If you look at a city skyline and squint really hard, tears will form and make the buildings look like they’re floating. In a highly conservative society, reality for someone who is coming out might look similarly skewed.
My synopsis: Kuba life revolves around swim training, his girlfriend of two years, Sylwia, and his mother. Except that there is also a hidden desire that has typically manifested in quick tricks in the men’s locker room. Until Kuba meets Michal. The two men form a quick yet deep bond, and Kuba finds himself falling for the other man. Although he still loves his girlfriend, he is torn between two lives. Sylwia is stuck in the middle of this while Kuba struggles to figure out what it is that he wants, and if he can lead the life he wants to.
I’ll start out with the fact that this is a slow-paced film that takes its time to tell its story. The cinematography is beautiful and moving, and the camera takes its time holding on the actors’ expressions as it draws out the feeling of the moment. Some may not like this type of movie due to its pace, but if you are patient you might see more than what occurs in dialogue.
Kuba seems to embody the internal struggle that many people have fought to self-identify and come to terms with their sexual orientation. From the very beginning we know that something is wrong – this almost professional swimmer is smoking and drinking in the first few scenes. His girlfriend has an impenetrable glare that speaks volumes as well when she is looking at Kuba and Michal.
He goes back and forth between the two having a relationship and sex with each of them. He ends of having a lot of sex. But he can’t have both, and they both can’t have him. We have scenes where Kuba and Michal are out together enjoying a day on the train juxtaposed with Sylwia sitting at home waiting by herself. This can’t go on this way.
There are some awkward scenes that include all three of them. One is unintentional where Sylwia comes home interrupting lunch with Kuba and Michal. But then there are other scenes where the three of them are all together, and it would seem like a bad idea to orchestrate those get-togethers. But I think this is Kuba trying to integrate his life. Unsuccessfully.
Additionally, there are several scenes that show a level of intimacy between Kuba and Michal, but they are oddly public for Kuba who would seem to want to keep this on the down low. These scenes range from intimate conversations to full on public sex. Again, perhaps he is trying to push the envelope in a conservative society and integrate his hidden life with his public one.
We have to note the context in which this all takes place – a very conservative Poland. From what I’ve read, Poland is not the most hospitable place for LGBT people. Although the situation might have improved over the past decade, overall society seems somewhat hostile (Hoare, para 4-5) Kuba clashes with an oppressive society while the people around him struggle with his internal battle.
Production values are very well done, and the story is unique in its context. There are some times where I felt the story could have moved along a bit, but overall the pacing contributes to the overall mood and feel of the film. I wouldn’t recommend this for a light viewing experience though – it needs to be watched if you are in the mood for something meaningful and without the feel-good ending. But it should be watched.
Hoare, Liam. “Gay in Poland: What’s it Like?” Slate. 16 July 1999. Web. 20 Nov 2014. <http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/07/16/gay_in_poland_what_s_it_like.html>