Silent Land


Reviewed by: Mateusz Tarwacki

Silent Land
"The young director not only manages to create a convincing critique of the bourgeoisie in general, but also points out more local, Polish problems."

The deconstruction of social problems is an attractive direction for many filmmakers. However, few of them can combine the accuracy of their observations with the attractiveness of the message. Aga Woszczyńska succeeds in this regard in her full-length debut, Silent Land. The young director not only manages to create a convincing critique of the bourgeoisie in general, but also points out more local, Polish problems – the breakdown of the traditional family model and the ineffectiveness of a modern approach to life.

A handsome Polish couple goes on holiday to sunny Italy. Adam (Dobromir Dymecki) and Anna (Agnieszka Żulewska) spend their days enjoying idyllic boredom and warming the nights with passion. However, this apparently perfect pair is clearly artificial, as though on the cover of a fashion magazine. Behind the façade of bourgeois success lies horror, the inability to communicate with other people – not only the language barriers, ironically explored by the director, but also the inability to convey emotions – and awkwardness. As if the lives of Adam and Anna were cut out in photoshop, and they themselves belonged to a completely different world.

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Woszczyńska's idea is simple but effective. She simply places the bourgeois couple in a context that deviates from the norm of their daily routine. Tension grows, and the awareness of mismatch and loss in the world that requires contact with another human being begins to destroy the characters from the inside. They do not find the support they expect either from the hospitable Fabio (Marcello Romolo), who is to repair the damaged swimming pool at their rented villa – his openness seems hostile – nor in the company of Arnauld (Jean-Marc Barr) and Claire (Alma Jodorowsky), who are a negative image of the quiet Polish couple.

The warm, sunny pastel colours of Bartosz Świniarski's cinematography bring to mind the opening sequence of David Lynch's Blue Velvet. The bubble of their idyll is very thin and just like in Lynch's film, trouble is just below the surface. In the case of the Polish director's movie, there is corruption hidden under the surface of the water. Emotional indifference, sweeping problems under the carpet, inability to communicate, all this means that one can be sure that the idyllic house of cards will collapse.

But Silent Land is not only a critique of the emptiness of the bourgeois model of life, it is also an arch-accurate commentary on the Polish emotional immaturity, which makes it impossible to deal with trauma. It is hard to believe that a couple from the country of "Solidarity" is so devoid of it, and that cold distance and the will to cut themselves off from other people gives rise to internal demons and awakens the national psychoses hidden beneath the surface. The greatest advantage of Woszczyńska's film is its universality – one does not need to know Polish history and realities to understand its meaning and critical teeth.

Reviewed on: 23 Sep 2021
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Silent Land packshot
A couple find their relationship going south after a trip to an Italian holiday home begins to be fraught with problems.
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Director: Agnieszka Woszczynska

Writer: Piotr Litwin, Piotr Litwin, Agnieszka Woszczynska

Starring: Dobromir Dymecki, Agnieszka Zulewska, Jean-Marc Barr, Alma Jodorowsky, Marcello Romolo, Claudio Bigagli, Elvis Esposito, Gennaro Iaccarino, Ibrahim Keshk, Cezary Kosinski

Year: 2021

Runtime: 113 minutes

Country: Poland, Czech Republic, Italy

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