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VISIONS DU RÉEL 2022 Latitudes

Review: Silent Love

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- The Polish-German documentary by Marek Kozakiewicz is a tender story about the different ways of growing up

Review: Silent Love

Poland is a very family-orientated country – that is, if “family” entails a man, a woman and their offspring. Everyone else is quite simply screwed, especially in small-town communities, governed by the teachings of the Catholic Church and the very Polish fear of “what people will say”. So, thirty-something Agnieszka – the main protagonist of Marek Kozakiewicz’s Silent Love [+see also:
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, which has premiered in Latitudes at Visions du Réel, and will soon be screened at Hot Docs and Millennium Docs Against Gravity – has little choice but to hide her relationship with Majka when they’re in Poland.

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A few years ago, both of them moved to Germany, where they’re not scrutinised or criticised for who they are. Now, Agnieszka has come back to Poland in order to gain sole custody of her 14-year-old brother Miłosz, after their mother died (their father passed away before his son was born). The whole process feels like a criminal investigation, with many hearings and questions about Agnieszka’s private life. She keeps her relationship – now a long-distance one – with Majka a secret.

Meanwhile, Miłosz and his class are preparing for the end-of-year ceremony at school by practising the traditional polonaise Polish dance. The PE teacher who is teaching them how to dance also gives the class lessons on how to “move” like a boy or a girl. He claims that boys should be strong and firm, and the same type of indoctrination is then repeated by a priest in a church. Miłosz is being brainwashed, in a way, or at least this is how debuting director Kozakiewicz, who also lensed the film, presents it, through a long dance-practice routine with witless kids listening to a PE preacher’s – sorry, teacher’s – comments. Miłosz doesn’t even understand what being gay means, but he knows that this word can be used as a slur. Kozakiewicz comes into very close contact with Agnieszka and Majka as well, portraying their tender relationship, as they need to decide on their future. Each member of this modern and illegal family is growing, but in a different way. As the LGBTQ+ demonstrations are shown on TV, the girls choose to go under the radar so that Agnieszka can become a legal guardian for her brother.

Silent Love could also be titled Soft Love on account of its delicate, elegant style and tone, showing the protagonists’ private lives but not feeling voyeuristic at any point. The love in this film has to remain silent in order to survive, unlike in fiction films, where overcoming one’s worst fears is often a character’s mission. The fact that Silent Love was released a few years after it was filmed – probably once Miłosz had come of legal age – is most telling about how real the threat was. Poland loves its families... Some more than others.

Silent Love was produced by Polish outfit Koi Studio, and co-produced by Lekko Films and Germany’s Tondowski Film. MDR/ARTE is also credited as a co-producer.

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