Telling a story about feminity, maternity and patriarchal dominance, Anna Jadowska created one of the most interesting woman portraits in contemporary Polish cinema.
Jadowska takes us on a trip to the Polish countryside, to a small, sun-bathed village somewhere on the outskirts. We arrive there with Ewa (a remarkable part of Marta Nieradkiewicz), a young woman coming back home from hospital. Awaiting her are two little children and her mother (Halina Rasiakówna), who takes care of them while Ewa is away. Ewa’s husband, Andrzej (a very good part of Michał Żurawski), is going to arrive soon from abroad, where he works. The upcoming communion of one of the daughters (Natalia Bartnik) will be an opportunity for the family to gather and explain the arising misunderstandings.
The director of Wild Roses presents these events in an exceptionally austere way. She prioritizes the psychological depth over the film story. Instead of multiplying occurrences on the screen, she reconstructs the aura of places and people. Her film is a triumph of unhurriedness, it’s a story which develops both idly and inexorably. At the same time Jadowska manages the information with excellence: she shows the audience only what they need to see in order to understand the protagonist. We discover Ewa’s secret gradually and never manage to get to the bottom of it. The director of Wild Roses knows well that looking for an answer tends to be more intriguing than the answer itself.
Among most recent Polish cinematography there is no other film that has been created by women in such degree. Anna Jadowska, the scriptwriter and director of Wild Roses, cooperated with a bunch of wonderful artists: the camera operator Małgorzata Szyłak, the production designer Anna Anosowicz, the costume designer Marta Ostrowicz, the composer of the film score Agnieszka Stulgińska and the editor Anna Mass. Together they created a film which employs different emotional registers, something that hardly ever happens in Polish cinema.
Wild Roses enchants with the truth and emotional intensity. Everything thanks to the empathy that the film almost emanates with. The director of Wild Roses knows perfectly well both her characters and their world. The film’s reality is constituted of seemingly insignificant details and background elements, such as corn puffs in the pushchair, the protagonists’ house which has been under construction for years, the front yard where children’s toys lie around breeze blocks or a village with 20-year-old Volkswagen Golf cars, uneven sports ground and a chapel. All of this is real, perfectly familiar, not at all resembling artificial film scenography.
Jadowska shows this world very genuinely. She neither mocks it nor idealizes it. She treats her protagonists the same way. In the story about disintegrating family bonds nobody is accused or treated as guilty. There are only victims: a husband who works abroad hard to give children a decent home, his wife doomed to loneliness and emptiness, a little daughter who suffers during the adults’ fights and a grandmother who tries to help as much as she can. Jadowska shows them all with tenderness. She sees their tragedies, loneliness and fear. She does not excuse or oppress anybody.
Wild Roses, however, are a strong accusation against the patriarchal culture which has been consolidated and passed down from generation to generation. In this sense, the film of Jadowska seems to be the opposite of The Christening. As in Marcin Wrona’s film, a religious ceremony becomes a starting point for transitions in the protagonists’ lives and redefines the relationships between them, but instead of chauvinistic (and misogynistic) perspective, Wild Roses presents a feminist worldview.
Social, religious and family rituals presented by Jadowska seem to be acts of symbolic violence against women. They have to adapt to the roles and tasks imposed on them and they are the ones who are responsible for men’s choices. At the same time they are taught to be passive and subservient. When in the final scene the local community join forces to look for the lost child, Ewa will have to stay in the car and let the men act.
The director of Out of Love shows that patriarchal patterns are also reproduced by women themselves. In the film different generations are represented by three characters: the grandmother, the mother and the little daughter. When Ewa’s daughter confesses that she doesn’t actually want to receive her First Communion, the mother ignores her. In that world there is no place for freedom of choice, one just has to obey. Ewa also has to obey. Her mother instructs her that when it comes to the problems with her husband, everything will somehow fall into place and that with men she should act gently and womanlike.
Jadowska, who in her first feature film discussed the psychological consequences of sexual self-abuse, comes back to the topic of female sexuality as a space where the patriarchal dominance is reflected most clearly. Her Wild Roses is a strong voice in women’s rights cause (also reproductive rights), which is audible even when it’s quiet. Jadowska whispers with tact and faith that on the screen the truth will always defend itself. Her Wild Roses is one of the most genuine woman portraits in the Polish cinematography in the last few decades. It’s a beautiful, unobvious and surprisingly impressive film.
- Wild Roses: script and direction: Anna Jadowska; shooting: Małgorzata Szyłak, music: Agnieszka Stulgińska. Starring: Marta Nieradkiewicz, Michał Żurawski, Halina Rasiakówna, Natalia Bartnik. Premiere: 29 December 2017