of a vulnerable body succumbing to peer pressure, and the inabilities of young minds to fully understand each other at such a tender age, loaded with unforeseen adult responsibility, ensures this colour-infused realist picture doesn’t definitively cut upon sharp judgement. Still, one can’t shake the feeling that Polish youth is utterly beyond redemption.